[Taxacom] Canute'ish

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Mon Mar 4 11:48:46 CST 2013

Dvid Campbell wrote:

>Supposedly Canute's courtiers reached the point in flattery of saying
>he literally ruled the waves, whereupon he demonstrated this was
>overblown with a trip to the beach where the tide came in no matter
>what orders he gave.

"They told of one who tired of all singing,
"Praise him, praise him."
"We heed not flatterers," he cried,
"By our command, waters retreat,
Show my power, halt at my feet,"
But the cause was lost,
Now cold winds blow."

Lyrics from "Can-utility and the Coastliners", by the band Genesis, 
1972. One of many early Genesis songs with unusual lyrics for "rock 
and roll" - I bring this up to draw attention to another song of 
theirs from the same time frame, "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" 
(1971), which has THE greatest taxonomy-related lyrics ever written 
(only a few "They Might Be Giants" songs come close - like "Mammal" 
or "Triops Has Three Eyes"), and which every botanist needs to hear 
at least once:

"Turn and run
Nothing can stop them
Around every river and canal
Their power is growing

Stamp them out
We must destroy them
They infiltrate each city
With their thick dark warning odour

They are invincible
They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering

Long ago in the Russian hills
A Victorian explorer found
The regal Hogweed by a marsh
He captured it and brought it home

Botanical creature stirs
Seeking revenge
Royal beast did not forget
He came home to London
And made a present of the Hogweed
To the Royal Gardens at Kew

Waste no time
They are approaching
Hurry now we must protect ourselves
And find some shelter

Strike by night
They are defenseless
They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom

Still they're invincible
Still they're immune to all our herbicidal battering

Fashionable country gentlemen
Had some cultivated wild gardens
In which they innocently planted
The Giant Hogweed throughout the land

Botanical creature stirs
Seeking revenge
Royal beast did not forget
Soon they escaped, spreading
Their seed, preparing for an onslaught
Threatening the human race

Mighty Hogweed is avenged
Human bodies soon will know our anger

Kill them with your hogweed hairs
Heracleum Mantegazziani!"

It was lyrics like these that helped nail down the genre "Progressive 
Rock". Bear in mind that this was the same year that another British 
band, the Rolling Stones, came out with "Brown Sugar" - just to set 
the context. Guess which one of these two songs referring to plant 
sap got more radio airtime... ;-)


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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