The Gentle Giant Robot
by Murray Ewing
by Murray Ewing
The Gentle Giant Robot, striding through the countryside
Stopped, then hung its heavy, heavy robot head and sighed.
It turned and looked behind, at the long way it had come,
Then looked ahead — a long way too — and figured out their sum.
It figured out their difference, it figured out their cost,
But felt, in all that figuring, that something had been lost.
So, what instruction should it issue to its leg-hydraulics?
The calculation seemed to be beyond mere mathematics.
It sighed again its robot sigh, then dimmed its glowing eyes,
Until it stood, a stilhouette, against the evening sky.
A tiny bird came zipping past. It stopped and perched awhile.
Its mate appeared. “I’d say this is the best tree for a mile.”
“Is it a tree?” “It seems to be. It’s tall, and still, and strong.”
“I don’t see any leaves.” “No, but its limbs are really long.”
One took off and circled round, then fluttered back and rested.
“Coming?” “Mm.” “Or shall we stay?” “D’you think it’s time we nested?”
The other bird flew off, but soon had come back with a twig.
“There’s lots of nooks and crannies.” “We could really build this big.”
Deep inside, the Gentle Giant Robot analysed
All the data it had gathered, all it had derived.
It ran its knowledge, estimates, ideas and suppositions
Against a bank of thirteen hundred thousand algorithms.
It micro-checked its circuits, and its reasoning, for faults,
Then measured up its functioning, in terabits and volts.
But still the calculation ended every time in “ERROR”
(Which is the robot version of what humans know as TERROR).
Unused to being daunted, let alone so terrified,
The Gentle Giant Robot gently, deeply, mutely sighed.
A fox, in passing, paused to stare in puzzlement and awe
At what it judged to be the strangest sight it ever saw.
A human, made of metal — and a giant one, at that —
Was standing still, and home (it seemed) to two birds and a bat,
Plus a mouse, who’d made a nest behind this giant’s knee
(Whose baby mice were scurrying round the ankles playfully).
A squirrel, storing acorns in one monstrous metal hand,
Seemed to have amassed the largest stockpile in the land.
“The things you see,” the fox remarked, and started leaving when
It thought, “The ground beside that foot is perfect for a den…”
Something in the Gentle Giant Robot’s giant brain
Registered sensations that it couldn’t quite explain:
A restlessness, a skittering, a squeaky-cheepy chittering
A rustling and a tinkling, a constant pitter-pattering —
What kind of calculation caused such susurrating sounds?
And felt so strongly, deeply rooted, deep within the ground?
It activated sensors and began to gather data,
And found itself still gathering a good few hours later.
Its legs, it learned, were twined in vines and weeds and even flowers
(Classifying which, it knew, would take it many hours).
The movement of the birds and mice and bats and other creatures
About its body could be analysed for several features.
And as for all their twitterings and trilling cries and squeaks —
Translating these would take the Gentle Giant Robot weeks!
Winter followed autumn, and then summer followed spring,
And who’d have thought that that could be so marvellous a thing?
Now, if you travel through the country, possibly you’ll see
The Gentle Giant Robot — now a Gentle Giant Tree —
Home to flowers and vines and insects, animals and birds,
Centre of its own sequestered, vibrant little world.
And every moment, every day, it’s finding something new —
Something rich and wonderful, and fascinating, too.
But where had it been heading, when it stopped here, long ago?
Our Robot’s chosen to forget, so we will never know.