The Animals, by Edwin Muir

I have to think it was a mistake of Muir to put the animals on the fifth day. Fish and fowl are fine, but technically, not all the animals. And it is pretty clear he meant all the animals, though it is interesting to think that perhaps fish and fowl do not experience time and all the rest of them do.

But in Edwin Muir’s mind the animals are symbols which on the whole do not, as you can see by looking up what he has to say about horses. Animals mediated for him the eternal, he looked upon them, looked right into them and saw forms. And so he envied them that perpetual state, the pan-conscious state unconscious of time.

Is time a function of self-consciousness? If you could forget yourself, conscious only of another object, would you be conscious of change anymore? Is time required for one to be self-conscious?

Is space, for that matter? No word, no space, no time, but forms above discursive reason, scattering from themselves something with no lower consciousness or sense of the sequence of a building myth, and none of tragedy.

The Animals

They do not live in the world,
Are not in time and space.
From birth to death hurled
No word do they have, not one
To plant a foot upon,
Were never in any place.

For with names the world was called
Out of the empty air,
With names was built and walled,
Line and circle and square,
Dust and emerald;
Snatched from deceiving death
By the articulate breath.

But these have never trod
Twice the familiar track,
Never never turned back
Into the memoried day.
All is new and near
In the unchanging Here
On the fifth great day of God,
That shall remain the same,
Never shall pass away.

On the sixth day we came.

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