Of Falconers and hunters
In the huntbooks there is sometimes pictures that makes you wonder what the heck is really going on here. One that I often get giggles and comments about when posting huntbookpictures is this one.
The picture is from Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio and shows hunters and falconers in a fisticuff about rank.
The story that relates to the picture is this (translated first from medieval French to Swedish… and then to english by me)
” Some hunters and falconers, being lodged in the same inn, where they ate and drank together, happened once in dissagreement about which way of hunting that would be considered the most noble, that with hound or with birds of prey. Each one held forth their own way, and heated argument ensued both with namecalling and fisticuffs. The hunters called the falconers fleapickers, for each time they came home from a hunt they sat in the sun to pick fleas from the falcons. The falconers in their turn mocked the hunters because they always walked around smelling of dogturds. None wanted to give in, but finally one of the present managed to barter peace by making the two factions listen to a poem of learning, featuring a disputation between two fair ladies about which of the way was to be seen as the most noble.
In the poem we are told about a knight and his lady who where out hunting stag and during the chase of the prey they came close to a castle on who’s land another knight and his lady where hunting partridge with sparrowhawk. Not until late in the evening the stag was killed in a river close to to the castle. When the lord and lady of the castle heard the sound of the horns, they hurried there and was very happy to see their neighbours. And since it was late in the day, they offered the staghunters to sleep over. But then the ladies engaged in a polite wordfeud about which hunt was the most noble. It was agreed then that a disputation would take place between the two the next day in the castle gardens. Here both held forth their huntideal one after the other. In the poem the feud now evolves to a philosophical feud of ranking or ‘paragonne’: which is to bee seen as the biggest joy -to see the flight of the falcons or listen to the bay of the hounds, or in other words which is the most noble sense, sight or hearing. As they could not meet in this matter the decision was left to the great hunter the count of Tankarville. A messenger was dispatched to his castle and returned with the following judgement. It is true that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, the most noble sense and therefore the falconhunt should be considered the most noble, but the hunt with hounds must be given the prize, since that one alone gives the hunter opportunity to get joy from sight and sound at the same time. ”
its a recurring theme in the huntbooks, the argument about what is the most noble way of hunting. Edward of Norwich weighs in on the matter thusly in “the master of Game“:
“…For though it be that hawking with gentle hounds and hawks for the heron and the river be noble and commendable, it lasteth seldom at the most more than half a year. For though men find from. May unto Lammas (August 1st) game enough to hawk at, no one will find hawks to hawk with. But as of hunting there is no season of all the year, that game may not he found in every good country, also hounds ready to chase it.”
So.. to conclude:
It seems that falconers are fleapickers and that the true hunt is that with dogs.