Thursday, 1 October 2020

The Names of the Hare

 The Names of the Hare

Translation from the Middle English by Seamus Heaney


The man the hare has met

will never be the better of it

except he lay down on the land

what he carries in his hand—

be it staff or be it bow—

and bless him with his elbow

and come out with this litany

with devotion and sincerity

to speak the praises of the hare.

Then the man will better fare.


‘The hare, call him scotart,

big-fellow, bouchart,

the O’Hare, the jumper,

the rascal, the racer.


Beat-the-pad, white-face,

funk-the-ditch, shit-ass.


The wimount, the messer,

the skidaddler, the nibbler,

the ill-met, the slabber.


The quick-scut, the dew-flirt,

the grass-biter, the goibert,

the home-late, the do-the-dirt.


The starer, the wood-cat,

the purblind, the furze cat,

the skulker, the bleary-eyed,

the wall-eyed, the glance-aside

and also the hedge-springer.


The stubble-stag, the long lugs,

the stook-deer, the frisky legs,

the wild one, the skipper,

the hug-the-ground, the lurker,

the race-the-wind, the skiver,

the shag-the-hare, the hedge-squatter,

the dew-hammer, the dew-hoppper,

the sit-tight, the grass-bounder,

the jig-foot, the earth-sitter,

the light-foot, the fern-sitter,

the kail-stag, the herb-cropper.


The creep-along, the sitter-still,

the pintail, the ring-the-hill,

the sudden start,

the shake-the-heart,

the belly-white,

the lambs-in-flight.


The gobshite, the gum-sucker,

the scare-the-man, the faith-breaker,

the snuff-the-ground, the baldy skull,

(his chief name is scoundrel.)


The stag sprouting a suede horn,

the creature living in the corn,

the creature bearing all men’s scorn,

the creature no one dares to name.’


When you have got all this said

then the hare’s strength has been laid.

Then you might go faring forth—

east and west and south and north,

wherever you incline to go—

but only if you’re skilful too.

And now, Sir Hare, good-day to you.

God guide you to a how-d’ye-do

with me: come to me dead

in either onion broth or bread.


Source of the text – The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. London: Faber and Faber, 1982, pp. 305-306.