Slow treads fair cannabis the breezy strand,
The distaff streams dishevell'd in her hand;
Now to the left her ivory neck inclines,
And leads in Pophian curves its azure lines . . .
While the verses are perhaps obscure to modern readers, the footnote is plain enough. Darwin wrote how 'Chinese hemp is superior to the hemp of other countries' and that a letter from the celebrated botanist, Joseph Banks, assured him that it had been sown in England on 4 June.
A brighter and braver England relished the thrill of discovery. But then, there were brighter and braver Englishmen.
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