Tiger and The Deer


‘The Tiger and The Deer’ is a beautiful poem by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, a versatile genius and an intellectual giant. It is one of the early lyrical poems composed by Sri Aurobindo in free quantitative verse. Through powerful language and imagery, the poet conjures up in our vision the cruel, sinister grandeur of the forest crouching, slouching, pouncing and slaying the delicate beauty of the woods. The glinting eyes, the powerful chest and the soft soundless paws of the tiger together convey an awesome aspect. Even the wind which is naturally powerful and free is frightened of the tiger who is the picture of brilliance splendour, sublimity yet murder and of making the leaves rustle, it sneaks through them fearing that its voice and footsteps may disturb the pitiless splendour it hardly dared to breathe, says the poet.

But thoroughly unmindful of anyone or anything, the tiger keeps crouching and creeping preparing for a final fatal pounce upon the unsuspecting, innocent deer which is drinking water from a pool in the cool, comforting shades of the forest. As the gentle creature falls and breathes his last, he remembers his mate left alone, defenceless in the dense forest. Such tender feelings are beyond the Pale of the ferocious tiger. This mild harmless beauty is destroyed by the strong crude beauty in Nature.

But the poet does not despair at the sight of such ferocity and cruelty. The last part of the poem ends on a note of optimism and prophecy. Sri Aurobindo that a day may yet come when the tiger will no more crouch and creep in the dangerous heart of the forest, just like the mammoth being extinct, no more attacks the plains of Asia. He is clearly indicating the imperial British rule in India and other forest deer shall drink water in the woodland pool in perfect safety and contentment. The powerful ones will cause their own downfall; the victims of today shall outlive their victors. These lines carry a suggestion that terror will be replaced by beauty and death by life.

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“The entire poem is a vivid painting in words of the strong tiger’s cruel killing of soft and weak deer, the dramatic pose and posture, all movements and even each footstep of the tiger are living to our eyes in the rhythmic expression” ( Nirmalya Ghatak).

The two pictures of brutality and vulnerability are effectively contrasted. The locality chosen to represent the two animals is significant: it is their natural habitat. The movement of the ferocious bear described with the apt words and phrases bear testimony to Sri Aurobindo’s command of the English language as well as his keen imaginative observation of Nature and her creatures. He has seldom drawn such a terrestrial picture in words as in this highly realistic poem’ The poem also illustrates his theory of quantitative verse, which is left to find out its own line by line rhythm and unity.

The Tiger and the Deer is a metaphysical lyric of great significance and may be classed with some of his mystical poems like “Thought and Paraclete “. It projects the bright and burning terror of the forest, namely the tiger which inflicts unprovoked disaster and suffering to peace and innocence, that is the deer. The poem could be interpreted as a symbolic expression of the modern craze for power and domination over the underdogs and the downtrodden; of the predominance of tamasik (evil) over satwik (good). Based on such an interpretation, the prophecy contained in the last lines of the poem indicates the transformation of souls leading to the divination of the entire earth.

Before becoming steeped in yoga and mysticism Sri Aurobindo had a short spell of political activities, through which he tried to free Mother India from the shackles of the mighty British. The given poem is a product of such zealous political patriotic ideas and feelings. The prophecy embodied in the last lines was only a common expression of the hopes and aspirations of every Indian patriot.

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Model Explanation

But a day may yet come when the tiger
crouches and leaps no more…
As the mammoth shakes no more the
plains of Asia

Sri Aurobindo was predominantly a mystic poet but wrote lyrics too, particularly in the early phase of his poetic career. The Tiger and Deer is one of the early lyrical poems composed by him in qualitative verse through powerful language and imagery of unprovoked killing of an innocent defenceless deer drinking water at a woodland pool by a sinister tiger.

The given lines occur at the latter part of the poem. They bear a prophetic note. The port prophesies that a day will certainly come when the wicked tiger will no more crouch and creep in the dangerous heart of the forest, just like the mammoth no more attacking the plains of Asia. The poet is indicating the imminent end of centuries of imperial British rule in India and other Asian countries.

The Mammoth is a huge animal, extinct now, believed to be the ancestor of the elephant. The poem bears testimony to Sri Aurobindo’s patriotism as well as foresight. Before becoming immersed in yoga and mysticism, he had a brief spell of political activities when he tried to free Mother India from the shackles of the mighty British. The given lines are an echo of that period

Questions and Answers

Q. Who is the poet of the poem The Tiger and the deer?
Ans. The Tiger and the Deer is a beautiful poem by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, a versatile genius and an intellectual giant.

Q. What happens to the deer in the poem The Tiger and the deer?

Ans. In the poem, the world of tiger stands for death, darkness and arrogance. The innocent deer drinks water from the great pool in the forest. The tiger crouches slowly to attack the deer; the fierce tiger has leapt up over the deer and torn it to pieces. The deer died pathetically thinking about its mate.

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Q. Write the critical appreciation of The Tiger and The Deer.
Ans.The Tiger and the Deer is a beautiful poem by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, a versatile genius and an intellectual giant. His outstanding achievements in prose, poetry and drama rank him as the greatest figure of Indo-Anglian literature. He considered himself first and foremost a poet. Aurobindo is perhaps a greater seer than Tagore. He is very well known for the integral philosophy which he expounded through his writings like The Life Divine and The Human Cycle. Aurobinds’s genius manifested itself not only in his long poems but also in his exquisite shorter poems. In small
proportions also we see just beauties and life becomes perfect in short measures too.

The poem The Tiger and The Deer stands as an example how a small poem can achieve epical proportion. The poem signals the poet’s tortured sense at the misery of soul exhibiting the essential weakness and strength with honesty – one of the qualities of great poetry.

Apparently the poem depicts the terror of a forest with the enactment of cruelty. The tiger’s cruelty towards the deer imposes an order on the chaotic experience which parallels the vision of Eliot’s The Waste Land. And it is this sense of chaos which lends a sense of unpleasantness and shapelessness. In fact, the poet’s sense of paradox in creation is very sharp. It is this Shakespearean attitude towards life which gives a critical and significant rhythm to the poem.

Nevertheless, the poem ends with a sense of hope that ‘the mighty perish in their might’. In fact, it is the dramatization of destruction which ends with the hope of re-establishment of the harmony achieving the idea of reorganization of impulse (I. A. Richards). Moreover, the two animals – tiger’ and deer’ not only achieve symbolic extension but also work as a strategy to push forward the poem. Aurobindo Ghosh orchestrates his image like Blake.

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