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From the VQR Vault: Animals

ISSUE:  Summer 2016

Whether like a deer lightly on talented feet,
scholar of brambles, incredible racer of meadows,
intuitive knower of leaves and the leaves’ shadows,
antlered with boughs to disguise the shallow retreat,—
or more like a bird, methodical tracer of summers,
keeper of small assignations with day and with night,
irrational singer, whose only defense is the fright,
quicker than trigger, always aware of newcomers,—

whether on paths of earth or on paths of air,
afraid of a man or a weapon or simply of death,
life is the prize: with the same irrelevant faith
in a tipping planet, whether like bird or like deer,
trusting the wind or a slippery foothold, we move
with the same, blind, animal, ignorant love.

Edith Henrich, “Whether Like Deer or Like Bird,” Spring 1946

I usually carried off the leftovers from supper to the seagulls, and if I accidentally ate everything down to the last crumb, then the seagulls would gather in an excited group beside the German bomb—for some reason always beside the German bomb—and with displeasure cast glances at me, as if giving me a piece of their minds: look here, they would say, you, the guy over there, you’ve gone too far, you’ve absolutely lost your sense of responsibility toward all creatures on the earth.

Vyacheskav P’yetsukh, translated by Dinara Georgeoliani
and Mark Halperin, “Me and the Sea,” Winter 1999

The net result of evolutionary progress can be defined as the raising of the upper level attained by life in respect of certain very general properties: greater control; greater independence; greater harmony of construction; greater capacity for knowledge (and, we may probably add, for emotion). More concretely, it has permitted the rise of a succession of what the biologist calls dominant groups, because they spread and evolve rapidly, cause the extinction of many representatives of other groups, and play a new and predominant rôle on the evolutionary stage. The last three dominant groups in life’s history have been the reptiles, the mammals, and man, each later one arising from an unspecialized branch of the one before. 

Julian Huxley, “Darwinism To-Day,” Winter 1943 

At a faint bleat from his mother, the fawn came and stood a little ahead of her, on the right, facing ahead. I have no doubt that she told him where to stand. Her beautiful head was now high, her body tense. Had she been alone, she probably would have stolen off; but she had a charge to keep. The fawn didn’t enjoy standing still. He began to fidget. My horse stamped his foot softly. At that the doe raised her right forefoot gracefully, set the hoof on the fawn’s back, at the withers, and gently pressed down. Into the dewy covert of the broomsedge the tiny creature sank, deftly hidden by his mother, while she never for a moment relaxed her vigil of love… . I thought (or at least have come to think since then): here is a wild heart of the wasteland, brimming with mother-love. 

Archibald Rutledge, “Feminine Traits in Wild Things,” April 1927


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