Allen Ginsberg's Poetry

Give the interpretation of every stanza of the poem "A Satyre Against Mankind"

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I'm going to go with a synopsis here.......... I've never taught this poem, so I'm going to give you a summary of how "I" translate its meaning.

The poem is a satire, at least the poem by Wilmot is a satire; you have this listed under Ginsberg. I can't see him delving into this kind of 'art,' but Wilmot.......... he seems to be utilizing humor as a precursor to change here. What a great concept!

In the first lines of the poem we are immediately able to ascertain that our narrator is in fact human........ albeit a human who would prefer being any other type of animal. He uses dogs, monkeys and bears......... why? To show that he does not consider himself 'above' his audience. We can relate to each of them in one way or another.

The next several lines contain an extended metaphor; this portrays reason as foolishness. Reason takes humanity off the path and leads them astray.... he alludes that happiness is humanity's ultimate goal, and yet when following reason we are in the end left with the knowledge that we were wrong about that goal. Reason leads us astray because our pursuit of knowledge is in fact painful; it denies us true happiness. His argument, stop trying to analyze life and simply enjoy it.

When the speaker is detained by the "Beard" (a priest), he's in agreement with most of what he says to him, but also declares that we are so deluded by this sense of reason that we become arrogant and pompous. Example, Universities: these schools teach us how to break down arguments and fight what is being taught. He defends this reasoning by stating the differences between Right reason and Wrong reason. Wrong reason denies instinctiveness; right reason relates to common sense (the metaphor on Hunger is used to exemplify this).

Lastly, we have the argument against "reasonable" humans (I didn't know 'reasonable' was a bad thing). Reasonable humans are portrayed as deceitful and hypocritical. Wilmot uses the portrayal of wild animals to highlight the comparison between man and beast. He seems to emphasize how humanity is actually lower than beasts due to our ability to manipulate, deceive, destroy, and hurt each other. Man will kill for greediness, and he'll smile while committing the act. Man kills (literally and figuratively) his brother out of fear and insecurity rather than for reasons of survival (like the beast does in the wilderness).

Essentially, we kill each other for no other reason than to kill, and thus are no more than hypocrites. The last few lines state that if the ideal man can be 100% honest about who he/she is, what their intentions are, use their common sense to decipher the difference between right and wrong, and act as they should.......... he'll take it all back, but because the average man doesn't have these qualities and acts more like a beast......... we are less than we'd like ourselves to believe we are.

I took a shot........... hope it helps!


A Satyre Against Mankind