Ringling Bros.’ circus tales; or, the elephants’ last hurrah

Ringling Bros.’ circus tales; or, the elephants’ last hurrah

In a slightly different context, English Romantic poet William Blake once accused self-righteous Puritans of his own time of "Binding with briars my joys and desires." And so it's also come to pass at the Ringling Bros.' circus.

Mexican circus elephants performing, circa 2009. Mexico has already banned performing elephants. (Image via Wikipedia, GNU Documentation License 1.2)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2016 — This just in from the hallowed New York Times:

The days of lumbering elephants performing under big-top tents are coming to an end sooner than planned.

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, said in a statement on Monday that it was phasing out its Asian elephants and moving the creatures from their traveling circuses to a conservation center in Florida in May, a year and a half sooner than anticipated.

Well, I guess it was bound to come to this at last. America’s new Puritans seem determined to take all the fun out of pleasurable anachronisms like the circus. Back in the 1970s, I actually worked as a clown for the Ringling Brothers circus, and I never saw the elephant handlers use their bullhooks as anything but gentle guides—like the bit in a horse’s mouth—to guide their charges in the right direction.

But then, I’m kind of an antiquated and marginalized person myself. That’s doubtless why my opinion counts for diddly-squat in most public forums.

I guess that’s also why I put my thoughts into verse. Somehow, somewhere, I reason, maybe someone will enjoy it. Assuming they’re allowed to, that is.

Beyond that, though, those wondrous days of colorful and carefree circus parades and performances have long since passed me by. Today, like most U.S. citizens, I am ordered to be content with my lot, to shut up and to let the so-called experts run things on my behalf.

God help us . . .

The circus has no elephants. They’ve all been sent to grass,
their ponderous calisthenics terminated now, en masse.
Next, I guess, clown alley will protest and ask release
from happy jobs devoted to disturbing of the peace.

The magic of the pachyderms, the whimsy of the clowns
no longer bring the weary world broad smiles, but righteous frowns.
By killing off the circus we have left a gaping hole
where once we’d held our jolly, unselfconscious, laughing soul.

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