Margaret Cavendish - The Hunting of the Hare

Margaret Cavendish's Poems and Fancies was published in 1653,  with the poem "the Hunting of the Hare" in included within this collection.  What is interesting about this collection, is the inscription at the base of the title page's drawing.  The Drawing is a shrine to a woman, and the inscribed poem is a precursor of the collection within the book.
The inscription tells us to look beyond the face-value of the book.  This poem comments to the reader (specifically in the 17th Century) to look beyond the fact that Cavendish is a woman.  She asks the reader to look at the soul of the writer, but also the soul (or essence) of the poems she writes.  Look at the message that she is trying to get across in each of her poems.  The Hunting of the Hare looks at the cruelty of the hunt, but also the place of the hunt within Cavendish's society.  The hunt is a popular past-time, and Cavendish believes that the hunt is detrimental to society.


Cavendish contrasts wild and tame throughout the poem, as there are two settings and two types of animals.  Wat, the rabbit, begins his escape in a plowed field, but then escapes into a forest, where he eventually gets caught.  While Wat is a wild animal, he is hunted by tame dogs, controlled by humans.  Wat's plight, however, is humanized to create pity within the reader, as he is no longer just the rabbit, he is Wat, and helps support an anti-leisurely hunt in the aristocracy of England.  


Though the Hunt is not practiced as much anymore, there is still a market for a sport hunt.  Fishing has become what the hunt was, as amateur fishers flock lakes and rivers without prior knowledge to pluck fish from lakes.  However, not all the  fish that are caught are used, or thrown back.  Many fishers still fish for the purpose of catching the largest fish they can, which makes fish objects or prizes in human competition.  This shows that the plight of game animals is not over.  Fishing is, however, easier to push onto children, as fish do not have the cute-factor that the hare has.  This relates to Fudge's argument, as Fish is not replaced by a food name like "beef" or "pork," but it does not need to because it is not cute, or have any affinity with us (Fudge 36).  However, Fudge also looks at the rabbit being problematic because it is a household pet.  This is contradictory in the case of the Fish, as they are also house pets.  The only explanation that I can think of for fish, is that fish are treated like specimens rather than a house pet.  No child will pet a fish, rather observe them, and parents use them as a lesson of responsibility for their children.  As well as this, a fish owner does not weep when their pet dies.  With other pets, we assume feeling and affection to their owners, while fish are more of a blank slate pet.  This is why fish seem to be expendable.  Society influences this belief with sayings, as there are always more fish in the sea.   This makes fish expendable, and replaces the hare and other animals that are now deemed taboo with fish that are not cute, but also void of "believed emotion."
Citation: Fudge, Erica. Animal. Reaktion Books, London. 2002.
 Citation: Cavendish, Margaret. "The Hunting of the Hare" from Poems and Fancies. Published 1653.
Courtesy of Early English Books Online

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