Blind men and elephants

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Wed Apr 2 09:00:47 UTC 1997

Dear Indology netters,

the following poem is based on an Indian text. On behalf of someone else, I
have a couple of questions. 

1) Which Indian text relates the story of the blind men and the elephant?

2) Where was J. G. Saxe's poem published? (Bibliographic data, please!)

The poem goes like this:


  _The Blind Men and the Elephant_
           by- John Godfrey Saxe
                  (Boston 1869)

       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!


Thanks everybody who is helpful!

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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