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The Photograph
– Stevie Smith

They photographed me young upon a tiger skin
And now I do not care at all for kith and kin,
For oh the tiger nature works within.

Parents of England, not in smug
Fashion fancy set on rug
If animal fur the darling you would hug,

For lately born is not too young
To scent the savage he sits upon,
And tiger-possessed abandon on all things human.

My take:
The reason why I have become a rebellious artist is because of the upbringing I had.  You made me sit on the tiger skin rug to photograph me, just for that temporary reason.  But the tiger’s savage nature, its scent, has seeped into me and now I don’t care, like a tiger, about the near and dear ones.  Like a tiger I have abandoned all humanity, all civility.  Nothing stops me from my goal in life.  To satisfy my hunger.

Walt Whitman explains this kind of revolution in a poem written at the time of the civil war. In his “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” the poet remembers himself as a boy hearing a male mockingbird call to its lost mate:

Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it really to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping, now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake,
And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die.
O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me,
O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease perpetuating you,
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before
what there in the night, By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d, the fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

Walt Whitman also talks about this transformation, from child to someone who is awake.  A child who now roars his song.  He is never again will be the peaceful child that he was before.  He has been transformed.  He has absorbed the savageness of a beast in the brief moment that his character was being developed.  The exposure to this bird singing away has changed Whitman for ever.  He has arisen to understand his own destiny to sing.

Guru Nanak’s and Guru Gobind Singh’s lions are no less. The imprints of the gurus’ poems is on their hearts. And they are revolutionaries.  They are hungry for truth.  And nothing can stop them from achieving their goals.

Have the hunger for truth, Shiv, and then abandon all things human.

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