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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Petrarch: A White Deer (Una candida cerva)


White Fallow Deer (Dama dama), doe, on a misty morning, near Argonne National Laboratory, Westmont, Illinois: photo by Argonne National Laboratory, 29 September 2009

Una candida cerva sopra l’erba

verde m’apparve, con duo corna d’oro,
fra due riviere, all’ombra d’un alloro,
levando ’l sole a la stagione acerba.

Era sua vista sí dolce superba,

ch’i’ lasciai per seguirla ogni lavoro:

come l’avaro che ’n cercar tesoro
con diletto l’affanno disacerba.

"Nessun mi tocchi" -- al bel collo d’intorno

scritto avea di diamanti et di topazi -- :
"libera farmi al mio Cesare parve ".

Et era ’l sol già vòlto al mezzo giorno,

gli occhi miei stanchi di mirar, non sazi,
quand’io caddi ne l’acqua, et ella sparve.

A white doe on the grass appeared to me, with two golden horns, between two rivers, in the shade of a laurel, when the sun was rising in the unripe season. So pleasant-proud was its appearance that I left my work, and, like a miser, in whom the pleasure of hunting the treasure mitigates the inherent vexations, I followed the hind. "Let no one touch me," she bore written with diamonds and topazes round her lovely neck. "It has pleased Caesar to make me free." The sun had reached midday when, my eyes weary but not satiated with gazing, I fell into the water, and the hind disappeared.

Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) (1304-1374): Rime 190, from Canzoniere (Rerum vulgarium fragmenta)

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Piebald deer (doe), Hampton, Virginia: photo by Nedlym, 5 July 2009

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White Fallow Deer (Dama dama), Beijing Zoo: photo by Henripekka Kallio, 18 August 2005

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Fallow Deer (Dama dama), three colour variants, at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Glen Rose, Texas: photo by Courtney Kahler, 13 November 2010

Fallow Deer (Dama dama), doe: photo by Richard Bartz, 1 January 2008

Fallow Deer (Dama dama), doe, Gaziantep Zoo
: photo by Nevit Dilmen, 31 October 2009

Fallow Deer (Dama dama), at Avon Valley Country Park, Keynsham, Bristol, England: photo by Adrian Pingstone, August 2007

Fallow Deer (Dama dama), Rapperswil Castle, Switzerland: photo by Roland zh, 29 May 2010


gamefaced said...

nice change of pace from the countless dead and thoroughly mangled deer i pass each day alongside the road. that time of year.

TC said...

Yes, it's chastening to consider that annual casual roadside slaughter.

Petrarch's white doe symbolises chastity.

The white fallow deer seen in these photos (obviously) symbolise nothing but themselves.

Visitors to Argonne National Laboratory are sometimes startled by the white deer roaming the site and occasionally speculate on the nature of the experiment that produced their unusual coloring. But the deer are perfectly normal fallow deer (Dama dama), a naturally light-colored species native to North Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. There are about forty on the Argonne site. Today’s herd began with eight or nine white deer that Gustav Freund, inventor of “skinless” casings for hot dogs, received or purchased from Chicago clothier Maurice L. Rothschid.

Petrarch's radiant and aethereal vision was rudely brought to ground, as poetry advanced from the smooth to the rough, and from Medieval Europe into Renaissance England, with this translation-by-main-force, done c. 1527:

Thomas Wyatt: Who so list to hount I know where is an hynde

bill sherman said...

a short poem I like: OF MULE AND DEER, by Farid Matuk, one of our younger colleagues (so to speak)


Out of a tin-cold, murmuring black wood
Lightly you lope, pale deer, lifting

A story from pages of snow

Nothing turns in your eye they say

Toward the tin-cold and murmuring black wood
I bear a display case of blue light
Say it was the sky

Say all you want it was the sky

TC said...

Bill, that's a beauty, so much contained and compressed into those palpable substantives, tin cold, pale deer, blue light, black wood.

And the break in "lifting/a story...", fine.

Speaking back to the issue of deer-mangling, Michael Peverett has reminded us that some of the most desirable deer-killing grounds in England are now in the hands of the current timeshare proprietor of the Rembrandt masterpiece (at Mulgrave Castle in Yorkshire), that is, the Aussie supermodel Elle McPherson, who uses the place as a hunting camp where she her celebrity chums like Guy Richie and Madonna murder harmless beautiful animals for "stress relief". All in the name of Jusas Iscariot no doubt.

(That's in the comment thread here.)

Nin Andrews said...

Beautiful. And the white deer do look like ghosts. I wonder sometimes how they survive at all, but then the deer around are the white tailed deer, the tail lifting like a flag as if to say--here I am . . .

TC said...

I think, to us, they ARE ghosts. The way they appear, like revenants.

Whereas to them we are, I guess, just in the way.

They can't do anything about us. Just be alert. And ready to high-tail it.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful photos and the Petrarch is interesting, indeed - the last line, well, one can't help find the humor and since the symbol here is one of chastity, it would seem the speaker has, in a sense, gotten his comeuppance.

How we weave fable and lore around the all white animal. The horse in Celtic culture still spooks me deeply. There is no question of being a ghost; in the mist in a field, the sudden completely silent appearance of an all white horse is a thing of revelation.

Than, too, there is the Native American white buffalo.

We humans are so odd. Sometimes I feel I react, too, the way you note deer do:

"Just be alert. And ready to high-tail it."


TC said...

Yes, Don, isn't it wonderful, he falls into the image of his own reflection in the water.

Ah, poets!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ah, and then there are thoughts of Li Po, drowning trying to embrace the moon's reflection in the water, or so the legend goes ...

Bringing to mind his "Drinking Alone by Moonlight," lyrically, if not so literally, translated by Arthur Waley.

TC said...


To meet at last on the cloudy river of the sky -- so beautiful.

The elegiac/lyric tone of the poet -- and the translator -- in addressing the experience of leavetaking/separation, so close to the heart of the poetic.

I think this great poet may have influenced the Pound of Cathay as much through Arthur Waley as through Ernest Fenollosa.

E. P.: Separation on the River Kiang

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Me As A Deer

My large body is not for him.
Even with my brown velvet skirt on.
Soft as velvet on a young buck’s antlers.
What he needs most to discover
hurts me in the meantime.
I feel a bit free to walk on new moss—
eat the foliage I want whenever I want
never give up licking my soft chops.