The Heaven of Animals

The Heaven of Animals

By James L. Dickey

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

Summary of The Heaven of Animals

  • Popularity of “The Heaven of Animals”: ‘The Heaven of Animals’ is a wonderful literary piece written by James Dicky, an influential American writer and a poet. First published in 1962, the poem speaks about the world, where animals rule without human interference. It illustrates the connection between the prey and the predator, highlighting the nature of the cycle of life. Although the poem does not describe anything exciting about the animals, yet the principles of the natural world shown in the text have identified the main theme.
  • “The Heaven of Animals” As a Representative of Life: This beautiful poem speaks about how killing/dying and birth are the fundamental elements of the earth we live on. The poem begins with the description of places where animals open their soft eyes. To him, these creatures are soulless, yet they rise and bloom on earth. Also, the earth provides them everything they need to grow: they are blessed with woods and fields. Although they seem soulless, yet they have mastered certain skills such as killing and surviving. They do not depend on others; instead, they utilize their environment and natural ability to fulfill their basic instinct. The speaker also presents us with the thoughts of those who are hunted; the lost souls knew it was their fate and everyone is destined to meet the end one or the another. The poet describes animals in general and their heavenly environment on earth.
  • Major Themes in “The Heaven of Animals”: The cycle of life, cultural norms, and the animal world are the significant themes of the text. The speaker artistically sketches the world where animals enjoy their life, following the rules set by nature. At first, he presents the soft and passive image of the animals how they open their eyes to the world which seems unknown to them. With time, these innocent creatures learn the tactics of survival. They start hunting and killing other animals. In fact, the poet tries to show a discrepancy between the wildlife and a blissful afterlife. Animals kill each other having no evil intentions. They only do so because it is their instinctive nature. Also, the hunted animals accept death peacefully, considering it their fate in this kingdom.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Heaven of Animals”

literary devices are tools that allow writers to convey their ideas, feelings, and emotions to the readers more easily and effectively. James L. Dickey has also employed some literary devices in this poem to show the working of the animal world. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is discussed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /a/ in “May take years”.
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /th/ in “And those that are hunted”.
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. The words “outdating” in this stanza of the poem is repeated to emphasize the point. For example,

Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “They stalk more silently”, “They tremble, they walk” and “And crouch on the limbs of trees.”
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to non-human things. The poet has personified animals throughout the poem. For example,

“They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. “Soft eyes” symbolize the innocence of the animals and “the perfect claws and teeth” represent the deadly hunting skills of the animals.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Heaven of Animals”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free Verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “The soft eyes open” which created a musical quality in the poem.
  3. Refrain: The lines showing their repetition after some distance in the poems are called a refrain. The verse, “The soft eyes open” shows this repetition. Therefore, it is a refrain of the poem.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are eight stanzas in this poem with each comprised of five lines.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable to comment upon the life of a man that they go through different phases, yet they try to learn the art of life.

They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.”