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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.
So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
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?
Walt Whitman seems to be vouching for the fact that animals are better than humans by laying forth various qualities of animals. Animals are simple-minded, and they do not even think about materialistic possessions. Neither do they ask for more than what has been given. They live in the present and do not hold grudges.
Animals are never dissatisfied. If a puppy is given a breadcrumb, it will be grateful forever and wag its tail whenever it meets the person. They only have five senses and do not think about taking more than what is given to them. Generally, they are complete in themselves, even if it is their approach to life. Human beings can be materialistic. They want a car if they own a bike, and they want to own a house if they have an apartment. Needs keep changing according to the position they reach. But for animals, there is no use for materialistic ambitions. They do not think that owning things would make them a superhero. It is human beings who behave in an animalistic manner due to greed.
Human beings behave in an animalist way
Human beings have a hierarchy in their living style. We have a lot of differences in terms of caste, colour, religion etc., whereas animals treat everyone equally. Although the food chain is designed in such a way that certain animals are predators, they do not bow or kneel to another. They do not even kneel to humans, who are basically their own kind who evolved thousands of years ago. They treat everyone equally. They do not express sorrow about the way the world is. They are very honest in showing their relation with other animals or humans. They never fake anything like the humans. He later introspects on his own character and life. He wonders where the animals had gotten these amazing and simple traits. He thinks about the time when he himself had possessed these tokens. The poem ends with the poet wondering if he had lost all these qualities as life went by. He wonders if he had negligibly dropped them. This is a reference to all human beings who have forgotten their values as life moves by.
Meaning of difficult words:
DementedBehaving irrationally due to anger
ManiaAn excessive enthusiasm
KneelBending the knee
TokenRepresentation of fact, quality
EvinceReveal the presence of something
PossessionTo own something
NegligenceIgnoring something
PredatorsAn animal that preys on them
IntrospectExamine one's own thoughts
Hierarchy The ranking according to status or power
GrudgesFeeling revenge for a past event
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Animals - Walt Whitman (pp. 83-84). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.