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09 February, 2008

THE TURKEY AND THE ANT



John GAY 1685 - 1732

A Turkey, tired of common food,
Forsook the barn, and sought the wood,
Behind her ran an infant train
Collecting here and there a grain.

'Draw near, my birds', the mother cries,
'This hill delicious fare supplies.
Behold the busy negro race--
See. millions blacken all the place!

Fear not; like me with freedom eat;
An eat is most delightful meat,
How blest, how envied, were our life
Could we but 'scape the poulter's knife!

But man, cursed man, on turkey preys
And Christmas shortens all our days.
Sometimes with oysters we combine,
Sometimes assist the savoury chine,
From the low peasant to the Lord,
The turkey smokes on every board.

Some men for gluttony are curst,
Of the seven deadly sins the worst.
An ant, who climbed beyond her reach,
Thus answer'd from a neighbouring beech;
'Ere you remark another's sin,
Bid they own conscience look within;
Control thy more voracious bill,
Nor, for a breakfast nations kill.'

-- John Gay



COMMENTS:

In a simple poem, Gay has well brought out the difficulty of analysing oneself. In his poem there was a turkey living in a barn. The turkey was tired of eating grains. One day is left the barn in search of different food. The young ones followed the mother bird. Soon they reached a hill. the hill was full of black ants. The turkey started devouring them. It persuaded its little ones to eat freely. For a breakfast they consumed millions of ants. The turkey was quite unaware of it. But at the same time, it criticised the gluttony of men. It cursed man for consuming turkey for christmas. Herein lies the paradox. The turkey accused man for destroying a bird once a year, whereas it was killing a nation of ants for a breakfast. The turkey was committing the same fault, a million times graver, yet was ignorant of it. The poet tries to drive home this problem of recognising one's own iniquity.




Here is a practical suggestion. The moment you find a defect in another remember to look within yourself. Understand, behind every flaw that you recognise in another you have the same perhaps far more pronounced in your own personality. Do not consume all your life merely criticising the flaws and failings of others.



"Judge not others" cautioned Christ. The energy you waste in judging others is just what you need to make you live up to your own ideals. Observing a small blemish in a person what a strong tendency people have to overlook all his good traits! In the present society each member concentrates his attention on the faults of another. What defiles a person is not what goes into him but what comes out of him.


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