With a puppy in the house, I have had occasion lately to be reminded of the poem “Cuckoo Song,” also known by its first line, “Sumer is icumen in,” which is the first poem in both of the editions of the Oxford Book of English Verse that I happen to own. In particular, the second verse has seemed pertinent:
Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calve cu;
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth,
Murie sing cuccu!
Or, to modernize it slightly, thereby ruining the rhymes:
Ewe bleats after lamb,
Cow lows after calf;
Bullock leaps, buck farts,
Merry sing cuckoo!
It’s the verting of the bucke that makes the poem, in my opinion. It’s so homely and unexpected—so unexpected that for a long time I’ve carried around in my head the notion that perhaps deer really do fart more in the early summer than at other times of the year. After all, ewes are more likely to have lambs then, and cows calves. I speculated that maybe in late spring deer start to eat grass and leaves in greater quantities, and maybe it takes their digestive systems a little while to adjust, and in thirteenth-century England, where deer and humans lived in gunpowder-free proximity, people noticed.
Maybe. But thanks to the internet, I see that a hunter in Texas heard a whitetail doe startle her fellow deer in January, and there are a couple of videos of farting deer available online, posted in October and November, so I’m guessing that deer fart year-round, not just in June, and that the poet intended for farting deer, like leaping bullocks, to signify a general, seasonless exuberance.