Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Additional Hunting in medieval Poetry

For anyone who's interested in hunting in literature vs. hunting in manuals, I would suggest "Gawain and the Green Knight". The Third Fit of the text, in which Gawain and his host are playing a game to give the other everything they received during the day, has the host going out and hunting three days in a row. It has a really clear depiction of the hunting process through the unmaking.

Then the cunning hunters coupled their hounds,
unclosed the kennel door and called them out,
blew briskly on their bugles three bare notes;
braches bayed therefore, and bold noise made,
and men chastised and turned those that chasing went,
a hundred of hunters, as I have heard tell,
                    of the best.
          To station, keepers strode,
          huntsmen leashes off-cast;
          great rumpus in that wood
          there rose with their good blasts.


At the first call of the quest quaked the wild;
deer drove for the dales, darting for dread,
hied to the high ground, but swiftly they were
stayed by the beaters, with their stout cries.
They let the harts with high branched heads have way,
the brave bucks also with their broad antlers;
for the noble lord had bidden that in close season
no man there should meddle with those male deer.
The hinds were held back with a ‘Hey’ and a ‘Ware!’
The does driven with great din to the deep coves.
There might men see, as they loosed, the slanting of arrows;
at each winding of the wood whistled a flight,
that bit into brown flanks, with broad blade-heads.
What screaming and bleeding, by banks they lay dying,
and ever the hounds in a rush hard on them followed,
hunters with high horn-calls hastened them after,
with such a crack and cry as cliffs were bursting.
What wild beasts so escaped the men shooting
were all dragged down and rent by the new reserves,
when hunted from high ground, and harried to water.
The lads were so skilled at the lower stations,
and the greyhounds so great, that gripped so quickly
and dragged them down, as swift I swear,
                    as sight.
          In bliss without alloy
          the lord does spur or alight,
          and passes that day with joy
          and so to the dark night.

The text goes on to describe the unmaking of the hinds, then repeats the next day with a boar, and the third with a fox. The detail is remarkable, and might be worth checking out


1 comment:

  1. There are a ton of really interesting going out into the woods hunting stories in a bunch of the Arthurian cycles, as well- and, of course, my favorite: T. H. White's depiction of the Questing Beast. Thanks for posting this-