Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 343
The overriding theme in this poem is the cruelty of mankind, whom the poet describes as "the most cruell wild" of all animals. The poem—which uses the perspective of a hare named Wat to detail the fear animals face upon being hunted—is explicitly critical of the huntsmen and their dogs, privileging the feelings of the personified hare who must run from them in "feare" and "terrour." She expresses the conviction that those who take "joy" from the hunt have failed to appreciate God's creation. Men, she suggests, are so proud that they believe only they have the right to live, and that all of God's other creatures were simply put on earth for them to "tyramize."
The poet helps to convey this theme through her deliberate choice to name the hare and describe him using human pronouns (rather than using "it"), while the men and their dogs are not named or described. They are defined, in fact, by their animalistic joy in their quest to "destroy" the "poore" hare who has not provoked them or given them cause to hunt him. The hare is "patient," and possessed of a "Ghost"—that is, a spirit or soul, something more usually associated with humans alone. Meanwhile, the men are seen "hooping loud" at what they have done. Throughout the poem, it is the hare who is the noble creature and the man who is the reckless animal.
Another interesting theme in this poem is that of energy and strength born of desperation. While Wat is ultimately unable to escape his pursuers, the poet describes how "health returns," or seems to return, to those who are "dying." There is a connection drawn between the most extreme bounds of Wat's fear and his capacity to run beyond what his body should permit. True fear, and the fear of death close at hand, can sometimes give us new life, a desire to outrun death overcoming any physical weariness. This seems to be a description of Wat's spirit, or soul, overcoming the limitations of his physical body.