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The Pangolin Analysis

Author: Poetry of Marianne Moore Type: Poetry Views: 333

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1936Another armored animal--scalelapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they

form the uninterrupted centraltail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equippedgizzard,

the night miniature artist engineer is,yes, Leonardo da Vinci's replica--impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.Armor seems extra. But for him,the closing ear-ridge--or bare ear lacking even this smalleminence and similarly safecontracting nose and eye aperturesimpenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater,

not cockroach eater, who enduresexhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night,returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight,on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outsideedges of his hands may bear the weight and save the clawsfor digging. Serpentined aboutthe tree, he drawsaway from danger unpugnaciously,with no sound but a harmless hiss; keepingthe fragile grace of the Thomas-of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or

rolls himself into a ball that haspower to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neathead for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in-feet.Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nestof rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thusdarken.Sun and moon and day and night and man and beasteach with a splendorwhich man in all his vileness cannotset aside; each with an excellence!"Fearfull yet to be feared," the armoredant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but

engulfs what he can, the flattened sword-edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-platesquivering violently when it retaliatesand swarms on him. Compact like the furled fringed frillon the hat-brim of Gargallo's hollow iron head of amatador, he will drop and willthen walk awayunhurt, although if unintruded on,he cautiously works down the tree, helpedby his tail. The giant-pangolin-tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like

an elephant's trunkwith special skin,is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurableartichoke which simpletons thought a living fablewhom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had doneso. Pangolins are not aggressive animals; betweendusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-likeform and frictionless creep of a thingmade graceful by adversities, con-versities. To explain grace requiresa curious hand. If that which is at all were not forever,

why would those who graced the spireswith animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxuriouslow stone seats--a monk and monk and monk--between the thusingenious roof supports, have slaved to confusegrace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt,the cure for sins, a graceful useof what are yetapproved stone mullions branching out acrossthe perpendiculars? A sailboatwas the first machine. Pangolins, madefor moving quietly also, are models of exactness,

on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade,with certain postures of a man. Beneath sun and moon, man slavingto make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having,needing to choose wisely how to use his strength;a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,like the ant; spidering a lengthof web from bluffsabove a stream; in fighting, mechanickedlike the pangolin; capsizing indisheartenment. Bedizened or starknaked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-

masters to this world, griffons a dark"Like does not like like that is abnoxious"; and writes error with fourr's. Among animals, one has sense of humor.Humor saves a few steps, it saves years. Unignorant,modest and unemotional, and all emotion,he has everlasting vigor,power to grow,though there are few creatures who can make onebreathe faster and make one erecter.Not afraid of anything is he,and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle

at every step. Consistent with theformula--warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs--thatis a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat,serge-clad, strong-shod. The prey of fear, he, alwayscurtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partlydone,says to the alternating blaze,"Again the sun!anew each day; and new and new and new,that comes into and steadies my soul."


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