Guest poem sent in by Raj Bandyopadhyay
(Poem #1179) The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall! The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried, Ho! what have we here So very round and smooth and sharp? To me tis mighty clear This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear! The Third approached the animal, And happening to take The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake: I see, quoth he, the Elephant Is very like a snake! The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee. What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain, quoth he; 'Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree! The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: Even the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!? The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope, Than, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope, I see, quoth he, the Elephant Is very like a rope! And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong! Moral: So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween, Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean, And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen!
Just one of those masterpieces which everyone has heard and no one really thinks of submitting! Anyway, all the versions I've heard before did not include the last "Moral" passage. 'Extended Edition' !!!! The moral is so apt in modern times, with religious disputes setting the planet on fire. Having been the 'justifiable' (I'm Hindu by birth, and don't really care about religion) target of righteous right-winged evangelists in the US who argue about how they know exactly what God wanted to make of the world, I could not agree more with the poet. This is supposed to be based on a fable from India. I would be curious to know more about the exact origins though. My favorite line: the one for the fifth guy, who starts with "Even the blindest man..." So poignant in the context of religious disputes! [Martin adds] Raj is right - I can't believe we've not run this one yet. A true classic, and one beloved of generations of schoolteachers (and schoolkids - it's a very accessible poem for younger kids, rhythmic, visual, funny and memorable). I'd be hard pressed to call this a great poem (it's *too* simplistic, IMO, and the rhymes and rhythms too singsong), but it has, I think, achieved a deserved immortality.