In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, why is the song "The Beasts of England" supplemented by a poem titled "Comrade Napoleon"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the animals are originally inspired by a revolutionary song titled “The Beasts of England.” Eventually, however, this poem is supplemented by a poem titled “Comrade Napoleon.” This later poem exemplifies one of the main transformations in the novel – the shift from an ideally communistic emphasis, in which all creatures are equal, to an unfortunately totalitarian emphasis, in which Napoleon is the object of idolatrous veneration. In the “Beasts of England” song, the animals are imagined as cooperating in the hard work that will lead to their eventual day of liberation:

For that day we all must labour,

Though we die before it break;

Cows and horses, geese and turkeys,

All must toil for freedom's sake.

Their liberation, the song proclaims, will result in an era of material abundance:

Riches more than mind can picture,

Wheat and barley, oats and hay,

Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels

Shall be ours upon that day.

The tone of the poem celebrating Napoleon is significantly different.  The poem extolls Napoleon as the source of all good and happiness in the new state; the work of the other animals is not mentioned:

Thou [that is, Napoleon] are the giver of

All that thy creatures love,

Full belly twice a day, clean straw to roll upon;

Every beast great or small

Sleeps at peace in his stall,

Thou watchest over all,

Comrade Napoleon!

The shift in emphasis from the original song to the later poem symbolizes the shift, in the Soviet Union, from an early emphasis on the ideal of mutual cooperation among the revolutionaries to a later emphasis on the power of Joseph Stalin, the all-powerful dictator. Stalin, like many dictators, became the object of a cult of personality – a cult that was particularly at odds with the doctrines and ideals of communism.

Incidentally, the poem seems much weaker, aesthetically, than the song, as if Orwell is suggesting that dictatorships produce not only tyranny but also art that is artistically poor and uninspired.

 

 

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