Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Hunting of the Hare” explores several issues that are important to understanding Cavendish’s poetry. Early in the poem the narrator describes how the hare lies close to the ground and faces the wind in order to stay warm. Cavendish had a keen interest in natural history. Herself an amateur scientist, she used her poetry as a vehicle for scientific speculation. As the critic Steven Max Miller has noted, her poetry “abounds with a senseof wonder and delight in nature,” and it sometimes questions “whether animals might know more natural science than man is capable of learning” (Dictionary of Literary Biography 43). Not only does the hare shield himself from the wind, he also executes a thoughtful initial escape from the dogs. Until his death, Wat appears to have an acute perception of his surroundings.

The poem is also an antihunting statement, one of the earliest in the language. Cavendish depicts the hare’s death as a result of unnecessary cruelty. The hunters have no reason to kill the innocent creature except “for sport, or recreation’s sake,” and Cavendish makes clear that in indulging their desires they commit the equivalent of a crime. Earlier poems, such as Sir John Denham’s Cooper’s Hill (1642), used the hunt as a metaphor for man’s political intrigues. used the hunt as a metaphor for man’s political intrigues. Alexander Pope’s Windsor Forest (1713), published sixty years after...

(The entire section is 407 words.)