The Elephant, a poem

The Elephant, a poem

When I wrote my book on Business with India, I chose to include a famous poem about the blind men and the elephant in the introduction and the editors put an elephant on the cover. To me, the elephant, with its long memory, complexity, precision, strength,  and skills has always been a better metaphor, than the tiger or the peacock ( India’s national bird) or any other symbol.

Today I was reminded about the first elephant poem I ever heard and read. I think I was in sixth grade at the Methodist High School in Kanpur, India when my English teacher, the colorful spinster Miss Josephine DeCunha, read it to us. The joyous ditty has stayed in mind ever since.  Here in America, so many kids think of Dumbo and peanuts, when the hear the word elephant. But Asian elephants are smart, sensitive and even playful creatures (as the Emmy-nominated NY Life commercials also captured here. And I have written about my fascination with elephants before here on this blog.

The Elephant

By Herbert Asquith

Here comes the elephant

Swaying along,

With his cargo of children

All singing a song:

To the tinkle of laughter

He goes on his way,

And his cargo of children

Have crowded him with May.

His legs are in leather

And padded his toes;

He can root up an oak

With a whisk of his nose:

With a wave of his trunk,

And a turn of his chin,

He can pull down a house,

Or pick up a pin.

Beneath his grey forehead

A little eye peers!

Of what is he thinking

Between those wide ears?

Of what does he think?

If he wished to tease,

He could twirl his keeper

Over the trees.

If he were not kind,

He could play cup and ball

With Robert and Helen

and Uncle Paul:

But that grey forehead,

Those crinkled ears,

Have learned to be kind

In a hundred years!

And so with the children

He goes on his way,

To the tinkle of laughter

And crowded with the May.


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