Fast interpretation of Address to the beasts

By Tuur.


Since the discussion in class will (if it’s in line with all the previous ones) probably prove us all wrong, forgive me this fastened interpretation from a quick read. But here is the thought:

The poem can centers around this division:

In the first part (the poem seems longer than it is because each stanza only holds few words) Auden makes the effort to praise the beasts and mock humanity – for them, against us. This is in line with the previous poems we read, and is just another variety on the theme.


On the the second part:

 But you exhibit no signs

 Of knowing that you are sentenced.

Now, could that be why



We upstarts are often

Jealous of your innocence,

 But never envious?



What I read in it is that Auden makes a judgement in the first stanza on animals, and uses it as an explanation to side with the humans in the last. In the end, we are human and do not envy the beast’s innocence. Why?


I think the following:

Beasts might be naturally good and innocent, but just because it is only natural to them, they cannot take any credit for it. They could not chose to be otherwise. While we humans (condemned by original sin and saved by Jesus) are not innocent, but can chose to do good. We have free will, and therefore we can take credit (and responsibility, pride, punishment, and most important: meaning) for & from our actions.

This connects to what Auden (in and anti-totalitarian context) wrote in the Dyers Hand: III. On writing poetry today (p. 565 in the collected works), on the meaningful/necessary difference between doing good and choosing to do good.   


Slay me down with thee criticism and remarks.

About this entry