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Latin word, cuniculus. In one of the illuminations alluded to, which is given in our next cut, two ladies are seen in the warren hunting the rabbit. The first, and, perhaps, we may say the principai lady, is armed with a bow, and what was called a bolt (in French, a boujon), an arrow with a large head, for striking birds and small animals, which seems to have been the peculiar weapon of the fair sex. The “Ménagier de Paris" recommends this weapon to the
ladies for shooting at blackbirds, thrushes, jays, and woodcocks, when they sought shelter from the hawk in a bush. The other lady is armed with a simpler weapon, apparently, a mere club, with which she seeks to knock the rabbits on the head. The latter appear to be under no great fear of their assailants. The feudal ladies seem to have been well-practised in the use of the bow. Another cut, which we here give from the same manuscript, was evidently drawn with a satirical aim. The lady has taken her little pet dog to the chace, and has started the game without difficulty ; but she finds it much less easy to encourage her animal to the attack, while the rabbits, which look more formidable by their
RABBIT-HUNTING EXTRAORDINARY. magnitude, appear to be rather amused than otherwise with his comical figure and costume.
There was another way of taking rabbits, which appears to have been a favourite among the ladies, that of drawing them out of their burrows with ferrets. The use of the ferret for this purpose is certainly of great antiquity, for Pliny (Hist. N., lib. viii., c. 81) speaks
of it as common among the Romans in Italy; and we can have no doubt of its being general in the Middle Ages. Ducange quotes a record of Dauphiné which furnishes us with the sum at which, at one time, at least, they were valued, for it states that for four ferrets for catching rabbits was paid the sum of twenty deniers (pro. iv. furetis ad capiendum cuniculos xx. den. gr.). An act of the thirteenth year of the reign of Richard II., prohibits any priest or other clerk, not possessed of a benefice to the yearly amount of ten pounds, among other things, from employing ferrets to take rabbits, under a penalty of one year's imprisonment; and it appears from Branthome's account of the transactions of François I. with the Pope, that the Italian clergy at that time were fond of hunting rabbits with ferrets. Our next cut, taken from Queen Mary's
FERRETING THE RABBIT.
Psalter, will leave no doubt of the use which the English ladies made of the ferret in the time of Edward II.
The ladies were, no doubt, fond of their dogs; but they were no less attached to their hawks or falcons. In the book of “Le Roy Modus,” two ladies are introduced disputing, in verse, on the superiority of the pastime of dogs or of birds, and they decide in favour of the latter. A great English theologian of the twelfth century, John of Salisbury, as already cited, has left us a very ungallant reflection on the love of the ladies for hawking. He alleges, as a proof of the frivolous character of this pastime, that the “less worthy” sex was the most skilful of the two in bird-hawking, which, he says, we might make an accusation against nature herself, that “the less worthy are always the more prone to rapine.” What he adds further gives us rather a curious glimpse of social life at that period. Although many exercise hunting that, under pretext of it, they may be more sparing in their expenditure, be more rarely at home, more frequently guests at the table of others, and avoid a multitude of visitors; while they wander about the woods, wilds, and lakes, clad in meaner clothes, and satisfied with more frugal fare ; while they
console with the show of pleasure, or rather, of vanity, their companions and followers, whom the hunger of fasting emaciates, and the torments of nakedness afflict, and whom excessive labour exhausts."* Thus the feudal chieftain sought, in the chase, a means of escaping for a time the profusion and display of the castle.
That falconry was considered in the Middle Ages as especially the province of the ladies of the household is evident, from the circumstance, that the author of the “ Ménagier de Paris ” makes it an important part of his domestic instructions to his wife. Hawking was a sport of great antiquity in Western Europe, and appears to have come to us from our Northern and Teutonic ancestors. It was in high repute among the Anglo-Saxons, and the name of the bird not uncommonly entered into the composition of proper names. It was eagerly adopted into feudal society, and became, as already stated, a favourite occupation of the ladies. The hawk became more especially the personal companion of its master or mistress, as much of its utility depended upon its familiarity, and hence, he or she had to attend personally to its breeding or feeding. The author of the "Ménagier de Paris” is especially minute in his directions to his lady on the treatment of the hawks in their domesticity. It was of the utmost importance that the hawk should remain constant to the fist till directed to fly at its prey, and be always ready to return when called. The lady of the "Ménagier de Paris” is told that, while her hawk is still in its infancy, she must “continue to hold it often on the fist, and among people, as much and as long as you can." And further on in these instructions, the husband goes on, “But at this point in the breeding of the hawk, it is well, more than before, to hold it on the fist, and carry it into the courts of law, and among people in the churches and other assemblies, and in the streets, and hold it, day and night, as continually as one can.” Another early French writer on hunting and hawk. ing, Gaces de la Vigne, recommends people to carry the falcon on the fist wherever people were assembled, in church, or elsewhere :
Là où les gens sont amassés,
Quod, vel ex eo mecum conjicies quod deterior sexus in avium venatione potior est. In quo poteras naturam arguere, nisi nosses quia deteriora semper proniora sunt ad rapinam. Inanis etenim est et admodum laboriosa, et quæ damna sumptuum nunquam successuum utilitate compenset. Licet plurimi venationem exerceant ut sub eo prætextu sumptus faciant parciores, domi rarius, sæpius in mensa aliena, multitudinem vitant, dum silvas, saltus, lacusque circumeunt; pannis induti vilioribus, frugalioribus contenti cibis ; dum consortes et famulos quos macerat jejuniorum inedia et tormenta nuditatis affligunt, quosque labor immoderatus exhaurit, voluptatis aut potius vanitatis imagine consolentur.—Johan. Saresb. Policraticus, lib. i., c. 4.
THE LADY AND HER HAWKS.
As hunting and hawking were not permitted, except among the aristocratic class, it became a distinctive mark of a gentleman or lady to carry a hawk on the fist, whether riding or walking, and they are thus constantly represented in the pictures and illuminations. So far was it from being considered at all blamable to enter the churches in this way, that the ecclesiastics and monks of rank and position adopted the fashion themselves, and appeared in their places in the sacred edifice with the hawk on the fist. It is true that this practice was condemned by the stricter part of the clergy, but it was persisted in, in spite even of the canons of the church. Several figures of women as well as men with the hawk on the fist will be seen in the illustrations to our previous chapters. The accompanying cut, taken from the illuminations of a manuscript in the British Museum (MS. Reg. 10, E. IV), of the fourteenth century represents a lady tending her hawks on the perche; she wears the large thick gloves, which protected the hand when the bird was seated on it.
In reading over these early books on falconry—the“ Ménagier de Paris,” for example-we cannot but be astonished at the elaborate manner in which the birds were bred, and the rich and delicate meats with which they were fed. Every part of the treatment of the hawk was conducted with the utmost ceremony, and, when in ase, it carried small bells on its légs, which were made of silver, as finely toned as possible, and two straps of leather, called jesses, attached to them, by which they were held down to the hand. It wore also a little cap, or hood, by which it was hood-winked when not flying at the game, and which was taken off when the game was started. Different species of the hawk were allotted to persons of the different grades and ranks of society. Thus, we are told that the eagle and the vulture belonged to the emperor, from which we must, no doubt, understand that the emperor was not expected to
often a hawking; or, perhaps, he descended a step from his rank, and used the gerfalcon, which was allotted to the king. A merlin was the ladies' hawk; and the hobby that for a young man.
The accompanying cut, also taken from Queen Mary's Psalter, represents a party of ladies hawking on foot. One of them holds the bird hooded on her fist, to which it is attached by the jesses,
which were knotted between the fingers. The other has let her hawk go, and it has struck a heron. They are accompanied by a leash of dogs, which we may suppose to have been intended for spaniels.
The dogs were very commonly dispensed with when hawking on the river, which was the favourite scene of this diversion, especially with the ladies, and the favourite game with them was the heron. This was so much the case, that the common phrase for going a hawking was, "going to the river” (aller en rivière). A political poem, entitled, “The Vows of the Heron,” printed in my "Political Poems and Songs,” describes the season for this sport as being “in the month of September, when summer is in the decline, when the gay small birds have lost their note, and the vines dry up, and the grapes are ripe, and the trees shed their leaves, and the roads become covered with them":
Ens el mois de Setembre, qu'estés va à declin,
Et despoillent li arbre, et coeuvrent li chemin.
Che jour ala voler par camps et par larris,