How to Tell Wild Animals By Carolyn Wells

This humorous poem suggests some dangerous ways to identify (or ‘tell’) wild animals! Read it aloud, keeping to a strong and regular rhythm.

If you should go by chance

To jungles in the east;

And if there should to you advance

A large and tawny beast,

If he roars at you as you’re dyin’

You’ll know it is the Asian Lion….

 

Or if some time when roaming round,

A noble wild beast greets you,

With black stripes on a yellow ground,

Just notice if he eats you.

This simple rule may help you learn

The Bengal Tiger to discern

 

If strolling forth, a beast you view,

Whose hide with spots is peppered,

As soon as he lept on you,

You’ll know it is the Leopard.

“Twill do no good to roar in pain,

He’ll only lep and lep again.

 

If when you’re walking round your yard

You meet a creature there,

Who hugs you very, very hard,

Be sure it is a Bear.

If you have any doubts, I guess

He’ll give you just one more caress.

 

Though to distinguish beasts of prey

A novice might nonplus,

The Crocodile you always may

Tell from the Hyena thus;

Hyenas come with merry smiles;

But if they weep they’re Crocodiles.

 

The true Chameleon is small,

A lizard sort of thing;

He hasn’t any ears at all,

And not a single wing.

If there is nothing on the tree,

‘Tis the chameleon you see.

 

CAROLYN WELLS

How to Tell Wild Animals Summary

Explanation of the Poem

Stanza 1

If ever you should go by chance

To jungles in the east;

And if there should to you advance

A large and tawny beast,

If he roars at you as you’re dyin’

You’ll know it is the Asian Lion….

Explanation

The poet here cautions the readers against the wild beasts found in the jungle. He says that if by chance you happen to go to any forest in the East, you are likely to encounter a huge and terrible animal moving forward towards you. You will notice that it is brownish-yellow in colour. And if the beast roars loudly at you and you feel that you are going to die due to fear then you will come to know that it is the Asian Lion.

Stanza 2

Or if some time when roaming around,

A noble wild beast greets you,

With black stripes on a yellow ground,

Just notice if he eats you.

This simple rule may help you learn

The Bengal Tiger to discern

Explanation

The poet says that it is very likely that while roaming in the forest, you are greeted by a wild beast. This wild animal is very impressive in size and his majestic body is covered with black stripes on a yellow hide. The poet cautions that if the readers notice this beast and that if he eats them, then this simple rule will teach them that it is a ‘Bengal Tiger’.

Stanza 3

If strolling forth, a beast you view,

Whose hide with spots is peppered,

As soon as he has lept on you,

You’ll know it is the Leopard.

‘Twill do no good to roar with pain,

He’ll only lep and lep again.

Explanation

The poet here helps the readers to identify a leopard. He says that if you happen to walk in the forest, you might encounter a beast with spots on his skin. When this beast will jump at you, you will understand that it is a leopard as he will keep jumping on you and will tear you apart. Moreover, it will be of no use then to shout or cry with pain because he will continue pouncing on you. So, be careful and don’t allow it to leap on you.

Stanza 4

If when you’re walking round your yard

You meet a creature there,

Who hugs you very, very hard,

Be sure it is a Bear.

If you have any doubts, I guess

He’ll give you just one more caress.

Explanation

The poet says that while you are walking in your yard, you may encounter a creature there. When this creature hugs you very tightly, then believe that it is a bear. Bears are thought to be good wrestlers and can give a really tight hug. Although a friendly hug is referred to as a bear hug, if a real bear hugs you, then it may not feel friendly at all. The bear hugs a man to kill him. The poet further says that in case of any doubt you will find that the bear will embrace you once again till death.

Stanza 5

Though to distinguish beasts of prey

A novice may nonplus,

The Crocodile you always may

Tell from the Hyena thus:

Hyenas come with merry smiles;

But if they weep they’re Crocodiles.

Explanation

The poet here says that a novice (a beginner) may be puzzled and confused and thus might not be able to distinguish between the different wild animals. Hence, the poet helps to differentiate the crocodile from the hyena. She says that a hyena always laughs as it swallows its victim. A laughing hyena’s voice resembles human’s laughing sound. A crocodile on the other hand is said to shed tears while eating its prey. The poet, thus, warns the readers to not wait for a hyena to laugh or for a crocodile to weep.

Stanza 6

The true Chameleon is small,

A lizard sort of things;

He hasn’t any ears at all,

And not a single wing.

If there is nothing on the tree,

‘Tis the Chameleon you see.

Explanation

The poet describes a chameleon in the stanza. She says a chameleon is a small garden lizard. It doesn’t have ears or wings. The poet, further, says that if you are unable to see a thing on the tree, then chances are that a chameleon is sitting there. A chameleon is an expert of camouflage. It changes colour as per its surroundings and is therefore difficult to see. This capacity of camouflage helps the lizard in saving it from hunters.

Central Idea of Poem

The poem ‘How to Tell  Wild Animals’ by Carolyn Wells revolves around the dangerous ways to identify the wild animals. The poet tries to distinguish one animal from the other in a humorous way. The poet suggests that it is very risky to be in such a close proximity (closeness) to these wild beasts. The poem is, thus, very educative as it tells us about various features of wild animals.

Poetic Devices Used in the Poem

Poetic Licence

As soon as it has lept on you

He will only lep and lep aain

‘Tis is the Chameleon you see

In the first it should have been “lept” instead of “lept”.

In the second stanza, the term ‘lep’ should have been spell as “leap”. In the third instance, the line should have begun with “it” instead of ‘T’.

Alliteration : Repetition of initial consonant sounds in the same line.

  • roaming round
  • lep and lep again
  • Who hugs you very very hard
  • A novice might nonplus

Word Meanings

advance : to move towards sb/sth, often in order to attack or threaten

tawny : brownish-yellow in colour

beast : a dangerous animal

noble : here, very impressive in size

ground : background

discern : make out, identify

strolling : to walk somewhere in a slow relaxed way

forth : forwards, away from a place

hide (noun) : animal skin

peppered : here, covered with spots

lept (leap) : to jump high or a long way

yard : a piece of land next to or around your house

caress : a gentle, loving touch

beasts of prey : an animal, a bird etc, that is hunted, killed or eaten by another

novice : someone new to a job

nonplus : be puzzled, confused, surprised

Hyena : a wild animal like a dog, that eats the meat of animals that are already dead and has a cry like human laugh

chameleon : a small lizard that can change colour according to its surroundings

’tis : this

Questions and Answers

NCERT Solutions

Thinking about the Poem (Page 45)

Question 1 : Does ‘Dyin’ really rhyme with ‘lion’? Can you say it in such a way that it does?

Answer : No, ‘Dyin’ does not rhyme with ‘lion’. If we change the pronunciation of lion by speaking it as ‘lying’ then it may rhyme with the word ‘Dyin’.

Question 2 : How does the poet suggest that you identify the lion and the tiger? When can you do so according to him?

Answer : A lion is a large and tawny beast. A Bengal Tiger has black stripes on its yellow coat. A lion roars when it falls upon its prey, while a tiger attacks silently. We can identify the two while roaming in the jungle.

Question 3 : Do you think the words ‘lept’ and ‘lep’ in the third stanza are spelt correctly? Why does the poet spell them like this?

Answer : the words ‘lept’ and ‘lep’ are not spelt correctly. The poet has spelt them like this in order to maintain the rhythm of the poem. The correct spelling of the words, ‘lept’ is leapt and ‘lep’ is leap. The poet has intentionally spelt them incorrectly to create a sense of humour.

Question 4 : Do you know what is ‘bear hug’ is? It is a friendly and strong hug-such as Bears are thought to give, as they attack you! Again, hyenas are thought to laugh and crocodiles to weep (‘crocodile tears’) as they swallow their victims. Are there similar expressions and popular ideas about wild animals in your own language(s)?

Answer : A bear hug is when the bear hugs his prey tightly with both hands and presses him to death.

There are indeed similar expressions and popular ideas about wild animals in every language. For example, in Hindi, we say ‘Magarmach ke aansu aana’ (crocodile tears), ‘Haathi ke daant dikhane ke aur, khane ke aur’, ‘Ab pachtaye hot kya job chidiya chug gai khet’, ‘Girgit ke tarah rang badalna’.

Question 5 : Look at the line “A novice might nonplus.” How would you write this ‘correctly’? Why is the poet’s ‘incorrect’ line better in the poem?

Answer : The line “A novice might nonplus” can be written correctly as “A novice might be nonplussed”. However, the poet’s incorrect line is better in the poem as it maintains the rhyme scheme of the poem. By writing it incorrectly, ‘nonplus’ rhymes with ‘thus’.

Question 6 : Can you find other examples of poets taking liberties with language, either in English or in your own language? Can you find examples of humorous poems in your own language(s)?

Answer : One can find plenty of examples in poetry where poets take liberties with language. This is called ‘poetic licence’. Poets take such liberties in order to create proper rhyming and rhythm. For example, in the following lines the word ‘prest’ is used instead of ‘pressed’ so that it may rhyme with ‘breast’.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweat flowing breast

Question 7 : Much of the humour in the poem arises from the way language is used. Although the ideas are funny as well. If there are particular lines in the poem that you especially like, share these lines with the class, speaking briefly about what it is about the ideas or the language that you like or find funny.

Answer : The way the poet has used language and ideas in the poem is indeed humorous. The lines from the poem that appears to be funny are “A noble wild beast greets you”. The idea that a wild beast is going to welcome you is quite funny. The language in the line, “He’ll only lep and lep again” is also very humorous. The concept of ‘lep’ from the word ‘leopard’ generated humour.

Extra Questions

Extract Based Questions

Read the following extracts carefully and choose the correct option.

Question 1 : 

If ever you should go by chance

To jungles in the east;

And if there should to you advance

A large and tawny beast,

If he roars at you as yo’re dyin’

You’ll know it is the Asian Lion…

i) What does the poem mean by ‘Jungles in the East’?

a) Forests in East direction

b) Forests of India

c) Forests in Asian countries

d) Forests in the East of London

ii) What are the main features of Asian Lion?

a) Huge in size

b) Brownish in colour

c) Roars

d) All of these

iii) What word is synonym of ‘to move forward to attack’?

a) Tawny

b) Roars

c) Advance

d) Go

iv) What happens when the lion roars?

a) Animals run away

b) Heart starts beating fast

c) It is very scary

d) Both (b) and (c)

Answer : i) c) Forests in Asian countries

ii) d) All of these

iii) c) Advance

iv) d) Both (b) and (c)

Question 2 : 

Or if some time when roaming round,

A noble wild beast greets you,

With black stripes on a yellow ground,

Just notice if he eats you.

This simple rule may help you learn

The Bengal Tiger to discern

i) How can we recognise a Bengal tiger?

a) It is majestic

b) Does not roar

c) Has black stripes with yellow skin

d) All of the above

ii) How is Bengal Tiger different from Aisan Lions?

a) Has black stripes

b) Very huge in size

c) Quiet but dangerous

d) All of the above

iii) What does the word ‘discern’ mean in these lines?

a) Confuse

b) Recognise and understand

c) Remark

d) Ignore

iv) Which figure of speech is used in the phrase ‘Nobel Wild Beast’.

a) Metaphor

b) Paradox

c) Alliteration

d) Personification

Answer : i) d) All of the above

ii) d) All of the above

iii) b) Recognise and understand

iv) b) Paradox

Short Questions and Answers

Question 1 : How can you identify the Asian Lion and the Bengal Tiger?

Answer : The Asian Lion has a large body and a brownish-yellow colour. It roars loudly when it attacks its prey. On the other hand, the Bengal Tiger has black stripes on the yellow background of its body. It silently attacks its prey.

Question 2 : Write the sum and substance of the poem, ‘How to Tell Wild Animals’.

Answer : The poet, Carolyn Wells, in the poem suggests some of the dangerous ways to identify the wild animals. The poem is full of humorous examples when the poet tries to distinguish one animal from the other. Moreover, the poem educates us by describing the various features of wild animals.

Question 3 : How can you distinguish between a tiger and a leopard?

Answer :  A tiger has black stripes on its yellow coat. A leopard on the other hand, does not have any stripes. It has spots peppered on its body. Moreover, a tiger kills only when it is hungry, while a leopard can kill for the pleasure of killing by pouncing continuously on its prey.

Question 4 : How can you distinguish between a hyena and a crocodile?

Answer : A hyena and a crocodile both behave differently. Their distinct behaviour helps us to distinguish between them. A hyena comes to its victims with a merry smile while a crocodile sheds tears.

Question 5 : What are the distinctive features of the Asian Lion as given in the poem?

Answer : The Asian Lion is large in stature. It is brownish-yellow in colour. It roars very loudly. The sound of its roar is so terrible to hear that it can make one almost die due to fear. The Asian Lion is found in the forests of East Asian countries.

Question 6 : What does the Bengal Tiger look like? What is so distinct about him?

Answer : The Bengal Tiger roams freely in the forest. It is noble and majestic in stature. It wears black stripes on a yellow hide. When it notices someone it tries to eat him. The Bengal Tiger attacks its prey very silently and grasps it with its terrifying teeth.

Question 7 : How does a leopard behave when he sees someone?

Answer :  A leopard has black spots all over its body. As soon as it sees someone, it leaps over him at once. It keeps on pouncing continuously on its victim, attacks him and starts eating him.

Question 8 : How does the poet describe the bear?

Answer : The poet describes the bear in a humorous way. He says that as soon as a bear sees a human being, it hugs him tightly. It clasps its prey tightly with both its hands and squeezes him to death. If he is still alive, it gives him another tight hug to kill him.

Question 9 : What is so weird about the hyena and the crocodile?

Answer : Some animals such as the hyena and the crocodile are famous for their weird behaviour. FOr example, a laughing hyena’s voice resembles human’s laughing sound. Moreover, a Hyena laughs while swallowing its prey, while a crocodile shed tears.

Question 10 : Describe a few characteristics of a chameleon.

Answer : A chameleon is a garden lizard and is an expert at camouflage. It changes its colour as per its surroundings. This ability of camouflage helps it in saving it from the hunters. A chameleon does not have any ears or wings.

Long Questions and Answers

Question 1 : ‘Humour is the best medicine for every ailment in life’. Comment.

Answer : Humour is infectious. When humour is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness. Humour strengthens our immune system, boosts our energy, diminishes pain and protects us from the dmaging effects of stress. It is the priceless medicine for every ailment in life. The poet, in the poem ‘How to Tell Wild Animals’ creates humour by describing various beast of prey. The way the poet explains the things is very funny yet interesting. The poet has depicted the wildlife very vividly and in a lively manner. While reading the poem, the readers enjoy the poet’s work and it leaves them refreshed and happy.