Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The poet's choice of language in this poem is very deliberate and contributes strongly to the overall themes and messages of the piece. While the meter and form is fairly typical of narrative verse, the poet's use of perspective and emotive words like "murther'd" (murdered) serve to persuade the reader to the poet's point of view: that hunting animals for "sport" is a cruel pastime which shows man's undeserved pride.
The key message of the poem is summarized towards the end, in the poet's criticism of those who
Look at the poet's choice of language here—the action verbs "destroy" and "murther'd" leave the reader in no doubt as to how the poet judges this kind of behavior. Man is set here in opposition to God: he believes himself to be, like Christ, "gentle" and "mild," but in his actions proves himself to be quite otherwise. Indeed, the creatures have "lifes" just as humans do, and man is proving himself a hypocrite in killing for sport what God has created. Meanwhile, the poet's choice of language in describing the pursued hare, Wat, also gives us an insight into her purpose in writing. The animal is named, which immediately humanizes him; he is also described using human pronouns, "he" and "him," rather than being described impersonally as "it." The poet also forces the reader to experience Wat's fear and horror: his feelings, she suggests, are no less real than those of humans, and his desire to live no less strong. After he has been pursued by the dogs for some time, he is very weary, but his desperation gives him greater capacity than we might have expected:for Sport, or Recreations sake,Destroy those Lifes that God saw good to make:Making their Stomacks, Graves, which full they fillWith Murther'd Bodios, that in sport they kill.Yet Man doth think himselfe so gentle, mild,When he of Creatures is most cruell wild.
The hare's desire to live is palpable and immediate. We can imagine ourselves, like Wat, being placed in such a situation: if we knew death was imminent, we, too, might find new reserves of strength we previously did not know were there. But, the poet suggests, if such a situation is so painful and terrifying, why do humans feel they are permitted to place animals in this situation for pure sport?To Wat it was so terrible a Sight,Feare gave him Wings, and made his Body light.Though weary was before, by running long,Yet now his Breath he never felt more strong.Like those that dying are, think Health returnes,When tis but a faint Blast, which Life out burnes.For Spirits seek to guard the Heart about,Striving with Death, but Death doth quench them out.