My Antediluvian Baby, I Love You, Girl

It was a news item that only appealed to two groups of people. The prestigious journal Nature Geoscience reported on July 11 2011 that the sea floor in the North Atlantic seabed “temporarily” lifted above sea level 56 million years ago, before subsiding back into the ocean. Whose imagination was captured by this article? Geoscientists, naturally. And those who like to indulge in a bit of day-dreaming about the lost continent of Atlantis. I belong to the second group.

I decided to revisit Atlantis. I found it on YouTube. My memory did not fail me. Donovan Leitch, in all his 1968 splendour, documenting the history of Atlantis in song. Who can fail to be moved by his powerful verse:

Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.

On board were the Twelve: The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician,

And the other so-called Gods of our legends, Though Gods they were.

And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind, Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new . . . Hail Atlantis!

Where did Donovan get this detailed history? Wasn’t there some doubt about the very existence of Atlantis? How could Donovan be so sure of his facts? I didn’t question his lyrics when I was nineteen. But nearly five decades later, I wanted to find the original source of his ideas.

Plato was the first to mention Atlantis. Yep, Atlantis is described by him, together with boring family histories of assorted Greek Gods. And you know what, I think Plato made it up…like everything else he wrote. No scientific evidence there.

Lots of stuff was published through later history. And then the answer appeared: Atlantis, The Antediluvian World, published in 1882 by a US Congressman called Ignatius L Donnelly. It didn’t take long to read his book. Although pseudo-history, this is quite clearly the source of Donovan’s song, especially the concept of an ancient people of Atlantis leaving their dying island and spreading their culture to all parts of the world. Some who were heavily influenced by his book included Helena Blavatsky (Theosophy) and Rudolf Steiner (biodynamic agriculture).

So there it was. Hearsay. All made up. How could I be so influenced for decades by a song that purported to quote history, but was a sham? I read through Donovan’s lyrics again. And there, in the prolonged refrain at the end, was the answer: “My antediluvian baby, I love you, girl; Girl, I want to see you some day

It was a LOVE SONG. A love song through time, across the ages, transgressing history.

And that’s how a love song should be, right?

Excuse me, I’m off to listen to it again.

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