Creatures of the Earth


How beautiful and perfect are the animals, so lofty looking—
The fat-tail’d sheep, the antelope,  the prairie-dog, and the burrowing wolf,
The sharp-hoof’d moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill,
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats—
I stand and look at them long and long.

The black bear is searching for roots or honey
The elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
The snake slides through the creepers and logs,
The geese nip their food with short jerks,
The band-necked partridges roost in a ring on the ground with their heads out,
The panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead.
Beasts of prey in their northerly wilds,
In primitive woods the sounds there also sounding,
The howl of the wolf, the scream of the panther, and the hoarse bellow of the elk.

The moving flocks and herds,
Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine,
Herds of buffalo grazing the plains make a crawling spread of the square miles far and near,
The hirsute and strong-breasted bull advances to do his masculine work, (how handsome and bold he is!)
The bullock’s head tosses restless high in the air with raging eyes.
Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade,
What is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

The crowing of chanticleer in the barn-yard, (with invariable responses from other barn-yards,) and the lowing of cattle,
Ever the immense herds of cattle.
Cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous shuddering of their hides,
How straight and square they stand on their legs,
What yearning expression! what fine sagacious eyes!
The cow crunching, crunching the grass with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead and wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes well apart and full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut and flexibly moving.
His nostrils dilate, my heels embrace him,
His well built limbs tremble with pleasure,
We are two among the wild herds, spontaneous as any,
We speed around and return.
I but use you a moment and then I resign you stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself  out-gallop them,
And myself as I stand or sit pass faster than you?

Man is not only an animal like the others,
But he alone has the quality of understanding and telling how divine a thing an animal is.

The animals show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself,
I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?

I see in them and myself the same old law—
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,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Animals and vegetables! if I realize you I have satisfaction,
Laws of the earth and air! if I realize you I have satisfaction.

NEXT: TIMES OF THE DAY