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Friday, 28 August 2009



Ideology dates back to the veldt,
Blood in the dust, the lion's rage against
The antelope it's about to have for lunch.
For the luckless prey prayer's all that's left,
No ideology's yet been known to incorporate
Mercy as a feature. But of course all this is irony.
No lion's yet been known to subscribe to a noble lie.

File:Serengeti Lion Running saturated.jpg

The Hungry Lion Throws Itself upon the Antelope: Henri Rousseau, 2005 (Fondation Bieler, Basel)
Lioness hunting warthogs in the western corridor of the Serengeti: photo by Schuyler Shepherd, 2009


Zephirine said...

I've never got over seeing a documentary about lions where a male, having taken over a group of females, proceeded to kill all the cubs fathered by his predecessor.

Lion-cubs, as you know, are rather sweet to look at. The incisors of a full-grown male lion are terrifyingly big. When the latter bit into the former it was not a pretty sight. I was stunned, thinking "this is the supposedly noble creature we have statues of all over the place!" But of course he was just doing what a lion does.

Zephirine said...

And I love that Rousseau picture. The lion's expression is indescribable.

TC said...


Yes, the painting is almost supernaturally good.

And speaking of "statues all over the place..."

What, we might wonder, was Rousseau's image source? He certainly did not travel to Africa. And just as certainly there were no photographs he could have used. Was the scene conjured entirely from the jungle of his imagination?

As it happens, he frequented the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, where he found a taxidermic diorama of a lion attacking a gazelle. One supposes he spent some time at the museum making sketches. (There and no doubt at the Jardin des Plantes as well.) And then went home and did this painting, Le lion ayant faim se jette sur un antélope.

You can find the diorama here. (Click on the thumbnail to see it in full.)

Nature red in tooth and claw in the jungle of Rousseau's brain

Dale said...

Tom, thanks for these Lion poems. The homophone here of pray and prey reminds me of the first class I ever had with you, and how you got us close to the words. These are great: thank again.

Mariana Soffer said...

Beautifull post friend
Neither they have been able to do an ironic roaring or comment. They are slightly more limited.

TC said...

If a lion could talk, pointed out Wittgenstein, we would not understand him. (Though we would probably be able to figure out he was not praying.)

Over on the monkey chain we might once have had a slightly better chance.

Then again it does sometimes seem that the incursion of the Logos into primate evolution, enabling such things as irony (and for that matter science) may in the end turn out to have been about as beneficial as the award of a loaded shotgun to a loaded teenager on a Saturday night in prehistory.

I reflect often upon Jane Goodall's tragic late empirically-induced perception re. the selection of organizationally useful language skills in territorially aggressive chimp groups (superior language skills enabling more successful ambushes, thus group/pack survival/continuity/domination).

And the rest is History.

Anonymous said...

I feel extreme pity for the poor antelope and yet the lioness is one of my favourite animals ever.