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.

Homo Rapiens

The Vegetarian News, December 1926

Homo Rapiens and other verses. By Henry S. Salt (Watts & Co.)

“In these verses, which, with the exception of a few retained from an earlier pamphlet, are now printed or collected for the first time. I have tried to present the still predaceous human animal, Homo Rapiens, in his two most familiar modern aspects: first, as the belated savage, or Brutalitarian, whose hand is hard upon all the victims of his rapacity, but most upon the lower races; and, secondly, as the more sophisticated profiteer, who exploits and enslaves his fellows under the cloak of ‘private enterprise’ and ‘individual freedom.’”

Thus, writes Mr. Salt, in the preface to his latest volume. The title Homo Rapiens, he further explains, is confidently recommended to the notice of scientists, “as a more accurate term than the too flattering ‘Sapiens’ which they have prematurely bestowed upon mankind, and incidentally upon themselves.” With the political views of Mr. Salt, or of any other, The Vegetarian News has nothing to do. But there is worth in plenty in the first of his three sections to satisfy the most voracious of vegetarians, whatever his political notions may happen to be, and in the third section also—entitled “Rusty Saws Re-sharpened”—there will be much to everybody’s liking. For the most part, a brief indication to regular readers of The Vegetarian News by two or three of the poems here included which have lately appeared in these pages. Such titles as “Cupboard Love’s Philosophy,” “The Sending of Animals” and “The Altruistic Flesh-eater” will serve to convey the uninitiated the vigour, if not the full quality, of the watchful thrusts from Mr. Salt’s ever-ready rapier. Though space be wanting, however, there must not be allowed to go entirely unsampled, so here, for the instruction of some and for the delight of all, is “The Faddist Rebuked”:—

“No, No! We never will depart
From our ancestral diet,
Because some faddist folk—all heart
And little head—deny it
No Sickly Sentiment for us!
What Nature bids is best.”
(It was the Cannibal who thus
The Meat-eater addressed.)

Mr. Salt, indeed, is a past master in turning the argument of his critics against himself, and, in this connection, nothing, perhaps, in the whole volume is more effective than the “The Deer Departed: A Sportsman’s Elegy,” with its self-revealing finale:

“I could not love thee, Deer, so much,
Loved I not Hunting more.”

Buy the book, and send it to your friends for Christmas—if they can stand it! And if you remember the fine work done by the Humanitarian League in days that now seem perhaps, very long ago, add another copy for yourself so that you may refresh your soul once more by contact with one who was erstwhile its chief apostle, and whose spirit still burns to protect those who cannot help themselves.

E.J.T.