Saturday, 18 September 2010

For Sam Liu

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 approach'd 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 his 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: "E'en 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,
Then, 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!


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!

John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887)

Pic. Wikipedia. Mural in Malaysia.


  1. PS. The story of the elephant is probably of ancient Chinese origin, but pops up in Indian and African culture and has a succinct version attributed to the Buddha.

  2. you carry deep wisdom in thsi one..out impressiona nd opinions carry the weight...and perhaps our pride a bit too much...

  3. Ain't it so? But as an artist, we must decide what is "right for us", often we do not know, but we have to make a decision, and we say it is so for us today, but when I get more information, I will reconsider. We look at an object, or a figure and we say the line goes this way. We must be decisive, we can't get hung up on the little things like, "Is that really right?" I loved that story, thanks for bringing it today!

  4. I've come across this story before, but this poetic form is marvellous. The moral and the message are so true. Perspective is a fundamental aspect of reality. And thank you for mentioning me, I truly appreciate it :D

  5. Stafford this is such a beautiful and wise wonderful that you dedicated your post for Sam Liu...he is such a blessing to so many. Hope you are having an awesome weekend.

  6. That's what happens when you close your mind and refuse to consider other possibilities.

  7. Oh, I do love your poetic take on this tale I heard as a child. And what a perfect image, too. :)

  8. I also liked the choice of pic. Thanks

  9. We 'see' what we want to see ... Sam is a mighty special guy, glad you dedicated this to him.

  10. I have heard the story but not the poem - a lovely post.

  11. sweet,
    there is nothing more pleasant than behaving like a child!

  12. I adore Sam. This is wonderful, Stafford!

  13. Tis So True Stafford
    * Ignorance is Bliss *
    Get Em While They're Young
    Then Their Perception
    Is * Hit and Miss *
    From Young, Nieve and Old

    Greetings, friend!!
    It is Monday, I sincerely invite you to join us for a Monday Poetry Potluck party, bring in 1 to 3 poem treats to share, and have fun tasting other poets treats.
    You will have 60 hours enjoying the fun.
    Hurry up, the more you share, the happier we are.
    Hope to see you in our party, hurry up, the earlier you are in, the more traffic you get...
    to link in, click on the link via this comment, then look at the blue link button at the end of the post, click on the button, have your poem link copy and pasted in the first box, then enter your name, at last your email address...let us know if you need help by leaving a comment under the same post...

  15. Incidentally, elephants have played significant roles in Mythological Wars.. both directly and Indirectly.. Airavat happens to be the royal one..

  16. Malaysia, Stafford? Exactly where?

  17. Really, thank you for this. I read it to my almost four year old son and he loved it. I'm printing it out! :)


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