I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
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?
In this poem, Walt Whitman has beautifully brought out the contrast between animals and human beings. Animals are generally simple in nature whereas human beings are generally greedy, selfish and very complicated. He is very happy with the easy going nature of animals and he wants to follow them.
The poet is desirous to live among the animals as he thinks that they are contented and serene. They are wise and this is the reason why they never bewail of their lot and condition. They do not weep for their sins and they have no care to worship even God. They are always satisfied and do not need to possess things.
They respect none including their ancestors and they remain indifferent in their pleasure and pain. For this very reason, the poet wishes to learn from animals. They do not have any kind of falsehood. They are free from all types of trivial anxieties, so they are still living their natural life.
The poet here desires to turn into an animal and live with them as he is impressed by their calmness and the purity of their mind. Animals appear to be contented with their lives. The poet stands and looks at them for a long time.
The poet is quite impressed by the animals that they do not complaint and cry about their conditions like human. They eat and sleep they have nothing to worry about peacefully. The animals are pure and they do not pray to God for forgiveness or ask God to fulfil their desires like humans.
Animals do not possess material things like humans and they are happy and satisfied without all the worldly items. Animals are free from the habit of praying to their ancestors. When the poet says ‘not one is respectable’ he means that since all of them are equal, there is no question of respect for some and insult to other. Thus animals are happy and uncomplaining.
The poet feels that animals represent human beings in some way. This means that animals seem to have virtues, like kindness and innocence, which humans once had. They symbolise the lost values of human race. The poet believes that humans dropped these virtues a long time ago and have forgotten them.
Repetition: Stand and look at them long and long.
make me sick.
I wonder where they get those tokens.