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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 349

This poem is a very interesting example of narrative verse, written in heroic couplets, by a female poet in seventeenth-century England. It offers the reader an insight into the poet's views and preoccupations, and that insight is rather surprising: the concerns of the poet, who sets herself in opposition to hunting and bloodsports, seem distinctly modern. In choosing to make the protagonist in this poem a hare, Wat, being hunted by a pack of nameless men and dogs, the poet forces us to put ourselves in the position of a suffering animal whose "feare" and "terrour" is a direct result of human behavior. By depicting the hare as a "patient" creature, whose desire for life is just as strong as ours—in "striving with Death," he finds a new lease of strength beyond what should have been physically possible—the poet expresses the hypocrisy of hunting these animals for sport. Indeed, the men and dogs in the poem, who express "hooping" joy at having killed the hare, are the ones who seem like animals, not the noble hare.

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The poet does not mince her words in describing the act of hunting these animals—indeed, she criticizes those who would fill their stomachs with "murther'd bodios" (murdered bodies) whom they have killed for sport. This is strong, direct language, in line with the statement that man is "the most cruell wild" of all animals. The poet depicts man as a creature who has failed to appreciate God's creation, believing instead that all other animals exist for him to "tyramize upon."

It is interesting, too, that Wat in this poem most certainly seems to have a soul. Like a human does, he feels fear, urgency to live, and is possessed of a "Ghost" or spirit which he is forced to "give up" when he is caught. The poet's use of structure and perspective force the reader to view the relationship between human and animal in a different way: Lucas questions, are humans special among animals? Why should we imagine ourselves to be so, and then abuse other animals in this way?

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 505

Margaret Cavendish’s poem begins in a field where a small hare, Wat, lies close to the ground between two ridges of plowed earth. The poet notes that Wat always faces the wind, which would otherwise blow under his fur and make him cold. Wat rests in the field all day. At sunset he begins wandering, which he continues to do until dawn. Huntsmen and dogs discover Wat, who begins to runs away. As the dogs bark, Wat becomes terrified and believes that every shadow is a dog. After running a distance, he lies under a clod of earth in a sandpit. Soon he hears the huntsmen’s horns and the dogs’ barking, and he begins to run once more, this time so quickly that he scarcely treads the ground. Wat runs into a thick wood and hides under a broken bough, frightened by every leaf that is shaken by the wind. Hoping to deceive the dogs, he runs into unenclosed fields. While the dogs search for his scent, Wat, being weary, slows down. Sitting on his hind legs, he rubs the dust and sweat from his face with his forefeet. He then licks his feet and cleans his ears so well that no one could tell he had been hunted.

Wat sees the hounds and is again terrified. His fear gives him the strength to move more quickly. Ironically, he has never felt stronger than during this time of crisis. The poet notes that spirits often seek to guard the heart from death but that death eventually wins. The hounds approach Wat quickly. Just as the hare resigns himself to his fate, the winds take pity on him and blow his scent away. The dogs scatter, each searching bits of grass or tracts of land. Soon the dogs’ work, which the poet compares to witchcraft, brings them back on task. When one dog discovers Wat’s scent,...

(The entire section contains 1351 words.)

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