Flogging a dead horse

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Early on in Dostoevsky’s great work Crime and Punishment.

Published in 1866 when Dostoevsky was 44 years old,

Raskolnikov, an ex-student in St Petersburg, sees himself as a young boy,

Walking through a provincial town with his father.

Outside a pub, a drunken rabble surrounds a weary old horse,

Hitched to a weighty cartload that it cannot possibly pull.

To the delight of the cheering mob, the horse is beaten so brutally, so brutally,

Sometimes even across the eyes and muzzle 

Men climb into the cart to weigh it down further,

When someone speaks up against the violence,

The killer merely yells “My property, my property!”

On January 3, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche, then 44,

Left his lodgings in Turin, excluded from all German universities,

No-platformed because of his radical god-less opinions,

Walked a short distance across a nearby square,

Seeing a horse being flogged by its owner,

He threw himself towards the animal and embraced it.

Breaking into tears, he slumped to the floor.

The remaining 11 years of his life were spent

Under care, and under the spell of profound madness.

Theodor W. Adorno, another German philosopher, said 

“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks

At a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” 



◄ A rose garden at altitude under occupation

The unpurged images of day ►


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Wed 26th Dec 2018 16:39

I suppose the spirit of cruelty is versatile and can be applied to any situation where force can be applied; therefore your poem makes a strong point. How can we grade the process - we all have our guilts and defensiveness can become attack (defence of the ownership of an animal). Humans will constantly try to justify their actions however insane. There are countless examples, but this is strong meat indeed.


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John Marks

Wed 26th Dec 2018 15:17

So, Brian, is the poem flogging a dead horse as far as you're concerned? And it's human cruelty, surely. Animals (except cats and humans) are rarely, if ever, cruel. J

Big Sal

Wed 26th Dec 2018 12:58

It takes someone with the heart of Francis of Assisi to walk into a place of cruelty and be able to come out more empathetic than before - not less so.

I'll never understand humans.

You can lead a 'horse' (substitute human for horse) to water, but you can't make him think.

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Brian Maryon

Wed 26th Dec 2018 12:08

The title is a complete misnomer. The whole point about the saying is to show the futility of such an act...whereas this poem is about animal cruelty.

<Deleted User> (19913)

Wed 26th Dec 2018 12:01

I've never understood the capacity for cruelty to animals or people and, of any topic, it's the one that rouses most emotion in me. Great work. Reminds me that I too, usually prefer animals to people.

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John Marks

Wed 26th Dec 2018 11:56

Thank you Khushal and Alan. In a pub that Charlie (my 11 year old black lab) and I have been known to frequent they have a large (and very pointed) sign up 'All dogs welcome, some humans tolerated'. Echoes my feelings, exactly. Happy Holidays to you and yours. John

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Alan Travis Braddock

Wed 26th Dec 2018 11:01

Splendid and very pointed, especially the final couplet. Auschwitz was eighty years ago and is still reproaching the human race - human perhaps, but not humane.

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