Hare and Moon woodcut by Andrew Waddington: andrewwaddington.co.uk/WoodcutsMarch is the time of the hare, an animal I love. The starting point of this poem is an anonymous enigmatic Middle English poem entitled 'Les noms de un leuvre en engleis' or 'The names of the Hare in English', which is reproduced and translated into modern English in the excellent book, 'The Leaping Hare', by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson.
I dare to name the hare
They dub him traitor,
those who want to kill the hare
and lay down their hunting weapons
to try the use of deadly words.
Furze-cat, they say,
the one who doesn’t go straight home,
the animal that dwells in the corn,
the animal that all men scorn.
Some would even go so far
(who, for their own reason,
wish to slay the hare with curses)
as to insist that his chief name is
I love the hare
more than any other creature.
I’ve seen him rule the shadows
between the ditch and hedge
as well as basking in the gory glow
of the Hunter’s Moon
when, in gruesome, lycanthropic nights of Autumn,
he dances in defiance of the fox -
or when, in the hare-brained dawns of March,
he spars with leaping shadows of himself
through low-slung mists,
and tears across the sparkling, frozen dew.
He is the freedom we all envy
and in our dreams would long to emulate.
Which of us, if there were gods in heaven
to answer our most secret prayers,
would not ask to be a hare?
And so the bitter, jealous souls
who, unlike him,
can never stand on open ground
and tap into the force
that spreads across the land,
the animal that no one dares to name.
For all these reasons
– and for many others I never could explain -
I dare to name the hare,
and call him:
Spirit of the Earth.