The Tiger and the Deer by Maharshi Aurobindo
Bijay Kant Dubey
Brilliant, crouching, slouching, what crept through the green heart of the forest,
Gleaming eyes and mighty chest and soft soundless paws of grandeur and murder?
The wind slipped through the leaves as if afraid lest its voice and the noise of its steps perturb the pitiless Splendour,
Hardly daring to breathe. But the great beast crouched and crept, and crept and crouched a last time, noiseless, fatal,
Till suddenly death leaped on the beautiful wild deer as it drank
Unsuspecting at the great pool in the forest’s coolness and shadow,
And it fell and, torn, died remembering its mate left sole in the deep woodland,—
Destroyed, the mild harmless beauty by the strong cruel beauty in Nature.
But a day may yet come when the tiger crouches and leaps no more in the dangerous heart of the forest,
As the mammoth shakes no more the plains of Asia;
Still then shall the beautiful wild deer drink from the coolness of great pools in the leaves’ shadow.
The mighty perish in their might;
The slain survive the slayer.
Is it The Tiger of William Blake picked from Songs of Experience written in contrast with Songs of Innocence or a remix of the same with the experiences of sadhna and tantrical realization? Or, may be the vision of a saint and seer confronting a tiger into the hills and the mountains? Herein lies it the philosophy, the Hindu view of life held over down the ages, right from the start of civilization and culture. Though the influence of Milton hangs heavy over Savitri infusing in Western and Oriental philosophies, the version is Sanskritic, but the language and style derived from Paradise Lost and in that invocation and cadence, he starts and finishes the poem running into several editions and volumes and edited and revised from time to time as did they Wordsworth Tintern Abbey and Whitman Leaves of Grass. The poem is no exception to that as the influence of William Blake hangs heavy over it together with the imagery of the lamb and the tiger symbolizing innocence and experience. Toeing the same line and length, the poem is a variation from the same and can be called a parody of that. But something lies in added to it and that is Indian hermitage and the things associated with that. The poet as a sadhaka and yogi deals with mysticism; marks the elements of Nature and its wilds lying in contrasts and variations. The tiger and the deer elements have always engaged their mindscapes.Such a thing it is there in Hopkins’ Pied Beauty. The great saints and sadhus, yogis and fakiras of India have felt it while meditating in the forests and mountains. The tiger is the brute force bloody and brutal, ferocious and wild whereas the deer is splendid and serene.
The tiger waits for the deer to come and to pounce upon the poor creature into the wilds of Nature representing it what is dark in it, brutal and bloody, animal and horrific, wild and tempestuous, beastly and deadly, terrifying and cataclysmic. What it is that has crept through the green heart of the forest brilliant, crouching and slouching? What is that breaking the calm and splendor of it with a commotion and clamour turning noisy? The tiger lying in wait for to grab and catch the deer for a kill is definitely another perspective of life and the world, originating from the questions pertaining to the creation, the purpose and prudence of it, what the ways of the Divine, who can but say it, answer them to settle the odd scores? The gleaming eyes of the brute of the jungle, burning and sparking and it with the jaws and claws of its own coming slowly without making a sound, as when on the prowl. The chest is mighty and the paws of grandeur and murder and the beast coming with the soundless steps of its own. Tennysonian Nature red in tooth and claw, Shelleyian west wind swift, tameless and proud, Hughesian hawk going for a kill, these can never be upturned down. The wind slips through the leaves as if held in awe and suspense, tranquility to be ruffled strangely. Without disturbing the plan and scheme, it goes for a kill, a catch silently without making a noise and sound. The moment is one of hardly anyone daring to breathe, but to see in awe and astonishment, horror and terror what it going to take place and strike. The great beast is crouching and creeping, creeping and crouching to pounce upon and strike the poor creature while taking water at the pool or the stream in the wild unsuspectful of the coolness and shadows of the forest tract. The deer falls down and is torn to death while the mate of it straying far off in the deep woodland. This is but the law of Nature as the terror and the mild both form the facets of it. The mild harmless beauty is destroyed by the elements terrific and horrible which but the eyes cannot see it. But a day will come when the destructive forces will meet a disastrous and abrupt end, will never walk in the dangerous heart of the ignorant forest. But the deer will continue to drink water from the cool shade of the water pools into the forest of life. The mighty will perish in their might and the slain will survive the slayer.
The Tiger and the Deer is really one of the most beautiful poems of Aurobindo which remind us of the duality of Nature and Creation, what the purpose, how the ways of it to man and creatures, who can but say it? Nature at the same is swift, fragile and cool and calm, but at the tameless, swift and windy. Sometimes placid and sometimes horrific, tempestuous and terrible is it unexpectedly. The tiger and the deer elements are the aspects of the same creation. How to upturn the process? What it is beautiful remains it not so unto the last. What it strikes us is this that beauty is throttled and destroyed untimely. The mighty believing in the victory of the sword finish it all in prowess, taking them timid and cowardly. But that day too is not far from when the mighty will perish in their might. They will appear helpless before and will have to hang their swords.
The poem may be an anecdote of Indian sadhaka doing sadhna into the secluded domains of Nature and the wild or the mountainous regions. The poet wants to say that what it is bloody will meets its end in blood, what it is mild will remain appreciated unto the last. But how to strike the duality of the universe, the rule of the jungle? The law of the jungle is different from that of culture and civilization. The brute force too is an element of Nature, bloody, bestial and fierce combining with the horror and terror element.
The Tiger and the Deer is without any doubt a Blakian poem where the lambish element has been contrasted with the tigerly ferocity. Many great sadhakas of India have done sadhna in the midst of it all down the ages which is but a hidden fact. The mystical duality of the creation, how to explain it? The poem can make meaning if it is compared with Blake’s The Tiger and we think the one by the English poet more beautiful than that of Aurobindo.