Animals of the World Unite! (Part Six)
by Patrick Campbell
Whale, impatient in the bay,
said, "Look, it's very nearly day,
and though you're right, it is amusing
to see men chased up trees, we're losing
sight of what we're here to do,
which is to try to find the clue
to why man has become our master;
so can we move a little faster?"
As Elephant weighed up these words,
on high a mighty voice was heard,
booming like the sage of Oz.
Chair guessed quickly who it was.
"Tamarind, it’s you who speaks?"
"Yes," said the tree. "Look, I don't seek
to meddle or to interfere,
but since you've held your meeting here,
on what is after all my patch,
I really couldn't help but catch
every single word you've said
underneath my splendid spread.
And though it might be news to you,
even trees have points of view,
and since it seems you can't agree,
why not listen to a tree?"
But this kindly thought was doomed
to go down like a lead balloon,
for Nature’s social code decrees
that beasts are higher up than trees.
At least that was the animals’ stance.
But Chair gave Tamarind her chance
and this is what she had to say
in her very forthright way.
“Once when the world was very young
when nothing lived beneath the sun
but flowering plants and ferns and trees,
it was a time of perfect peace.
I wonder, was it really meant
or just some kind of accident
that moving creatures came along.
Was that when everything went wrong?”
Rhino snorted angrily
and was about to charge the tree,
but after weighing up her size
sensibly thought otherwise.
The tree said, “Rhino, don’t be cross
it’s only that I’m at a loss
to know what is the point of lives
that feed off others to survive.
But don’t imagine I’m superior;
my life coud hardly be much drearier.
I stand here with my open arms
that never move, just hoping harm
from foresters won’t come my way.
Sometimes I’d love to run away.
I feel so sorry for myself
stuck on this continental shelf.
When I look across the bay
and see the flying fishes play,
I know I’m missing all the fun
enjoyed by those who swim or run.“
“What’s this got to do with man?”
asked Stoat.; “I thought you had a plan..
“No plan,” the tree said, “just a wish,
but, Lady Chair, may I say this?
Some say compared to whispering pines
I am incomparably more fine,
adding, though I never would,
theirs is a cheaper kind of wood.
It’s said too that I’m prettier, stronger
and tend to live a great deal longer
with splendid branches, solid roots,
bearing flowers as well as fruit.
I couldn't say if all that's true,
but even if some others do,
it never would occur to me
that I was other than a tree.
You see my point? These selfish men
believe the world belongs to them,
forgetting that they’re animals too
something they won‘t let you do.
The sad fact is your blood relation
has ideas above his station.
It’s time to make these men aware
the world is there for all to share?
But nothing you can do or say
will make him change in any way,
unless, now we’ve a friend in Deepak,
... unless you try another tack.“
But what was meant by this broad hint
was not revealed by Tamarind;
and suddenly as she'd begun,
her thoughtful little speech was done.
“That’s it?” asked Chair, “I hoped we might
receive a little more insight
into what makes these humans tick.“
Said Walrus, "why on earth we pick
a tree to sort our problem out
since she's wood and quite without
the brilliant brain that we possess,
I really can't begin to guess."
Deepak spoke up for the tree.
"There's more to her than you can see.
You say she’s brainless, only wood,
but her advice was very good.
As our origins make plain,
men aren’t what they proudly claim.
Their brains know this but in their hearts
they long to be a breed apart.
How often did I as a boy
Tamarind's summer shade enjoy.
As for her culinary skills,
and balm for all of mankind's ills,
and contributions to the arts,
her fame is legend in these parts.
Her fruits provide the most delicious
spices for our curry dishes,
and everybody knows of course,
her flavour's there in Worcester sauce.
Father was a great believer
in her flowers for curing fevers.
and it's known her leaves are very
good for boils and dysentery.
Her seeds too have their ways to charm us,
by colouring things - like my pyjamas!"
a reference to the shocking red
that every night he took to bed,
whose loudness surely threw some light
on why he hadn't slept that night.
Said Deepak, "Just by standing there,
that tree has more than done her share."
The tree said, “Deepak, you're mistaken;
these gifts aren't given, merely taken.
I wish my riches could be shared
with living creatures everywhere;
but humans take and seldom give
and care not if we die or live.
For when the forester’s around,
the chances are he’ll saw me down
for furniture or walking-sticks,
or ox-cart wheels or charcoal bricks.
The reason I 'm still vertical,
indeed have not been hurt at all,
is that my generous parasol
gives shade to bathers, young and old.
Yet never am I quite relaxed;
I always think it's my turn next "