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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals

Selections From The Ark Number 196 - Spring 2004


An Ode composed in Celebration of the Centenary of the RSPCA, 22 January 1924.

Backward among the dusky years
A lonesome lamp is seen arise,
Lit by a few fain pioneers
Before incredulous eyes.
We read the legend that it lights:
‘Wherefore beholds this land of historied rights
Mild creatures, despot-doomed, bewildered, plead
Their often hunger, thirst, pangs, prisonment,
In deep dumb gaze more eloquent
Than tongues of wildest heed?

What was faint-written, read in a breath
In that year – ten times ten away –
A larger louder conscience saith
More sturdily today.
But still these innocents are thralls
To throbless hearts, near, far, that hear no calls
Of honour towards their too-dependent frail,
And from Columbia Cape in Ind we see
How helplessness breeds tyranny
In power above assail.

Cries still are heard in secret nooks,
Till hushed with gag or slit or thud;
And hideous dens whereon none looks
Are sprayed with needless blood.
But here, in battlings, patient, slow,
Much has been won – more, maybe, than we know –
And on we labour hopeful. ‘Ailinon!’
A mighty voice falls: ‘But may the good prevail!’
And ‘Blessed are the merciful!’
Calls yet mightier one.

Thomas Hardy

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