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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wiliam Cowper on Cruelty to Animals

I recently ran across William Cowper's poem, On Cruelty to Animals.  But I couldn't find it anywhere on the web.  So here it is.  You're welcome.

On Cruelty to Animals

I would not enter on my list of friends
(Though grac’d with polish’d manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility) the man,
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
An inadvertent step may crush the snail,
That crawls at ev’ning in the public path;
But he that has humanity, forewarn’d,
Will tread aside, and let the reptile live.
The creeping vermin loathsome to the sight,
And charg’d perhaps with venom, that intrudes,
A visitor unwelcome, into scenes
Sacred to neatness and repose, th’ alcove,
The chamber, or refectory, may die:
A necessary act incurs no blame.
Not so when, held within their proper bounds,
And guiltless of offence, they range the air,
Or take their pastime in the spacious field:
There they are privileg’d; and he that hunts
Or harms them there is guilty of a wrong,
Disturbs the economy of Nature’s realm,
Who, when she form’d, design’d them an abode.
The sum is this.  If man’s convenience, health,
Or safety, interfere, his rights and claims
Are paramount, and must extinguish theirs.
Else they are all -- the meanest things that are,
As free to live, and to enjoy that life,
As God was free to form them at the first,
Who in his sov'reign wisdom made them all
Ye therefore, who love mercy, teach your sons,
To love it too. The spring-time of our years
Is soon dishonour'd and defil'd in most
By budding ills, that ask a prudent hand,
To check them. But alas! none sooner shoots,
If unrestrain'd, into luxuriant growth,
Than cruelty, most dev'lish of them all.
Mercy to him, that shows it, is the rule
And righteous limitation of its act,
By which Heav'n moves in pard'ning guilty man;
Aud he that shows none, being ripe in years,
And conscious of the outrage he commits,
Shall seek it, and not find it, in his turn.
  Distinguish'd much by reason, and still more
By our capacity of grace divine,
From creatures, that exist but for our sake,
Which, having serv'd us, perish, we are held
Accountable; and God some future day
Will reckon with us roundly for th' abuse
Of what he deems no mean or trivial trust.
Superior as we are, they yet depend .
Not more on human help than we on theirs.
Their strength, or speed, or vigilance, were giv'n
In aid of our defects. In some are found
Such teachable and apprehensive parts,
That man's attainments in his own concerns,
Match'd with th' expertness of the brutes in theirs,
Are ofttimes vanquish'd and thrown far behind.
Some show that nice sagacity of smell,
And read with such discernment, in the port
And figure of the man, his secret aim,
That oft we owe our safety to a skill
We could not teach, and must despair to learn.
But learn we might, if not too proud to stoop
To quaduped instructors, many a good
And useful quality, and virtue too,
Rarely exemplified among ourselves.
Attachment never to be wean'd, or chang'd
By any change of fortune; proof alike
Against unkindness, absence, and neglect;
Fidelity, that neither bribe nor threat
Can move or warp; and gratitude for small
And trivial favours, lasting as the life,
And glist'ning even in the dying eye.


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