The Blind Men and the Elephant, by John Saxe

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 wonderous 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: “even the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most:
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

TheSixth 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 the other mean,
And prate about an elephant
Not one of them has seen.

3 thoughts on “The Blind Men and the Elephant, by John Saxe

  • 8/18/2006 at 6:43 am

    Classic. I’ve also heard this metaphor used to describe people talking about war. I suppose the illustration could be applied to any far-reaching, nebulous topic.

  • 8/21/2006 at 12:52 pm

    Since when are elephants nebulous? I have seen 2 at the Zoo. They didn’t see all that nebulous when they run into things either.


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