Editor’s Corner Essay: Linked Oppressions:
“Politics, Enclosing Land, and Breaking Horses”
In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, John and Fanny Dashwood, the wealthy half-brother and sister-in-law of the heroines Elinor and Marianne, give a dinner in their London house to some relatives and new friends. The Dashwood couple are a cold-hearted, grasping pair, and several of the guests equally materialistic. Thus
the dinner was a grand one, the servants were numerous, and every thing bespoke the Mistress’s inclination for show, and the Master’s ability to support it . . . . no poverty of any kind, except of conversation, appeared--but there, the deficiency was considerable . . . . When the ladies withdrew to the drawing-room after dinner, this poverty was particularly evident, for the gentlemen had supplied the discourse with some variety--the variety of politics, enclosing land, and breaking horses--but then it was all over; and one subject only engaged the ladies . . . the comparative heights of Harry Dashwood and Lady Middleton’s second son William . . . .ladies-from-the-family.jpg
Politics and Women
Several interrelated forms of oppression are mirrored in this apparently bland scene of an English society dinner. We are not told what political opinions the gentlemen aired; but this is the paranoid 1790s, and we can guess that at least some of the talk was about the dangers to England posed by the French Revolution, that violent revolt of the Lower Orders against their Betters. But the ladies’ conversation in the drawing-room does not deal with such weighty matters, and its very inanity stems from the decidedly second-class status of Regency-era women, even rich ones. Women were not to think for themselves. Most men believed them to be subsumed in nature, weak in the head, essentially passive and submissive, their significance more or less limited to pleasing males and fulfilling their roles as wives and mothers (or doing the drudge work that underlies the leisure of the upper classes).
Although this is women’s nature, tellingly, it also had to be drummed into them by what passed for education, and enforced by social sanctions. (The latter applied especially to sexuality; a woman whose sexual activities defied the tightly-guarded borders of patriarchal marriage became a social leper, as did even her family. Novel-reading among young girls was often frowned upon as likely to inflame their imaginations and their [non-existent] passions.) It was very bad form for ladies to discuss politics, which dealt with power, or with cutting-edge philosophy, theology, science, or any other subjects that might lead to questioning the Way Things Are: it would be unseemly intrusion into male territory. “A woman . . ., if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can,” says Austen wryly.
Enclosure of Land
Ownership of land was also in most cases a male prerogative, with estates passing from father to eldest son. (Women could inherit money, but when they married, unless special legal arrangements were made, the husband got it all, and when he died, a male heir almost always took over the property. Male control of land and money brings us to an important link between the oppression of women and that of the lower classes, specifically, the enclosure system. The male guests at the Dashwoods’ dinner would have all had opinions on enclosure; the host, John Dashwood, was himself currently carrying on enclosure on the estate he had recently inherited from his great-uncle.
The enclosure of common lands in England was a centuries-long process, begun in the 1200s, accelerating in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries partly as a result of marked decrease in population, and continuing in somewhat different forms in the eighteenth, when population was burgeoning. It was largely complete about 1830. By this point the traditional system of peasant villages with their “commons,” areas of land held in common on which peasant families might grow food or pasture animals, had largely disappeared, as large landowners took them over, enclosing the commons with stone walls, fences, or hedgerows, or adding some of the land to the parks surrounding their mansions when they beautified or “improved” their estates. Enclosed fields were usually worth more money; thanks to agricultural developments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they tended to produce considerably more than under the old system.
Of course a process that continued for such a long time and over a large area took various forms, and had varying effects. Sometimes the peasants had to be compensated; in a minority of cases the better-off peasant families profited, but more often, peasants lost their livelihood, and whole villages could be depopulated. (Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village” describes such a ruined community; see Village .) The poor might emigrate, become half-starved vagabonds (considered criminals), or move to cities to seek jobs, often in the new factories. The Cratchits in A Christmas Carol, who cling tenaciously to the village tradition of keeping Christmas, and seem to have no extended family, may be second-generation refugees from enclosure.
Where Jane Austen’s sympathies lie on this subject is clear from the character of John Dashwood, who not only encloses the commons but breaks his promise to his dying father to look after his badly-off sisters; together with his wife takes over their house which he has inherited and in effect pushes them out; complains of poverty despite being obscenely rich; and judges everything and everyone he encounters by their financial worth. He skewers himself almost every time he opens his mouth.
Horses, Women, and Other Animals
It is not surprising, in view of the patriarchal oppression of women and of the poor, that the treatment of animals also tended to be a matter of callous mastery and often-painful submission. For centuries, land transportation for humans was largely based on horses, beings who, like all animals, naturally have their own minds, their own social networks, and their own agendas. The fact that training a horse to become instead an instrument of “man” was called “breaking” says a great deal: the being’s spirit must be broken or annexed, so that “it” will obey the will of the master conveyed by bit, bridle, and whip. (But training a horse is not inherently brutal; especially in Western cultures today, when horses are kept mostly as companion animals, the process can be gently and sensitively done.)
Among the horses most highly valued traditionally were hunters, bred for strength and stamina, trained to run with packs of hounds over the countryside, leaping over obstacles, in merciless pursuit of a fox, deer, or other wild being. It was (and is) dangerous for humans and horses as well; either could be badly injured, even killed. It was an amusement of the upper classes, who could afford the considerable expenses--horses, grooms, stables, feed--of keeping animals purely for pleasure. The “sport” was definitely connected to oppression of the poor. It was likely to be resented by smallhold farmers who could suffer damage to crops, little domestic animals, and property by invading packs of dogs and horses. And underfed peasants such as the one in Coleridge’s poem below resented the wealthy classes killing for fun, despite eating quantities of meat every day, when the peasants themselves, who may often have wanted to kill to satisfy hunger, would be punished for poaching.
There is also a link between mastery over women and over animals which is subtly highlighted in several of Austen’s novels, especially in regard to hunting, a “sport” of nearly all upper-class men; she sometimes uses language suggestive of the hunt as an ominous sign in depicting an unhealthy courtship. When the heroine Marianne Dashwood meets John Willoughby, he is wearing a shooting jacket, carrying a gun, and accompanied by two pointers. Running too fast down a hill, she falls and injures her ankle, and he romantically sweeps her up and carries her home. He is handsome, bright, and charming; she rapidly falls in love and incautiously lets it show. At first he is only amusing himself with her; later he does fall in love too, but when he finds himself disinherited by a relative for an earlier affair that ruined a naive teenager, he decamps for London and finds an heiress to marry. At the end, though trapped with a disagreeable wife and painfully regretting Marianne, “in his breed of horses and dogs, and in sporting of every kind [no doubt including sporting with other young women’s hearts] he found no inconsiderable degree of domestic felicity.”
An even more noticeable example appears in the courtships of serial heartbreaker and keen hunter Henry Crawford, the charming, wealthy anti-hero of Mansfield Park. The heroine Frances (Fanny) Price, adopted from the home of impoverished relatives and often treated like a servant, watches as Henry adroitly courts her cousins Maria and Julia at the same time, then drops first one and then the other and disappears, leaving them heartbroken. After both young women have moved away from Mansfield, he returns and notices that Fanny is prettier than he had thought. He tells his sister “And how do you think I mean to amuse myself, Mary, on the days that I do not hunt? . . . . my plan is to make Fanny Price in love with me. . . . I cannot be satisfied without . . . making a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart. . . . I only want her to . . . give me all smiles . . . and feel when I go away that she shall be never happy again.” Like Willoughby, Henry outsmarts himself, for he too falls in love with his intended prey; he proposes. HenryRobert.jpeg
Mary also sees courtship as a hunt, and believes that, deep down, Fanny is exultant at her conquest of so sought-after a man: “. . . the glory of fixing one who has been shot at [!] by so many . . . ! I am sure it is not in woman’s nature to refuse such a triumph.” But Fanny, who has watched Henry toy with her cousins, will have none of him: “I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman’s feelings.” Eventually, she prevails. It helps that she is secretly in love with her cousin Edmund, whom she marries at the end of the story, (but who, though compassionate to humans in distress, is also a hunter.)
In one way, the intertwining of different kinds of oppression in a society makes it harder for any victimized individual to seek and gain freedom, for the extreme imbalance of power places so much of it in the hands of one class as to make most persons in all oppressed classes even more powerless, and may set them in competition with one another. For a long time, oppressions were not named; they were invisible, simply the Way Things Are. But even in “Darkest England” of the eighteenth century, perceptive and courageous voices were crying in the wilderness for rights for the poor, for women, and for animals. There were even champions of vegetarianism, such as influential physician George Cheyne, an appealing, down-to-earth, caring person who overcame his weight problems, our Pioneer in PT 38 . Critic Barbara Seeber points out, in Jane Austen and Animals, that all the major arguments heard today on behalf of animals had already been made in those times.
The seeds have taken a long time to sprout, especially in regard to animals, but green leaves have unmistakably appeared, and even some fruit. We can give thanks both for the brave sowers and for the beginnings of harvest.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Lead photo is of a scene in Sue Birtwhistle’s 1996 film Emma. PIctures of Henry and Mary Crawford feature Robert Burbage as Henry and Jackie Smith-Wood as his sister Mary in the 1983 Mansfield Park.
No living beings should be killed because of who they are.-- Sr. Faith Bowman
"Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another."--Francis, Bishop of Rome
Piglet Transport Truck Overturned
A single tragic traffic accident in Ohio on June 9 involving a transport truck on US 35 killed over a thousand innocent piglets. Of the approximately one thousand survivors, many were caught and sent on to the slaughterhell or assigned to local pig farmers, and many are still at large. Accidents like this expose the horrors of raising animals for food and the inevitable abuse involved. After all, these animals are simply considered commodities for the sake of taste, profit and convenience. See Catastrophe
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Vengeance Chicken Massacres in S. Carolina
In January and February 2015, an insider who knows the chicken “farming” industry secretly turned off the cooling or heating controls on rival farmers’ buildings imprisoning many thousands of chicks or chickens, leading to suffering and death for over 300,000 birds. The killer appears to be motivated by anger sparked by the way he suffered from the system of the giant meat companies, in this case Pilgrim’s Pride, that set individual animal “share-croppers” in desperate competition with each other to survive. Read the story in Massacre , an article that throws light on the evil system.
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Israeli Activists Storm Hatchery
A party of young activists entered a chick hatchery and stopped the grinder into which newborn male chicks are thrown, refusing to leave because, as they told police, they knew it would be started again; one of them cradled a chick in her hands. They were arrested and carried out. See Newborn , a video by Susan Kalev (dramatic, but contains no graphic scenes).
--Contributed by Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns
Racing Pigeon Rescued
A racing pigeon, lost 160 miles out in the North Sea, landed on the deck of an oil rig and was caught and rescued by worker Kevin Mitchell. He contacted his girlfriend, an officer in the Scottish SPCA, who instructed him what to feed “Pedro.” The bird was airlifted to an animal rehab center, where he is recovering from exhaustion and starvation. The “sport” of pigeon racing is exploitative, as are other forms of animal races. See Pedro
--Contributed by Judy Carman
Ben & Jerry’s to Make Vegan Ice Cream
Ben & Jerry's announced that they will roll out a vegan ice cream flavor in 2016. There are already small companies making dairy-free ice cream, but this is a mainstream company responding to the increasing demand for vegan products. The balance is clearly tilting toward compassion, sustainability and healthfulness. See Ice Cream
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Pioneer: Catharine Macaulay, 1731-1791
Catharine Macaulay was born on an estate in Kent, southeast England, to John Sawbridge and Elizabeth Wanley Sawbridge. Her mother died when she was two. As was usual with daughters of the gentry, she was educated at home by a governess. Her youth is obscure; she married at twenty-nine and had a daughter. In her twenties she impressed people with her knowledge of and original insights into ancient history. Her major opus is an eight-volume political History of England in the seventeenth century which revealed sympathy for revolutions that championed human rights over royal and aristocratic power. She visited revolutionary France and the United States shortly after the Revolutionary War, and had friends and supporters in both countries. The “celebrated Mrs. Macaulay” died at age sixty in 1791, shortly before the Reign of Terror discredited the French Revolution.--GFE
Catherine Macaulay, in Letters on Education, writes: “all those vices and imperfections which have been generally regarded as inseparable from the female character, do not . . proceed from sexual causes, but are entirely the effects of situation and education.” Claims about women’s innate “nature” serve to legitimize women’s subordination . . . .”
For Macaulay . . . , what came to be termed the Woman Question was connected to the Animal Question. [Her] arguments for gender equality and co-education, while emphasizing women’s rational capacity, also proposed better treatment of animals. [She] recognized that the way animals were treated within patriarchy was connected to the way women were treated; to protest the oppression of women was to protest the other. [Both stemmed from a model of humanity as a male transcending and controlling nature.] The treatment of animals is thus an integral part of Macaulay’s argument about women’s education: “If brutes were to draw a character of man . . . do you think they would call him a benevolent being? No; their representations would be somewhat of the same kind as the fabled furies and other infernals in ancient mythology.”
Macaulay . . . speaks of women’s subordination as man’s “prejudice.” She also characterizes humans’ attitudes to animals in these terms. Already in the first letter Macaulay recasts the inferiority of animals as the “fond prejudices and pride of our species.” Macaulay uses the same language as animal welfare and rights texts, which frequently denaturalize human attitudes to animals as a form of prejudice. For example, George Nicholson’s On the Primeval Diet of Man: Arguments in Favour of Vegetable Food: On Man’s conduct to Animals (1801) casts human superiority to animals as “deep-rooted prejudices.” Similarly, [John] Lawrence speaks of “human pride, prejudice, and cruelty.” Macaulay examines the ideological underpinnings of human violence toward animals: “There are very few of the insect or reptile tribes which belong to this country, that can be said to be personally injurious to man; yet we are brought up with such prejudices, that they never escape our violence whenever they come within our reach.” This example is particularly striking, as she includes species which continue to receive little moral consideration.
Her program for early childhood education advocates pet-keeping as a way of countering received ideas about animals: “by the knowledge [children] will thus acquire of brute nature, they will be cured of prejudices founded on ignorance, and in the vanity and conceit of man.” Just as the gender system is culturally produced and should be subject to rational interrogation, so is the human-animal system. Macaulay asks for more than “mercy” to animals, for mercy, after all, is the prerogative of those in power. Instead, she argues for a more fundamental shift in how humans think of and treat animals, including legal protection. In common with writers such as [Humphrey] Primatt and [John] Oswald, Macaulay connects “the abuse of power which the brute creation suffer from our hands” to other systems of oppression, such as slavery, and, going beyond Primatt and Oswald, she includes patriarchy in her analysis.
Macaulay identifies virtue with sympathy; our ability to imagine ourselves in someone else’s plight, to sympathize with them, leads us to the ethical value of equity, that is, to not impose our will on others: “it was the movements of respect to the feelings of his fellow creatures; and his reason soon approved the dictates of his inclination.” In this ethical system, animals matter:
In order . . . to impress the more strongly on the people’s minds the superiority of benevolence to that of any other virtue; No statue, bust, or monument, should be permitted a place in the church, but of those citizens who have been especially useful in mitigating the woes attendant on animal life; or who have been the authors of any invention, by which the happiness of man, or brute, may be rationally improved.
Macaulay’s “benevolence” is put to political work; she develops . . . a “radicalized concept of compasssion.”
--Barbara K. Seeber
From Jane Austen and Animals, Ashgate Publishers, 2013, pp. 24, 25-26. Used with permission.
Easy Roasted Cabbage
1 medium-sized head of firm cabbage
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsps. fresh lime juice
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 450F/230C. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or oil.
Cut the cabbage into four same-size pieces and remove any outer leaves that are discolored or wilted. Carefully cut each piece in half to make 8 same-size wedges.
Place each piece of cabbage on the baking sheet, arranging so the wedges are not touching each other. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, and salt and brush the mixture over the cabbage.
Roast in the center of the oven for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges of the cabbage are starting to get brown. Use a large turner to carefully turn the hot cabbage pieces, then brush again with the remaining mixture. Roast for 15-17 minutes more, or until the second side is starting to brown. Remove from oven and serve.
--From MyFridgeFood.com . Used with permission.
Chocolate Mousse Banana Cream PieChocolateMousePie.jpg
2 cups almonds
1 cup dates
2-4 tablespoons brown rice syrup
dash of vanilla and salt
2 ripe avocados
1 can coconut milk (Use the cream only)*
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4-1/2 cup Fair Trade cocoa powder
Process the crust ingredients in a food processor until crumbled. Press into a spring-form pan or pie dish.
Process filling in food processor or high speed blender. Pour into crust. Chill in freezer.
* To separate coconut cream from the milk, turn can upside down and refrigerate for a day or so. Open the can and scrape off the cream, which will be firm.Shepherd'sLife.jpeg
Book Note: The Shepherd’s Life
James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life. New York: Flatiron Books, 2015. 293 pages. $25.99 hardcover.
There is a strand in the English mentality which, despite the fact that England has essentially been urban and industrial for well over a century now, still likes to think of the "real" England as the rural England of shepherds and fox hunts, or of country villages centered around church and pub. This nostalgia is no doubt reflected in the popularity of books suggesting that rustic England is still alive. Such was the England of the bestselling works of James Herriot, the Yorkshire veterinarian, and now also of The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks, a traditional sheepherder in the Lake District; his book has become a surprise bestseller in England. Rebanks had the advantage of education at Oxford, but showed his independence of mind by then deciding he would return home to take over his family sheep farm rather than pursue any more sophisticated vocation.
But whatever one think of tradition as over against modernity, it cannot be said that Rebanks' account contributes to the oncoming postmodern mentality of veganism or the animal concern as understood by most readers of The Peaceable Table. Rebanks is hard-working, concerned for the welfare of mother and offspring at lambing time, and not a cruel human being per se. But he is strictly no-nonsense about his sheep as economic assets, to be sheared and sold as business requires. Readers inclined toward nostalgia may enjoy this book when it invokes a now largely bypassed (except in idealized form) way of life, but will not learn much to support the new world of compassionate and respectful animal-human relations that we seek.
Review of Encyclical: Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis:
On Care for Our Common Home
This recent Encyclical from Pope (or rather Friend) Francis contains much that will be of interest and encouragement to those with animal concerns, as well as engendering an awareness that much remains to be said and done. As such, it deserves discussion in The Peaceable Table.
This long document is occasioned by a profound sense, based on the hymn of St. Francis of Assisi also reflected in the title, that "our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us," "now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her." For "we have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will."
The letter goes on to present a long indictment of damage done to the natural environment and to the lives of human beings, particularly the poor, by technological "advances," global capitalism for the sake of profit and consumerism alone, and lack of awareness of the interrelatedness of all creation. While forceful, contrary to the view of some critics the Encyclical did not strike me as "catastrophist" or unbalanced in its view of new technology or the world economy. Rather, granting that some technology has enhanced quality of life and some economic developments have brought about improvements in distribution of goods and knowledge to many, the pontiff rightly insists that all such change must be judged in terms of its human motivation. and its impact on all classes of society, especially the poor, on all creatures, and on the earth itself. The questions are always not only, "What is to be gained for us by this activity," but also, "What will be lost, and by whom?" Francis himself spells out the agenda of the letter in a long sentence near the beginning:HorseyFrancis.jpg
I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture the proposal of a new lifestyle.
I cannot here present Francis' teaching on all of these points, though I highly recommend reading the Laudato Si' in its entirety. I will therefore restrict us for now to lines particularly pertaining to animals. There is much, and much that is heartening.
To begin with, Ch. III, "Loss of Biodiversity," first refers to the plundering of the earth's resources because of short-sighted approaches to commerce and production. But the text adds that "It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential resources to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves." Lamenting the disappearance each year of thousands of plant and animal species "which we will never know, which our children will never see," the writer acknowledges this is mostly due to human activity: building highways, plantations, dams, all that crowds out natural habitats.
Again, this is more than just an economic matter. "Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another" (Italics added). There is a religious dimension: "we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures." For it is also the case that "The earth is the Lord's." "Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures." Rather, "we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God's eyes: by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory,'" for "we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful". . . as the Catholic Catechism says, "'Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. . . Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature.” "Each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous."
However, a darker side to this wondrous realization is implied. "When our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationship other other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is 'contrary to human dignity.'" It was none other than Jesus who reminded us of "the paternal relationship God has with all his creatures. With moving tenderness he would remind them [his disciples] that each one of them is important in God's eyes: 'Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.'"Seven_sparrows.jpg
Moreover, citing again the Catechism, "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." Passages in the Old Covenant are cited to show concern for the well-being of animals: the provision in Ex. 23:12 that the Sabbath rest is not only for humans but also so "that your ox and your donkey may have rest"; the admonition in Dt. 22:4,6 that if you come upon a bird's nest, "you shall not take the mother with the young."
With such a magnificent preparation, one can only express disappointment that Francis did not go on to discuss animal agriculture explicitly: its role in the production of methane and other "greenhouse gasses" he so deplores; in its devastation of the environment and the extinction of many species through habitat destruction; above all in the cruelty and lack of practical respect for the divine ray of wisdom and goodness in each creature of its usual operation, especially in present-day factory farms and slaughterhells. Perhaps the Holy Father was held back by the way fishing and animal agriculture are generally parts of traditional Catholic cultures; perhaps-- and this is what I hope--he is saving that topic for a future Encyclical.
While perhaps Pope Francis would not feel free to condemn as sinful all eating of meat and other animal products, or their use, it seems to me -- though speaking as one outside his religious tradition -- that it would not be contradictory in that letter from the future for the papacy to denounce any dietary or other use of animals not raised in a manner consistent with the splendid lines above about goodness and love in each creature. Such would in fact rule out most present-day farming of animals and lead us to look for non-violent alternatives. The Pontiff could also refer to the vegetarian diet of certain strict monastic orders, and to the traditional abstinence from meat in Lent, to argue that whether or not the foodstuff is evil in itself, its avoidance is clearly meant to be a path to a higher holiness even in longstanding Catholic tradition, and as such worthy of serious consideration. It would be fine if he would set a personal example.
This can only be a matter for our prayers. For the present Laudato Si' can, again, be recommended for serious and meditative reading by all with a concern for our Mother Earth in her suffering and that of her many creatures, whether Catholic or Christian or not.
Cartoon by David Horsey is from the June 26, 2015 Los Angeles Times. Permission to reproduce sought.
Poetry: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834
To a Young Ass
[his] mother being tethered near [him]
Poor little foal of an oppressèd race!DonkeyFoal.jpeg
I love the languid patience of thy face:
And oft with gentle hand I give thee bread,
And [stroke] thy ragged coat, and pat thy head.
But what thy dulled spirits hath dismayed,
That never thou dost sport along the glade?
And (most unlike the nature of things young)
That earthward still thy moveless head is hung?
Do thy prophetic fears anticipate,
Meek Child of Misery! thy future fate?
The starving meal, and all the thousand aches
"Which patient Merit of the Unworthy takes"?
Or is thy sad heart thrilled with filial pain
To see thy wretched mother's shortened chain?
And truly, very piteous is her lot --
Chained to a log within a narrow spot,
Where the close-eaten grass is scarcely seen,
While sweet around her waves the tempting green!
Poor Ass! they master should have learnt to show
Pity -- best taught by fellowship of Woe!samuel-taylor-coleridge-200x300.jpg
For much I fear me that he lives like thee,
Half famished in a land of Luxury!
How askingly [his] footsteps hither bend!
[He] seems to say, "And have I then one friend?"
Innocent foal! thou poor despised forlorn!
I hail thee Brother -- spite of the fool's scorn!
And fain would take thee with me, in the Dell
Of Peace and mild Equality to dwell,
Where Toil shall call the charmer Health his bride,
And Laughter tickle Plenty's ribless side!
How thou wouldst toss thy heels in gamesome play,
And frisk about, as lamb or kitten gay!
Yea! and more musically sweet to me
Thy dissonant harsh bray of joy would be,
Than warbled melodies that soothe to rest
The aching of pale Fashion's vacant breast!