Meet my house-warming present to my new home. It’s a hare made by Brian Andrew in the traditional North Devon style of art pottery – that is, sgraffito on cream slip – and as such, sits comfortably amongst my collection of Barum ware. Along with my witch and Coronis the crow, as felted by my friend, Jan Lane, she is the presiding spirit of this place.
There’s lots of things I adore about this piece – her posture, her wildness, her ears, the way she looks as if she’s about to leap down off the sideboard and out into the back garden. But especially I love the way she is etched with hedges and fields, sheaves of wheat, a church, trees and the sun – because the hare is a creature whose mythology encompasses the whole landscape.
I’ve been wondering what to call name her and I think I’ve come up with a few possibilities, courtesy a fabulous old English poem, originally in middle English and here translated by Seamus Heaney.
The Names Of The Hare
The man the hare has met
will never be the better for 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,
the O’Hare, the jumper,
the rascal, the racer.
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-hopper,
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 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 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’re inclined 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.