Deerhound Poetry and Art

If you have never seen the work of Edwin Landseer you must seek out the works of this master.  One of the most revered animal artists ever, Sir Edwin Landseer was gifted with an extraordinary ability to capture the character of his animal subjects.  Landseer was fascinated with Scottish history and  the landscape of the Highlands where he visited Sir Walter Scott at his home Abbotsford. In his early work “High Life ” (painted in 1829)  the dog itself was once thought to have been Sir Walter Scott’s dog Maida, but according to some references the dog is closer to Landseer’s own deerhound. Of Maida Scott wrote ” and one of the hansomest dogs that could be found; it was a present to me from the chief of Glengary, and was highly valued, both on account of his beauty, his fidelity, and the great rarity of the breed.”

Of the portrait ‘Head of a Deerhound’  Cosmo Monkhouse wrote: It is fortunate that Landseer’s favourite deerhound ‘Hafed’ of which we here have a portrait, did not in all ways resemble Sir Walter Scott’s celebrated dog of that breed, Maida, of which we are told that he could not endure the sight of the artist and would frequently show his displeasure forcibly. Belonging to the majestic old breed of Scottish deerhounds, Hafed was well worthy of Landseer’s pencil; and the portrait is lifelike to a degree. The picture was painted in 1834, and a print of it subsequently appeared in the Sportsman’s Annual.

Head of a deerhound.

Landseer's Head of a Deerhound

From 1824 Landseer was a visitor to Sir Walter Scott’s house in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford. The colouring of Maida illustrates the state of the breed which neared extinction and was becoming quite dilute with intermingling with other breeds.

Scene at Abbotsford

Sir Edwin Landseer, A Scene at Abbotsford

Enjoy Thomas Gent’s homage to his work and the deerhound subject.

On a Spirited Portrait in my album, of a Favorite Deerhound belonging to Sir Walter Scott by Edwin Landseer, Esq.

Thomas Gent Poet early 1800’s

Who in this sketchey wonder does not trace

The fire, the spirit, and the living grace,

That mark the hand of genius and of taste?

Who does not recognize in such a head

Truth, vigilance, fidelity, inbred,

Sagacity that’s human, and a waste

Of those high qualities, and virtues rare,

Which poor humanity has not to spare?

Then, faithful Hound! thy happy lot is cast

In pleasant places—and thy life has pass’d

In the dear service of a Master—whom

The world’s concurrent voice has yielded now

The meed of highest praise—and on whose brow

Th’ imperishable wreath of fame shall bloom;

Nor is this fate less happy than the rest,

That he should paint thee, who can paint thee best!  One of many online resources for ordering Landseer prints

A treasure trove of information for the ever curious is the free online books available from Google


Slàinte mhath! Robbie Burns Day Jan 25

May all celebrants of Robert burns Birthday have a grand time celebrating together. I’ll toast ye all with a wee dram. If ye havena planned a gatherin’ there’s still time!! As the celebrations should include poetry and song, not necessarily by Robbie, I include for your pleasure  the following:

THE MERMAN by Arthur Guiterman


THE fisher tarred the twisted cord

And cast the net in Borgar Fiord

Where laughs the merman.

In wrath, he slung the child of foam

Across his back to bear him home.

Still laughed the merman.

And, as he went, upon a mound

He tripped, and cursed the luckless ground,

Light laughed the merman.

His deer-hound leaped in joyful play;

The master drove the dog away.

Clear laughed the merman.

The magic of autumn

Highland Bull at FernhillWhy is the bounty of September, that rush of natures glory so richly beautiful in colour and form? The vivid purple of the aster contrasting with the acid yellow of the goldenrod. Spend a week in the country you’ll wonder why anyone ever stays in cities. Spend a week on a farm with sheep, cows, a bunch of scottish deerhounds and puppies and for sure you’ll want to stay. Scenery that changes by the hour- colours intensifying while an errant wind flicks the leaves off some plants early. Walking amongst the sheep at Fernhill I loved feeling so alive as I picked pears and fed them to the very appreciative sheep. The cooler temperatures brought out the wilder side in the dogs. Play is a little more prolonged and a little wilder. A reminder to stop, enjoy and live fully in the moment is so well put by the Welsh poet W.H. Davies in his poem Leisure that follows. (Published in The Collected Poems William H. Davies 1921)


WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:My sheepy friends

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Zoom zoom zoom!