The vanity of arts and sciences by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Knight ...
Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius, 1486?-1535.
Page  246

CHAP. LXXVII.

Of Hunting and Fowling.

AS Fish are taken, so are Birds and Fowl, saving that there is a greater strength and exercise of the Body requir'd in Fowling and Hunting, than in Fishing; and a more industrious search after the Game. Besides several sorts of Nets, there are many sorts of Pitfalls, Traps, and Springes; nor must we omit the great use of Birdlime, Hawks, Hounds, and Grey∣hounds. A most detestable Recreation, a vain Exercise, and unprosperous and unhappy sport, with so much labour and watching Night and Day to rage and make War against the poor Beasts: A pastime cruel, and totally Tragical, chiefly delighting in Blood and Death. And therefore from the beginning it was accompted the chief Exercise of the worst of Men, and greatest Sinners. For Cain, Lamech, Nimrod, Ishmael, Esau, are reported in Scripture to be mighty Hunters: Nor do we read of any one in the New Testament that was given to Hunting; Nor of any Nations that were greatly addicted to the Sport, unless the Ishmaelites, Idumeans, and other People that did not know God. Hunting was the first Original of Tyranny, which can∣not find a fitter Author, than such a one, as by con∣tinually sporting himself in Blood and Murther, has learn'd to despise God and Nature. The Persian Kings however esteem'd it, as an imitation of Warlike Ex∣ercises: For Hunting hath in it self something fierce and cruel, while the Poor Beast overcome at length by the Dogs, becomes a Spectacle of Delight, in having Page  247 its Blood shed and Bowels torn out; at which the Bar∣barous Hunter laughs, while the Foe-Beast rowted with an Army of Dogs, or entangled in a Toyl, is car∣ried home by the Triumphant Huntsman, with a great Troop at his heels; where the fatal Prey is cut up in bloody terms of Art, and proper words of Butchery, other than which it is not lawful to use. A strange madness of such kind of Men, a most renowned War∣fare, where they themselves casting off their Humani∣ty become Beasts, and by a strange perverting of their Manners, like Acteon, are chang'd into Irrational Crea∣tures. Some of these Hunters grow to such a height of Madness, that they become Enemies to Nature, as the Fables relate of Dardames. Now the Inventors of this Fatal Exercise are said to be the Thebans, a Nation infamous for Fraud, Theft, and Perjury, and no less to be detested for Perjury and Incest; from whence the practice thereof was transmitted to the Phrygians, a Nation equally Abominable, Foolish, and Vain, which therefore the Athenians and Lacedaemonians had in great contempt. Afterwards when the Athenians had re∣pealed their Law against Hunting, and that the Exer∣cise was admitted publickly among 'um, then was the City of Athens first Taken; which makes me wonder to find Hunting commended by Plato Prince of the Academicks. Unless the Event, honesty of the Inven∣tion, or Necessity should be occasions of its Commen∣dations. Thus Meleager slew the Caledonian Boar, not for his own pleasure, but to free his Country from a common Mischief. So Romulus hunted Deer not for pleasures-sake, but to get Food.

There is another sort of Hunting, which is call'd Fowling; not so Cruel, but not less Vain. Vlysses is reported to be the first Inventor thereof, who after the taking of Troy was the first that brought into Greece Birds of Prey manur'd for Game, to comfort with Page  248 new Recreations those that had lost their Parents and Acquaintance in the Trojan War. And yet he com∣manded his Son not to make any use thereof. True it is, that these Exercises, so mean and servile in them∣selves, are come to be so far esteem'd, that now the chief Nobility and Gentry, forsaking all other Libe∣ral and Noble Studies, they are become their chief Learning, and no mean helps to Preferment. Now a days the whole Life of Kings and Princes, nay, which is a greater Grief, the very Religion of Bishops, Ab∣bots, and Chief Doctors and Overseers of the Church, is all consum'd in Hunting; wherein they chiefly experience their Ingenuities, and shew their Virtues.

Among the slothful Herds he longs to try
A foming Boar, or from the Mountains high
A Lyon make his fell descent—
And they who ought to be Examples of Patience, are the only Active Persons in seeking to Hunt and Prey upon what they are able to overcome; and those Beasts which by Nature are free, and by Law belong to those that can possess 'um, the Tyranny of the Great Ones hath by rash Edicts Usurp'd to themselves. Hus∣bandmen are driven from their Tillage, their Farmes are taken from them, their Meadows likewise; Downs and Woods are shut up from the Shepherds, for shel∣ter for Wild Beasts, for the Butcherly delight of the Nobility, for whom it is only Lawful to be Possess'd thereof; of which, if a Husbandman or a Country∣man do but only taste, he presently becomes guilty of Petty Treason, and together with the Beasts is made a Prey to the Hunter. Let us search the Scripture; certainly, neither in the Sacred Scripture, nor in any other Moral History, shall we read of any Holy, any Wise man, or Philosopher, that was addicted to Hunt∣ing; Page  249 but many Shepherds, and some Fishers. St. Au∣stin affirms it to be an Exercise of all most Wicked; and the Sacred Elibitan and Aurelian Councels utter∣ly condemn'd it; and in the Sacred Canons Hunters are not only forbid Promotion to Holy Orders, but the Degree of Chief Priest is thereby taken from him that has attaind it. And therefore no man can deny Hun∣ting to be an ungodly Exercise, which is so Exploded and Condemn'd in the Opinion of all Wise and Ho∣ly Men. Anciently also, when men did live in Inno∣cency, there was no Creature that fled from 'um, there were none on the other side that Offended them, or were hurtful to 'um, but they had an absolute Obedi∣ence over all. Examples whereof are in latter Times apparent among those that led Holy and Religious Lives. Thus Daniel liv'd among the Lions; nor was St. Paul in any danger of the Viper. A Crow fed Eliab the Prophet, Paul and Antony the Hermites, and a Hart nourish'd St. Aegidius. Helenus the Abbot commanded a wild Ass, and the Beast obey'd, and carried his Burden: he Commanded a Crocodile, and the Crocodile carried him over a River. Many Ancho∣rites liv'd in the Deserts, and frequented the Dens of Wild Beasts, fearing neither Lyons, Bears, nor Serpents. But with Sin, entred also the mischief, dread, and fear of the Creatures, and upon that occasion was the ex∣ercise of Hunting sound out. For as St. Austin observes upon the 3d. of Genesis, No Animals were in their first Production Venomous, Terrible, or Mischievous to Mankind; but after Sin they became so, for the Pu∣nishment of Mans Transgression. Therefore saith God to the Serpent, I will put Enmity between thee and the Woman, and between her seed and thy seed: Out of which Sentence arose the Warfare of Hunting, and the Antipathy of Men with Beasts.