Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tigers in Literature and Popular Culture


For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.

-- Christopher Smart, from 'Jubilate Agno', 1759-63

***

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

-- William Blake, ‘The Tyger’, from Songs of Experience, 1794

***

   "The Wolves are a free people," said Father Wolf. "They take orders from the Head of the Pack, and not from any striped cattle-killer. The man's cub is ours—to kill if we choose."
    "Ye choose and ye do not choose! What talk is this of choosing? By the bull that I killed, am I to stand nosing into your dog's den for my fair dues? It is I, Shere Khan, who speak!"
    The tiger's roar filled the cave with thunder.

-- Rudyard Kipling, 'Mowgli's Brothers', 1893

***

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder

-- Herbert Kretzmer’s English adaptation of French lyrics (J’avais revé) by Alain Boublil, Les Misérables, 1980. 

***

Warfield lifted a great paw and put it in her hand. She felt the roughness of the pads and smelt faintly the cage floor. He pressed a toe to make the claw slide out. The heavy, supple muscles of the shoulders filled her hands.
            
She felt the tiger’s ears, the width of its head, and, carefully, the veterinarian guiding her, touched the roughness of its tongue. Hot breath stirred the hair on her forearms.

Last, Dr Warfield put the stethoscope in her ears. Her hands on the rhythmic chest, her face upturned, she was filled with the tiger heart’s bright thunder.

-- Thomas Harris, Red Dragon, 1981

***

But I couldn’t completely shake the idea that there really was something out there. I gathered my courage and tried to open myself, to extend my senses out into the night, to feel the tiger as it burned. It was nearby, I could tell, breathing softly, waiting. Somehow knowing me, knowing all of us, hungrily accepting the touch of my thoughts, purring like distant thunder with anticipation.

-- Tom Wright, What Dies in Summer, 2012

Which I am just this minute reading. I guess the softness and the brightness and the night and the burning and the thunder just go on and on and on.


15 comments:

sarah toa said...

Some antipodean tygers and marsupial lions for you ...

“At Busselton the melok – salmon trout – was represented by one old man who ... told me the legend of huge cannibal dogs that daily hunted human flesh, carrying men in their mouths to their lair. This legend attained a curious significance when fossil bones of a flesh eating sthenurus were discovered in the Margaret River caves in the vicinity."

Daisy Bates, My Natives and I, Hesperian Press, Western Australia, 2004, p. 69.

'This was the time just after the coming of the dogs, when everything changed.
A barren woman, who carried a ginger pup strapped to her belly, told the girl her Grandmother's story of the strange men who sailed in from the north. They wore spiked helmets fashioned from stonefish and breast plates of thick, felted coconut fibre that repelled even the death spears. They brought the dogs with them for food and were bejeweled in toothed necklaces of the ones they'd eaten on the journey.
These dogs without pouches were welcomed. Dogs didn't compete with the people like the tigers did. They hunted in teams and brought food to the camp, where they sat on the outer rim of firelight, their jowls resting on their paws, ears cocked, waiting their turn.
With them came a new mammalian knowledge of fatherhood and birth. The old women said that's when things began to change.
Some nights when the moon was full, the dogs left the camp silently in rows like militant wraiths. Then the cold, dry air was fraught with the smell of terror and blood. They yipped and howled as they sniffed out den after den of tigers, tearing apart the marsupial bitch in a cramped little cave and devouring her babies.'

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Thank you, those are wonderful! Here's a marsupial lion for you, straight from my ancestral country town, from a conference paper I gave last year:

"The word ‘legend’ starts being used about the well and its water level in newspaper stories before the end of the 19th century. Nobody really knew, or knows, what’s down there. If you grew up in Curramulka you are under no illusions about the ground being solid beneath your feet.

About 100 feet down, a large limestone cave opens horizontally off the well shaft; in 1958 some intrepid cave explorers discovered an almost complete fossil skull of a prehistoric marsupial, the most ferocious of Australia’s extinct megafauna: the so-called Marsupial Lion, otherwise Thylacoleo Carnifex, which more or less translates as ‘the pouched and murderous lion’. This terrifying creature was about the size of a modern lioness, with dentition similar to the sabre-tooth tiger and a huge thumb claw on a semi-opposable thumb, handy for disembowelling. Presumably, like many of the fossilised megafauna found in the caves near Naracoorte in the South-East of South Australia, it fell down one of the sinkholes that are common in such limestone landscapes; some of these creatures survived the fall only to die a slow and cruel death of starvation and thirst. Auden, in representing a limestone landscape as benign, seems to have either forgotten or never known that it could also be a fatal trap.

sarah toa said...

Takes a magpie mind ...
Balzac writes a lovely, quite erotic story about meeting a lioness at a Saharan oasis.
I also love the work of Oz archeo/historian John Mulvaney who excavated some of the critters mentioned, on the Nullabor.

plumeofwords said...

Eliot Weinberger has a wonderful essay about tigers in literature, and, more specifically, their being considered feminine; I read it in I can't remember which essay collection, but am sure it must be reprinted in Giramondo's just-released Wildlife -- well worth a read, if you can get your hands on a copy (and haven't)! Glad to see you're back, by the way, and hope this means you'll be posting again soon!

Nadine fisher said...

"I don't want to be your tiger
Cos tigers play too rough"
Elvis Presley

TimT said...

Oh we're from Tigerland -
A fighting fury!
We're from Tigerland!
In any weather
You will see us with a grin
Risking head and chin
If we're behind
Then never mind
We'll fight and fight and win
For we're from Tigerland
We'll never finish
'til the final siren's heard -
Like the Tigers of old -
We're strong and we're bold
Oh we're from Tiger
(Yellow and Black)
Or we're from Tig-er-land.


Ahem. Pardon me. Also see the last poem here.

Helen said...

I was going to comment about "going on and on" and the their sad likely extinction at the hand of the human species, but I think I'd rather shut up and let this playful thread stay playful.

Helen said...

Killed the thread stone dead with my joy-killing narrative! Please feel free to delete...

TimT said...

I was googling around for 'Boy's Own Paper' images for some other purposes, and came upon this rather peculiar story, with accompanying image.

Eric Sykes said...

Then there is Borges and his "Dreamtigers".

http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/bordre.html

Anonymous said...

I have a very large (nearly six feet high) Chinese ink on paper brush-drawing of a reclining tiger, hanging on one wall of my dining room; in its composition, the artist has made a subtle but clever nod to the "Odalisque" of Gericault.

Also you forgot Eliot's "Christ the tiger", as well as "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

Glad to see you're back, though. Thought I didn't see you on the LP farewell thread, though it was quite long so maybe I simply got lost. Hope all's well.

--signed,
The pain in the arse formerly known as j_p_z

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm an idiot, Odalisque was painted by Ingres, not by Gericault.

Gettin' old and slow!

Marshall Stacks said...

one of these Cat Saturday
wonderful images is a man with a tiger on his head, and worth the clickthrough
X X ann odyne

Anonymous said...

Nice weblog right here! Additionally your web site rather a
lot up very fast! What host are you using? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink to your host?
I desire my site loaded up as fast as yours lol
Also see my web site > Ovarian Cyst Miracle Review

plumeofwords said...

Still Life With Cat, in the words of Peter Combe,
Where have you gone? Will you come back?

(Hope so.)

Or have you been shanghaied by twitter? :-)