19 Jul 2015

William Blake's Animal Manifesto

A few days ago, I rediscovered a famous poem by Romantic English poet William Blake (1757-1827), and I was instantly struck by the modernity and vivacity of its author and the modernism of its tone, themes and values. The piece might well have been written today and thus shatters any preconceptions one may hold against poetry that is two centuries old. Now is an invitation to rediscover the great poet, and you might surprise yourself at relishing in the potence of his words and delighting in the message they behold.

Dhara the baby Indian elephant, rescued in July 2012 by IFAW, was a casualty of monsoon season in Assam. I sponsored her vet fees, only to be informed 2 weeks later that she had sadly not survived her ordeal.

The poem is called 'Auguries of Innocence', the full version of which (one undivided sequence of 132 aphoristic lines) is a click away at Poetry Foundation. The original manuscript may be viewed at The William Blake Archive. I concede that the poem title might not strike a chord right off the bat, but its exact first four lines somewhat will: -

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

The piece is assumed to have been written in 1803, yet was not published until decades after Blake's death, in 1863. It starts off as an introduction of sorts, a reflection of the wider cosmos into the finite and defined that is a grain of sand and a flower, then themselves imploded into an inner expansion and extension of cosmos into micro-cosmos, and the correlation between the two.

Luna was saved from the dairy industry and now lives peacefully at Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary.

Then the poem develops into a manifesto for the welfare, respect and dignity of animals, and in particular those who share our environment or revolve in its periphery, from cat and dog to horse and hare, via the humble gnat and dutiful spider. It then expands to the different segments of human society. The poem is a cautionary tale of retribution to those who scorn innocence and purity of heart in all their guises. The powerful forces of the Law of Attraction will eventually remedy any wrong-doings - or failing that - chastise the wrong-doers. If you mistreat an animal, expect to be mistreated back: 'You get what you give'. Bad karma boomerangs back, so beware!

For the purpose of this article, I am only including herewith excerpts. Missed-out parts are identified as "[...]". As for the animal pictures I have included, all have in common a connection to man - good or less so. Now let's get back to our poem...

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage

Mondika baby gorilla, Cincinnati Zoo, photography by Mark Dumont, via Flickr (August 2014)

A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr' all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State
A Horse misusd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood
Each outcry of the Hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear
A Skylark wounded in the wing
A Cherubim does cease to sing
The Game Cock clipd & armd for fight
Does the Rising Sun affright
Every Wolfs & Lions howl
Raises from Hell a Human Soul
The wild deer, wandring here & there
Keeps the Human Soul from Care

I adopted this lovely little lad, Tickle, from Manchester Dogs Home, in August 2006.

The Lamb misusd breeds Public Strife
And yet forgives the Butchers knife
The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that wont Believe
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbelievers fright
He who shall hurt the little Wren
Shall never be belovd by Men
He who the Ox to wrath has movd
Shall never be by Woman lovd
The Wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spiders enmity
[...]

Mendoza canestrinii (female jumping spider), photography by Juraj Komar, via Flickr

He who shall train the Horse to War
Shall never pass the Polar Bar
The Beggars Dog & Widows Cat
Feed them & thou will grow fat
The Gnat that sings his Summers Song
Poison gets from Slanders tongue
The poison of the Snake & Newt
is the sweat of Envys Foot
The poison of the Honey Bee
Is the Artists Jealousy
The Princes Robes & Beggars Rags
Are Toadstools on the Misers Bags
A Truth thats told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent

[...]

Esther the Wonder Pig might well be the most pampered pig on earth! (pict source)

He who mocks the Infants Faith
Shall be mockd in Age & Death
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out
He who respects the Infants faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death
The Childs Toys & the Old Mans Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons
The Questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to Reply
He who replies to words of Doubt
Doth put the Light of Knowledge out

[...]
Twiggy was saved from the 'mean' streets of Vigo, Spain. (pict source)

Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of Day

* * *


P.S: Dying to entertain you? The Tyke Elephant Outlaw documentary film exposes the drama and outrage behind performing animals and the abomination and cruelty of the circus industry, as epitomised here by Tyke, an elephant whose spirit had been broken as a calf so she could just follow orders and perform circus tricks on cue. In August 1994 in Honolulu, she snapped. She trampled down her trainer and went on the rampage. She escaped the circus and her prison sentence of a life, but her natural quest for freedom would see her robbed of her life, under a hail of gunfire.

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