Today, NPR reported on “The Mouse’s Petition,” what may be the first animal rights poem. Written in 1773 by Anna Lætitia Aikin, a lab assistant to Joseph Priestly, the poem is written from the point of view of one of the many mice in Priestly’s tuberculosis lab.
For here forlorn and sad I sit,
Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th’ approaching morn,
Which brings impending fate.
The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.
If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts through matter’s varying forms,
In every form the same,
Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother’s soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.