October 29, 2010

Poetry Friday--"The Hare"


A little poem for the season by Walter de la Mare:
The Hare

In the black furrow of a field
I saw an old witch-hare this night;
And she cocked a lissome ear,
And she eyes the moon so bright,
And she nibbled o' the green;
And I whispered 'Whsst! witch-hare,'
Away like a ghostie o'er the field
She fled, and left the moonlight there.

What connection do hares have with witches? Here's an explantion from Encyclopedia Mythica:
HARE
Hares were strongly associated with witches. The hare is quiet and goes about its business in secret. They are usually solitary, but occasionally they gather in large groups and act very strangely, much like a group of people having a conference. A hare can stand on its hind legs like a person; in distress, it utters a strange, almost human cry which is very disconcerting to the listener.
Watching such behavior, people claimed that a witch could change her form at night and become a hare. In this shape she stole milk or food, or destroyed crops. Others insisted that hares were only witches' familiars.
These associations caused many people to believe hares were bad luck, and best avoided. A hare crossing one's path, particularly when the person was riding a horse, caused much distress. Still, the exact opposite superstition claimed that carrying a rabbit's or hare's foot brought good luck. There is no logic to be found in superstitions.

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted by Toby Speed at The Writer's Armchair.

Have a great Halloween weekend!

Photo by striatic

11 comments:

  1. huh, i never knew about the hare-witch connection. seems like they'd make a more logical "familiar" than a black cat, but i suspect cats were a separate superstition that ended up with witches.

    and now, thinking about it, i can't shake the image of the killer rabbit from "monty python and the holy grail."

    thanks for sharing, and jumpstarting all kinds of things in my brain!

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  2. I remember hearing the name Pyewacket for a witch's hare. Love that name. And David, so funny about the Python: "it's got really big teeth."

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  3. I love Walter de la Mare, especially the poem I thought he wrote about ME when I was a child:

    It's a very odd thing -
    As odd can be -
    That whatever Miss T eats
    Turns into Miss T.

    etc. Thanks for sharing the great poem, Diane!

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  4. Hi! This is Laura at AuthorA.

    Great poem, but I especially liked the history lesson. I recommend a book called "Animals Speaks" that looks at animal totems and the mythology of animals in diverse cultures. It's set up like a dictionary, so it's easy to find the animal you're interested in.

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  5. I like the last line particularly: She fled, and left the moonlight there.

    Thanks for introducing me to this poem/phenomenon!

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  6. __I had never heard that link between the Hare and the Witch.
    __Near here, there is a town named Harwich, one can wonder... and novelize. _m

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  7. Hmmm...Harwich...that does sound suspicious. A quick look at Wikipedia reveals: The town's name means "military settlement," from Old English here-wic.

    I like Magyar's more fanciful explanation.

    Blythe, I remember the movie, Bell, Book, and Candle with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart. The witch's cat was named Pyewacket. It made a great impression on me since I was only about 10 when I saw it.

    Thanks Laura, for the lead on Animal Speak. I'll make sure to look for it.

    And, speaking of Monty Python's killer rabbit, my son has a house rabbit that can probably be classified as a killer--make that a destroyer--since he chews everything within reach. I'd think he was possessed if I believed in those sorts of things!

    Happy Halloween everyone!

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  8. I guess if carrying a rabbit's/hare's foot is good luck, then it makes sense to work it backwards to the taking of the witch's powers. Fun history and fun poem!

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  9. ... Ah, to carry on with my use of the word
    -novelize- or the fiction of imagination.

    __WIK-apedia is, I expect, correct. Harwich... a military settlement 'Here-WIC,' thus, having nothing to do with Hares and Witches.
    __The curious things? 'WIKka and/or WICca?"

    __Diane, we just gotta love words, huh?
    Lovit!_m

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  10. Absolutely, Magyar, that's why we do what we do!

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  11. Love this, Diane. Especially the last line and And I whispered 'Whsst!

    Very creepy, haunted moors type feeling.

    Thanks!

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