English Language & Literature

Poem 7: Animals

Class 10

Revision Notes

Animals

The poet Walt Whitman praises animals for being better than human beings and for possessing all such qualities that humans lack or have forgotten. Those qualities are calmness, the lack of greed and the ability to stay happy and contented among others.

In this poem, Walt Whitman has beautifully brought out the contrast between animals and human beings.
Animals are generally simple in nature whereas human beings are generally greedy, selfish and very complicated. He is very happy with the easy going nature of animals and he wants to follow them.
The poet is desirous to live among the animals as he thinks that they are contented and serene. They are wise and this is the reason why they never bewail of their lot and condition. They do not weep for their sins and they have no care to worship even God. They are always satisfied and do not need to possess things. They respect none including their ancestors and they remain indifferent in their pleasure and pain. For this very reason, the poet wishes to learn from animals. They do not have any kind of falsehood. They are free from all types of trivial anxieties, so they are still living their natural life.

(I)
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are
So placid and self-contained
I stand and look at them long and long.

Explanation: The poet here desires to turn into an animal and live with them as he is impressed by their calmness and the purity of their mind. Animals appear to be contented with their lives. The poet stands and looks at them for a long time.

(II)
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God.

Explanation: The poet is quite impressed by the animals that they do not complain and cry about their conditions in the same way as human do. They eat and sleep peacefully and they have nothing to worry about. The animals are pure and they do not pray to God for forgiveness or ask God to fulfil their desires like humans do.

(III)
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with
the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that
lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Explanation: Animals do not possess material things like humans do, and they are happy and satisfied without all the worldly items. Animals are free from the habit of praying to their ancestors. When the poet says ‘not one respectable’, he means that since all of them are equal, there is no question of respect for some and insult to other. Thus animals are happy and uncomplaining.

(IV)
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince
them plainly in their possession
I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and
negligently drop them ?

Explanation: The poet feels that animals represent human beings in some way. This means that animals seem to have virtues, like kindness and innocence, which humans once had. They symbolise the lost values of human race. The poet believes that humans dropped these virtues a long time ago and have forgotten them.

Repetition:

Stand and look at them long and long.
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with ...................
Alliteration:

make me sick.
I wonder where they get those tokens.

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