The Heaven Of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

by James Dickey

Comments (7)

You were privileged many years ago, in a dream. You beheld the world one of its nobliest beasts, the horse!
I understand some commenters' problem with the line 'having no soul.' Being a longtime fan of Dickey's I think he meant this with irony, a technique he often used, a clear rebuke to those who really do believe this. It was clear to me that he does believe animals have souls from this loving and respectful poem.
. Loved the beginning and ending of the poem but got lost in the middle.
Lovely poem. However I am ignoring the lines ' having no soul however they have come'. Essence of life is soul and all life is possessed by it.
a wonderful commemoration of all life forms, although I do have a problem with his reference to animals not possessing a soul, suggesting they should not be treated humanly, I did enjoy the reflection that the simplicity of an animal requires them to see heaven as the state of existing within their own domain and not in search of the hopeless pursuit that we humans look for a life aver after. Their heaven is this world as it should be ours, at least that what I interpret
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