The Hunt Prepared The Knight For War and The Crusades

December 12, 2019

There was hunting every day, and when the baron was not thinking of battle you may be certain that he was thinking of stags and wild boars. Every winter morning, he donned his hunting dress, his great boots, to which he attached big spurs; if very cold he put on a mantle of fur. His costume was simple: luxury was only apparent in his ivory hunting-horn, very beautifully carved and ornamented, suspended round his neck by a silken cord of some bright hue. Larch buckskin gloves covered his hands, his bow and arrows were carried by his beaters; and his Danish axe, and his hunting knife by himself for close quarters. The hounds gamboled around him. He starts: The morning is delightful. He enters the wood, and seeks the wild boar of whose presence therein he has been informed. Never has such a monster been tracked, and happy indeed will the baron be if he can present its head to his wife. Come on! Come on!

Prince Alfred boar-hunting

The hounds are put on the scent, and go baying through the wood startling the birds. Where is the boar? At length the peculiar cry of the hounds indicates the spot, and suddenly the game is discovered. He is surrounded by the hounds, but he exacts a severe penalty. The baron’s favorites are slain and wounded: Their master will avenge his faithful dog. He pursues the boar alone, only a few hounds accompanying him. He comes up with the boar—one, two, three dogs roll helpless on the earth—then the baron approaches, brandishing his boar-spear, and plunges it full into the beast’s chest. The blow is fatal. The blood flows in torrents, and the hounds lick it up greedily. Then exhausted, lolling out their tongues, they lie down beside the enormous brute like dwarfs around a giant. The hunt is over.

We need not detail the incidents of the triumphal return, and the delight and terror of all at the castle as they inspect the fearful quarry, and touch its enormous paws and grinning mouth. In such a manner our ancestors hunted—the chase was the great passion of their lives, and no one will deny that it was a good school for a military career.

Thanks to the tournament, thanks to the chase, the man-at-arms was never taken by surprise nor deceived by misrepresentation. He could always proudly declare that he was prepared for anything—“I am ready.”

So when a new Crusade was preached he had only to don his hauberk, take leave of his wife and children, embrace the cross, and mount his charger Passavant. He was ready.

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 469–70.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 704




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