The Parable of the Big Elephant


I was recently reminded of the poem, The Blind Men & the Elephant, by American poet John Godfrey Saxe,.  It has for me a wonderfully humbling effect. Whether old or new to you, I hope you enjoy!

It was six men of Indostan 
To learning much inclined, 
Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), 
That each by observation 
Might satisfy his mind 

The First approached the Elephant, 
And happening to fall 
Against his broad and sturdy side, 
At once began to bawl: 
“God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!” 

The Second, feeling of the tusk, 
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear 
This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!” 

The Third approached the animal, 
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake: 
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a snake!” 

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
And felt about the knee. 
“What most this wondrous beast is like 
Is mighty plain,” quoth he; 
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!” 

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, 
Said: “E’en the blindest man 
Can tell what this resembles most; 
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!” 

The Sixth no sooner had begun 
About the beast to grope, 
Than, seizing on the swinging tail 
That fell within his scope, 
“I see,” quoth he, 
“the Elephant Is very like a rope!” 

And so these men of Indostan 
Disputed loud and long, 
Each in his own opinion 
Exceeding stiff and strong, 
Though each was partly in the right, 
And all were in the wrong! 

So oft in theologic wars, 
The disputants, I ween, 
Rail on in utter ignorance 
Of what each other mean, 
And prate about an Elephant 
Not one of them has seen!


2 thoughts on “The Parable of the Big Elephant

  1. My, but what a humbling piece of poetic parable. I’ve heard many variations on this story; some using blind psychiatrists or doctors or lawyers to prove the same general point, but reading this plainly and clearly has allowed me a vision of the moral that beforehand I did not have. Thank you sincerey for posting this!

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