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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

R. H. Blyth: The Voice of the Deer


Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
: photo by Arthur Mouratidis, 2006

....A mountain temple:
The voice of the stag,
....On the verandah.

-- Issa

The temple in this wild, out-of-the-way mountain is visited by few people, and the wild deer come so near that when a stag roars in the rutting season, it sounds as if it is standing on the verandah outside. We feel the closeness of the world of nature and the world of man. But here in the temple before the images of Buddha, the animal world touches the divine. The voice of the stag mingles with the chanting of the sutra and the sound of the gong: Vox cervi vox dei.

....Having lighted a candle to the god,
On the way back,

....The voice of the deer.

-- Shiki

The poet went to a nearby shrine in the early evening, lighted a candle, prayed, and returned to his house through the gathering autumn shadows. Now and again the cry of an unseen deer was heard from the mountain side. What is this strange harmony between the uprising yellow flame of the candle burning like a soul of fire in his mind, and the voice of the deer that comes through the darkness and fades into the distance? The light of the candle is the visible voice of matter, the cry of the deer the audible flame of life. How then should they seem anything but a two in one, a one in two, to the poetic mind?

....Three times it cried,

And was heard no more,
....The voice of the deer.

-- Buson

From olden times the voice of the deer was deemed a poetic thing, chiefly from its association with love and its lack of fulfilment or sad satiety, but from the time of Bashô it began to have a deeper meaning, a returning to nature for its own sake, as we see in the following verse.

....Hee.........the lingering cry

Is mournful:
....The deer at night.

-- Bashô

But even here the subjective element is too strong. Buson's verse achieves that subjective-objective level in which we are left without any feeling of reaction against wallowing in our own feelings, and yet not left out in the cold by a pure and artificial objectivity. The voice of the deer has a meaning which is not merely a non-human one, yet it is nameless; it leaves us where we are, and yet enlarges our vision and power beyond this present place.

....The slanting sun:
The shadow of a hill with a deer on it
....Enters the temple gate.

-- Buson

This is a picture in the Japanese style, but the lines are not static; they have some latent motion. This verse is one of the best examples of Buson's dynamic objectivity.

from R. H. Blyth: Haiku, Volume IV: Autumn-Winter (1951)
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Inyo Crater Lakes, California: photo by Daniel Mayer, 2009

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Bryce Canyon National Park
: photo by James Phelps, 29 June 2006

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Bryce Canyon National Park
: photo by Dbenbenn, 14 February 2005

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Zion Canyon
: photo by Daniel Mayer, August 2004

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Caprock Canyons, West Texas
: photo by Leaflet, 15 May 2005

Sitka Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis), Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
: photo by Steve Hillebrand, 24 August 2006

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), male and female, Modoc County, California
: photo by Tupper Ansel, 10 February 2005 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), doe, grazing, Clearwater Pass, Alberta
: photo by Eddie (Alcazar Mountain), 24 August 2006

File:Odocoileus hemionus .jpg

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Jasper Park, Canada
: photo by Franco Folini, 8 September 2002

Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), Coast Deer, male, Olympic National Park
: photo by Walter Siegmund, 3 July 2008

Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), Coast Deer, male, Olympic National Park
: photo by Walter Siegmund, 3 July 2008

Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), Coast Deer, male, Olympic National Park
: photo by Walter Siegmund, 4 July 2008

Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis), doe, in fog, Olympic National Park
: photo by Walter Siegmund, 4 July 2008


Anonymous said...

What a nice coincidence. Just before this post of yours, I'd read this. Deers abound for me this morning.

Nin Andrews said...

I love the shadow with the deer in it-- entering the temple door. Beautiful . . . all of it. The deer are so plentiful now, they don't even bother to run away anymore. And it's hunting season . . .

TC said...

Ah, deer abounding. Almost like a kind of grace.

Yes, the shadow entering the temple door. That's very beautiful.

From a strange old night owl who falls easily into nocturnal silent conversation with the deer in these hills, watching them grow from spring into fall, and now beginning to address the survival of another winter, just out of range of the encroaching rush of headlights, many thanks.

Ed Baker said...

first image put up on cave walls
-back in the day (pale-lithic)-

was a deer (a "buck?)

symbol(d) of? .... food and birthing

got an image here somewhere

I think that I titled it "ruminant jump" is I can find it will send it via an email...

nice poems
nice poems

all that these Old Masters needed was a little IKKYU to spice things up

& some of Santoka's booze!

come to think of it wasn't Basho's family trade sake brewing ?

Ed Baker said...

that "deer" image of mine it is on page 142 of Stone Girl E-pic

where "she" is simultaneously birthing and being birthed... this the "rent" in "Mother (Earth))

and the "jump" into and out of that Eternal Cave

TC said...


Some faint deer shadows on the cave wall in the lower image here...



....The slanting sun:
The shadow of a hill with a deer on it


first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, silver of planet above branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

absence beyond itself, form
of appearance between

figures, ground unspecified,
though only during it

orange circle of sun rising above ridge,
sunlit clouds on horizon across from it

Anonymous said...

Once sat in a pine woods with a deer as it was dying. Its antlers made the pine branch above its head also quiver. We all sat there in the sunlight, shivering. Then I left it to its journey.

Bringing your gift to word pond. Thank you, Tom.

TC said...

"...absence beyond itself..."

"Its antlers made the pine branch above its head also quiver."

Thank you, Stephen and Donna.

Silence, sadness, sanctuary.

snowbird said...

early winter
a white flag flickers
at wood's edge

ACravan said...

"The shadow of a hill with a deer on it"

That's simply incredible.

Seeing these photos reminds me that you can't take a bad picture of a deer. We've had the opportunity to get to know some deer very well in our lives and it's been one of the best, most interesting and valuable experiences we've ever had. They're so very lovely and it's remarkable to watch them live together.

We may have seen an albino deer yesterday. She was running across the road and was nearly hit by the car in front of us, but escaped unscathed. It was definitely and albino something. It was bigger than a pony and we don't have many llamas in this neighborhood. Curtis

Tom King said...

Saw today deer crashing into taco restaurant,0,3500765.htmlstory

Tom King said...

And a couple months ago a deer swam the Norwalk river on the backside of the aquarium near where I live and got into the seal tank

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

George Oppen's homage.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful, just beautiful, Tom ... thanks for your kind thoughts and this wonderful post.


Ed Baker said...

you continue to open cave "doors" for one to enter through and into the bowels of (Mother ?)..


beautiful repro of that Lascaux deer-under-horse-running-from-Bull cave-wall painting on cover of

Robert Ryan's 1999: The Strong Eye of Shamanism

A Journey Into the Caves of Consciousness

(his intro is worth the price of admission...

TC said...

Thank you my dear fellow deer-watchers. Each encounter is breathless. Let the car not hit them, is the frequent prayer. They come down by night to nibble people's bushes, and are considered a pest as such. (The same is true of possums, raccoons and other beloved terrain-sharing creatures, accused of being carriers of every imaginable contagion.) The beauty of the deer's sensory apparatus has to be among nature's great marvels. I hear poorly, see even more poorly, and so there are always some seconds of deficient awareness on my part. The deer hear, see, and smell, the presence of a stranger (I want to say intruder) long before the stranger becomes aware of them. Our primate strain was built to compensate for a much less alert sensory awareness with a quite well developed capacity for aggression. Though the Roosevelt Elk in the woods are pretty aggressive this time of year about keeping strangers away from their young, the Mule Deer seen in these pictures, our neighbors here, are purely defensive creatures. They are built to outrun trouble. Problem is, the trouble sometimes comes up big and fast and much too hard, in the form of a Prius, Lexus & c. (Perhaps not so many of those hunters to whom Nin alludes, on this side of the hills.) They are also at times pursued down from the hills at night by hungry mountain lions. One late night last year a mountain lion made the great mistake of chasing a deer (large female, c. 105 lbs) down to the block on which sits the high end eatery Chez Panisse. By the time the cops were finished they'd emptied both rifles and shotguns into poor mama lion, who paid the ultimate price for being hungry.

Lovely comments from all, would have been replying earlier but for lost internet connection here on a (more than usually) frayed day at Grey Gardens West.

Vassilis' reminder re. this --

"In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
That they are there!"

-- along with Curtis's mention of the white deer -- led herewards:

Petrarch: A White Deer (Una candida cerva).