A Word In Edgewise: Ringing the Bells of Heaven
In a broad stroke, mankind can be divided into two types, the helpers and the harmers; those who help turtles to the other side of the road and those who swerve to crush them. Those who, at their own peril, hid Anne Frank and her family, those who delighted at betraying them.
As to those turtles, it’s my opinion that how a person treats an animal is how that person is capable of treating a fellow human being.
Kindness can move one to tears, and cruelty to tears of a different sort. A recent video showed a hand gently nudging a tiny, beached octopus back into the sea. It paused, returned to gently touch its savior’s foot in thanks, then glided off into the depths.
Photos of a mouse with its foreleg in a cast, or a critter raft placed in a swimming pool to aid tiny foundering creatures are too often offset by images of horrific cruelty. Wealthy Brits tossing live fox pups to their dog packs, Spaniards setting bulls’ horns afire, Puppy Doe’s torturer going on trial here in September.
British poet Ralph Edwin Hodgson (1871-1962) was an early advocate of animal rights, concerned with ecology, speaking out against the fur trade and man’s destruction of the natural world. Hodgson served in the Royal Navy, and a hundred years ago during the “war to end all wars” he published poems which included “The Bells of Heaven:”
‘Twould ring the bells of Heaven
The wildest peal for years,
If Parson lost his senses
And people came to theirs,
And he and they together
Knelt down with angry prayers
For tamed and shabby tigers
And dancing dogs and bears,
And wretched, blind, pit ponies,
And little hunted hares.
Coal miners no longer use pit ponies, but the rest of Hodgson’s lines are still too close to home for us to feel that we’ve achieved a century of compassionate progression. One still listens in vain for the joyous peal of bells, for humans and animals alike.