puny

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I sometimes do feel, in contemplating what is happening, that we are in the grip of powerful historical currents whose origins go back centuries, perhaps millennia, and against which individuals and even governments can only struggle punily.
that doomed wilderness whose edges were being constantly and punily gnawed at by men with plows and axes who feared it because it was wilderness, men myriad and nameless even to one another in the land where the old bear had earned a name, and through which ran not even a mortal beast but an anachronism indomitable and invincible out of an old dead time, a phantom, epitome and apotheosis of the old wild life which the little puny humans swarmed and hacked at in a fury of abhorrence and fear like pygmies about the ankles of a drowsing elephant .
The Delta wilderness, for Ike, is "doomed wilderness whose edges were being constantly and punily gnawed at by men with plows and axes who feared it because it was wilderness" (185).