Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

The Village Butcher

(Adapted from Longfellow)

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village shambles stand;
A busy man the butcher is,
With pole-axe in his hand,
And a meaning look about his eye
That cattle understand.

His coat is blue, and loose, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet (but not with sweat),
He kills whate’er he can;
And he looks the whole world in the face,
Like an honest slaughter-man.

Week in, week out, from morn to night,
He deals the deadly blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy axe
With measured beat and slow;
While shrill and loud the porkers yell,
And deep the oxen low.

And children, coming home from school,
Peep eager through the door;
They love to see the slaughtered sheep,
And hear the bullocks roar,
And what the dying pigs that lie
A-kicking on the floor.

On Christmas day he goes to church,
With all his butcher boys.
He hears the parson pray and preach;
He sings with tuneful voice
Of gentleness and peace on earth;
And it makes his heart rejoice.

Hacking, whacking, slaughtering,
Onward through life he goes.
Each morning living beasts come in,
Each night they hang in rows:
Murder attempted, murder done,
Has earned him sweet repose.

Thanks, thanks, to thee, my butcher friend,
For the lesson though has taught;
Thus from the reeking slaughter-house
Our Christmas beef is brought;
Our Christmas beef! No more for me.
I do not like the thought.

H. S. S.
The Food Reform Magazine, Vol. III No. 3, January-March 1884