Historic hunters

4th February 2005 at 00:00
From Aelfric's Colloquy, dialogues written c1000ad to help pupils learn Latin:

"I am a huntsman... I put my nets in suitable spots and set my dogs to chase wild animals... I catch deer, wild boar, goats and sometimes hares. Did you go hunting today? No, it's the Lord's Day, but I went hunting yesterday and caught two deer and a boar. How? I caught the deer in nets and I cut the boar's throat. A hunter can't be fainthearted if he is to kill different animals in the woods. What did you do with your kill? I gave it to the King... He clothes me well and feeds me and sometimes give me a horse or an armlet or a ring."

From Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c 1390):

"A monk there was, a fair for the mast'ry, (above all others) An out-rider, that loved venery (hunting); A manly man, to be an abbot able.

Full many a dainty horse had he in stable... This ilke monk let olde thinges pace, (same monk) And held after the newe world the trace. He gave not of the text a pulled hen, (cared nothing for the text) That saith, that hunters be not holy men..."

In the Middle Ages, hunting was an elaborate art with a large vocabulary of its own. The following, on different ages of deer, comes from a 19th-century translation of Guyllame Twici's Le Art de Venerie, written c1320:

"Now let us turn to the Hart, and speak of him in his degrees... the first year he is a calf, the second year a brocket, the third year a speyard, the fourth year a soar, the fifth year a great soar, the sixth year a Hart of the first head... It is necessary that he have the beam and then the antler and then the royal and the sur-royal, and then the fork on both sides of the head, and then he is a Hart of ten of the less... (and so on, for several pages)"

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