I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
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,
Have you ever wondered what it is to be an animal? Most often, we think of animals as carefree, lethargic and ignorant. We take care of our pets, and we feed and bathe them. Whereas human beings have to study, earn and survive on their own. In fact, the existence of human beings has been termed the survival of the fittest. But contrary to popular opinion, the poet Walt Whitman seems to find the existence of animals as beautiful and important.
Whitman is a realist; therefore, he does not exaggerate and romanticise any ideas. The Romantic poets focused more on the individual. But being a realist, he talks about the obvious facts of life. He talks about how he finds animals far better than humans. He says that if life gave him a chance, he would turn and live with animals. Darwin's theory of evolution states that humans evolve over generations by inheriting traits and characteristics. But Whitman does not feel that human beings have evolved in a good way, which is why he uses the word 'turn', as he wants to go back. He wants to live with animals, as they are so placid and self-contained. This shows that he thinks of humans as individuals who create a ruckus over simple things. They fight and push other down. They are not satisfied with whatever is given to them. On the contrary, animals are happy if they get their food. They do not ask for more or are not egoistic against their species.
Man looks at animal for a long time
Whitman is so mesmerised by the idea of co-existing with animals that he stands and stares at them for a long time. He cannot contain his fondness for animals. He lists out the reasons why he finds animals superior. Unlike humans who crib and complain about every single discomfort, animals remain cool and never whine about what is missing from their life. They do not sweat about all the things that could have been. They do not believe in anything except for the present moment, whereas human beings commit sins and later lie in the dark thinking about how to repent. Animals do not falsely portray themselves as God-fearing and then do illegal things. Humans constantly talk about their duty to God but do not do anything to fulfil it.
Man weeping for sins
Meaning of difficult words:
|Placid||Calm and Composed|
|Whine||To complain and cry about the situation|
|Sweat||Work hard to complicate things|
|Weep||To cry loudly|
|Lethargic||To be lazy|
|Exaggerate||To make something seem more difficult than it normally is|
|Mesmerised||Captivated and fascinated|
|Trait||Habit and character|
|Crib||To complain non-stop|
|Egoistic||Preoccupied with oneself|
|Evolution||The gradual development or transformation|
|Fondness||The act of liking something|
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.