Who trusted God was love indeed And love Creation’s final law – Tho’ nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shriek’d against his creed –
“In Memoriam” (1842) is one of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s greatest poems.
Through poetry he found the truth and spake it.
Tennyson was Britain’s finest Poet Laureate and she shone in the Victorian Age as one of the brightest lighted minds in history.
Tennyson’s observation is a warning to us all: Nature is brutal.
Nature lives in blood and thrives via biting and scraping. To deny the animal instinct for survival is to lose the natural lesson of our innate desire to move up in the world.
We climb the proverbial mountain with our teeth and with our claws and if anyone stands in our way, red shall be shed. Evolutionary thinker and author Charles Darwin’s fine text, The Descent of Man (1871), salutes and builds upon Tennyson’s warning about nature:
The lower animals, on the other hand, must have their bodily structure modified in order to survive under greatly changed conditions.They must be rendered stronger, or acquire more effective teeth or claws, in order to defend themselves from new enemies; or they must be reduced in size so as to escape detection and danger.
When they migrate into a colder climate they must become clothed with thicker fur, or have their constitutions altered. If they fail to be thus modified, they will cease to exist.
We temper tooth and claw with language. Words civilize us. We call up grammar instead of clenched jaw; we use sentences to convince instead of the mighty paw. However, when it comes down to making certain our lives and our passions perpetuate unfettered, we allow our language to quickly dissolve into animal, and the beast of our nature returns to defend its right to exist.
Tennyson and Darwin each teach us the cruelty of being: Like nature, we are created to kill. Survival is a selfish act, and to prolong our species and to propagate our culture — and to even salvage our failed language — we will lower our intellect and subvert our ability to reason to the level of nature to reveal red tooth and claw.
“Survival of the fittest” is too tame an idea today. Today, only “Survival of the vicious” begins to describe the ongoing bloodthirst the world over to dominate all rivals in favor of a narrow self-interest that yearns no bounds.