The Poem Animals by Walt Whitman
About the Poet-
Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American poet,
essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was controversial in its time, particularly
his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sensuality. His influence on poetry remains strong.
The Poem- Animals
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are
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,
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?
Summary of the Poem
In this poem, the poet Walt Whitman expresses his love for the placid and selfcontained animals. He would like to spend some period of his life among them. They are self sufficient and that is why he would like to live with them. They are not burdened with cares. He observes the simplicity of their lives. They are satisfied with their life. According to the poet, animals do not remain sleepless or feel sorry for their sins. No evil, corruption and hatred are lodged in him. They lead a life of innocence, content and virtue. They do not make the poet sick by discussing relating to their duties towards god. Animals do not worship their heroes who may have lived thousands of years ago.
The poet feels that the animals are closely related to him, for he, too, has similar qualities. He is surprised to know as to how they got these qualities which he also has. Perhaps, these wonderful virtues were given to them by him many times ago when he passed by them in the course of his journey.
Difficult Word Meanings-
- Placid: calm, peaceful
- Contained; keep up control
- Whine: cry
- Sins: wrongdoing
- Demented: mad, disturbed
- Kneels: bow down
- Evince: show, reveal
- Possession: ownership of something
- Tokens: here, the qualities
- Negligently: Carelessly
Question Answers of the Poem 'Animals'
Q1. “I think I could turn and live with animals” What is the poet turning from?
Ans:- The poet is turning from human beings to animals. The reason is that animals are simple and innocent than hatred filled human beings.
Q2. Mention three things that human do and animals don’t.
Ans:- The three things that human do and animals don’t are-
a. Human complain about their condition.
b. Human lie awake in the dark repenting of their sins.
c. They make the poet sick by discussing their duty to God.
Animals on the other hand, do not do such human activities.
Q3. Do humans kneel to other humans who lived thousands of years ago? Discuss thheis in groups.
Ans:- Yes, human beings need to kneel other humans who lived thousands of years ago.
We remember and worship these great souls who pave a way for what we are today.
Q4.What are the ‘tokens’ that the poet says he may have dropped long ago, and which the animals have kept for him?
Ans:- The ‘tokens’ are those qualities, virtues and which man once had when he lived in the lap of mother nature. But with the passage of time, man has become materialistic and gave up those virtues. Now, these virtues are possesed by the animals.
Additional Questions Answers from Test Papers-
Q1. Why do you think the poet ‘could turn and live with animals’ rather than with humans?
Ans:- The poet wants to turn into animals and live with them because they are innocent, calm and quiet. They are self-satisfied and happy in their surroundings. Animals are more loving and caring than humans. It is because animals are calm and patience.
Q2. How do the animals accept their condition?
Ans:- Animals accept their conditions without questioning about them or complaining against them or protesting.
Q3. What are the qualities possessed by the animals as mentioned in the poem ‘Animals’?
Ans:- The animals possess the qualities of placidity, self-dependence, complacence and simplicity.
Q4. Why do animals not kneel before one another?
Ans:- Animals do not kneel down to show respect to others or to those who were born thousands of years ago. No animal considers itself more respectable than others (like human beings).
Q5. What quality of animals mesmerizes the poet?
Ans:- The qualities of placidity, self-dependence, complacence and simplicity of the animals impressed the poet. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.