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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

No Hare-Brainer...

Today, the last day of March, is I would guess the last day on which I can blog on this subject - Mad March Hares...

I love hares - Their vibrant energy and brisk, athleticism, their lanky limbs and beady black-as-coal button eyes... I see them quite often around the country lanes where I live - They're usually bounding at the last minute, in front of my car, then leaping into the verge and galloping away like a young colt. Sometimes they astonish me with their size in comparison to our very common brown rabbits, which are everywhere. I recently etched a small picture in glass of a hare in a cornfield gazing at the moon... I enjoy the myths of moon-gazing hares which transcend our countries and even time... I think I'll mention more about that myth tomorrow, if that's all right with you, mes petits bloggy lapins?

...Et alors, where does the expression 'Mad March Hares' come from? Is it because hares are, as have we been to some degree of late, full of the joys of spring... (and, in their cases at least, mating season?!)

Duerer Cover Pictures, Images and Photos

Hares have been living amongst us for many years, and feature in folklore, songs and children's stories...

alice and the march hare Pictures, Images and Photos

Hares have long been thought to behave like 'crackerdogs' in March, their mating season. Lewis Carroll is among many authors who have used this in stories, such as his wonderfully surreal, not quite a children's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
hatter Pictures, Images and Photos

where he introduces us to his wild-eyed March Hare, spouting nonsense at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. "The March Hare ... as this is May, it won't be raving mad - at least not so mad as it was in March."

More recently this behaviour has been brought into question, and it is now thought that hares behave oddly - boxing, jumping, etc. - throughout their breeding season, which extends over several months.
Boxing Hares at Henge Pictures, Images and Photos

Be that as it may, hares, especially March hares, have a reputation to live up to, and it will surely stay with them for centuries still to come, j'espere...

Boxing Pair Pictures, Images and Photos

In literature, the first record of their brainlessness, was circa 1500, in Blowbol's Test reprinted by W. C. Hazlitt in, Remains Early Popular Poetry of England, 1864:

"Thanne [th]ey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare."

Of course, the phrase 'hare-brained' refers to the same behaviour. This is also old and is referenced in Edward Hall's Chronicle, 1548:

"My desire is that none of you be so unadvised or harebrained as to be the occasion that ..."

AHH! Evil hare sculpture! Pictures, Images and Photos

And in 1529, in Sir Thomas More's, The supplycacyon of soulys, we see:

"As mad not as a march hare, but as a madde dogge."

What's that they say about Mad dogs and Englishmen?!

3 hares Pictures, Images and Photos

So, the phrase has been in continuous use since the 16th century. It was well-enough established by 1546 for John Heywood to include it in his collection - A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue.

Other phrases from Heywood's collection include, 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth', and 'out of sight, out of mind'...

The precise meaning, of the ancient Three Hares symbol carved into village churches and seen in some of the oldest stained glass images in England, is as elusive and mootable as the myths behind it.

In mythology, it is a goddess symbol, a trickster symbol, a symbol of the Holy Trinity, a symbol of death, redemption and rebirth… All these and so much more.

To conclude then, a 19th Century children’s poem by Walter de la Mare:

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


...Now, you can never say that a visit to Fhina ain't edutainment! "Go on, orf with you, before I call for the guards with their steely-sharp axes to see you off the premises; One, two, three... Guards! Guards! Orf with their heads!"

alice Pictures, Images and Photos

27 comments:

The Dotterel said...

What a fascinating post. There was an interesting article by Simon Barnes in The Times recently on the same subject. Yours is better!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Lord, Sir, I had no idea - I'm just orf to look at it - I buy the Times about once a month if I'm lucky these days - Thankyou!

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

absolutment! true wit and wisdom from the woman herself- mad as a march hare!

am enjoying tapping back into the blogosphere...but l still found time to find and bring home a computer chair, and arm chair and some bric a brac..a true day off for me...yeah!!

missed you loads

FFF xx

carma said...

why is it that hares are sometimes a lot spookier, i.e. the sculpture of the hair sitting on a rock, than cute cuddly plain 'ole bunnies? I think I prefer bunnies :-)
carma

Derrick said...

Hello Fhina,

We see plenty of rabbits but not hares (aawww!) although I have seen one once! Super pics again, especially the Disney ones!

Sometimes Sophia said...

What an edifying post, my dear. Hares are lovely, I agree. Lean and lovely. I can barely resist having a drove of hare statuettes in my garden. (But I do...) Love the Stonehenge scene. Thanks for this.

Heather said...

Edutainment, indeed!! I don't think I've ever seen an actual hare. All we have around here are little bunnies that hop across the road, barely dodging cars.

jinksy said...

How could you leave the adorable Harvey (ok , so he was a white rabbit, but so was Alice's?) out of this noble collection? A most endearing animal... sorry, film!

Chairman Bill said...

I always though it sad that Tales of the Riverbank never had hares in it.

I've had soup with hares in it.

Expat mum said...

Do you know, I'd never put the term hare-brained together with hares before. Hmmm.

Diane said...

I'm a bunny-lover, too! The photo you have of the statue (3rd pic up from the bottom)... there's a statue by the same sculptor in the Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian... it looks like that one but he's in the same pose as the 'Thinker'... I love it and it was on my blog for ages! :)

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Like expat mum I had also never connected hare brained! Very interesting and you made me think about something I have not thought about in years. I used to see them alot growing up in the country in the UK as a child.

Artist Unplugged said...

Most interesting post! I had not realized hare linked our sayings are. I don't think it is as popular here in the states....not heard that much about it in March so this was very enlightening!

Belle said...

I love hare's too. I love it when they 'box' - which I believe is some kind of mating dance. We have plenty around the fields here. I love your post Phina - they are always so informative!

blognut said...

Ah, Fhina, you have stumbled onto the adjective used to describe me at my wildest moments. "Harebrained," I am. Thank you for finally explaining where this originated, for I have wondered a time or two.

I happen to love being compared to something as cute and as mad as a March Hare!

XO Lady Fhina, XO

jenniferw said...

I like the chocolate kind.

French Fancy said...

The other week we went to our favourite restaurant for my birthday meal and Mr FF had hare for the main course (lièvre). He gave me a morsel and do you know what - it was one of the loveliest things I've ever eaten.

Suldog said...

Well, thank you. I just learned more about the etymology of hare-brained and march hares than I ever knew before. Don't know if this information will end up being of some use, but everything happens for a purpose. Perhaps I'm about to be called onto one of those quiz shows I keep trying out for and they're going to ask me all sorts of questions about big rodents :-)

Simplicity said...

Awesome! Love this: edutainment

Etching is such a fine art...you should show us a photo!

I agree that Lewis's books aren't exactly child oriented! Yikes!

Hope you're having great days!

Prepare for April edutainment!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Fab post... especially as I rather like hares too. Have a few wonderful pencil drawings and one water colour of hares boxing. Thanks for reminding me!

Lola said...

More on the moon-gazing hares, please!!! Ciao Fhina.

Maternal Tales said...

Would you take it as a compliment if I said you were as mad as a mad march hare? I hope so, cos you are and it's meant to be. BTW, not sure your title is right - you are a woman of great importance x

lizspin said...

Only you, my harebrained friend, could make a post about hares so entertaining!!!!

Thank you and the Goddess Wiki!!!

Ribbon said...

I enjoyed that... thank you.
Not sure now whether I've actually seen a Hare. I certainly have seen and been "hare brained."

Best wishes Ribbon

Michelle said...

I like to be hare brained! It makes me stand out! Or does it?

Love this post and the photos you included along with it! I wouldn't eat a rabbit or hare. NO SIREE!!!

LOVE YA PRETTY LADY!

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Oh I love this post! They are fascinating aren't they? Myself and Boy Rugby were watching them at the weekend. We were almost as mad with excitment, whooping and laughing. Fabulous Our Lady. Thank you. xxx

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Saz: 'Guess how much I missed you?!' LOL xox

carma: I think it's when artists accentuate hares' legginess and what's the name of that thing, where they invest human qualities in creatures? So the animals end up looking half man, half critter - Like the film, Harvey - So that makes them spooky, methinks!

Derrick: I am surprised you see no hares, but then when I read the Times article, after The Dotterel brought it to my attention, it seems as if hares are more populous down south than they are oop North, Derrick - Still we do see them here - Or perhaps it's just the same one we keep seeing!

Sometimes Sophia: Bless you, sweetie! Hare statuettes? I never thought of those, but they will be a must when I get around to landscaping my back garden eventually - I've also seen a very large, lifesize resin pig in someone's garden, that I covet too! x

Heather: I know, I always break my heart when the buns cross the road, and then run back under the wheels of my car! So sad, but sometimes it's just not not our fault...

La jinksy: I left him out, although he was in my thoughts, because he was a white rabbit and not a hare! I know what you mean about Alice's, which was a rabbit, but was there not also a hare at the tea party?! x

Chairman Bill: I couldn't imagine there was anything you'd never actually eaten, Sir, given your sea-faring, Brad Pitt looky-likey past!

Expat mum: There you go, you see - Edutainment! Chortle...

Diane: I thought I had seen those odd, lanky hare sculptures someplace else, Diane, I must admit... I must look into who the sculptor was - I do find public art and its siting fascinating, as I do the things we have in common, too. xox

Brit' Gal Sarah: I love to prick little memories in our minds - These bits of writing do that for me too! Things we've even forgot about - It never ceases to amaze me... x

Artist Unplugged: I am always more than hare-appy to have you visit me hare, dear-hare Haretist! x

Belle: I've never seen the boxing, but love to see pictures and sculptures of them doing that - It's very strange, isn't it?

Dear Bloggus Nuttus: You could never be described as hare-brained, or mad as a March hare, BN, a woman of your great calibre - Take it from one who knows! I have been called 'As mad as a ship's cat', by someone who I've worked with for years! Love to you today! xox

jenniferw: Chocolate hares - biting off their ears first? Never!

French Fancy: I was wondering what hare was in French - I had forgotten, being vegetarian! x

Suldog: There you go, Sir, pleased to be of service to one as knowledgeable as yourself! And you never know when this information could be pressed into service, do you! Chuckle... I could really you doing very well on a quiz show, impressing the producers, and getting your own slot, full of your wit and wisdom.

Simplicity: Hi, thank you! I am now the proud possessor of a second-hand digital SLR camera - So there is every chance that once I master it, I might be featuring my own photos rather than always other peoples... Simples! My days are good at the mo', thank you, and I hope yours are splendiferous!

Ladybird World Mother: Sounds lovely... I would love to see you write about your watercolours some day.

Lola: Your wish is my command Lola bella!

Maternal Tales: I accept anything except blows, dear Mat-T! You are very kind about my title, but it is very much me - I really don't think I am very interesting, and am often quiet in larger company, listening really well, but not speaking much, because I always feel I've got nothing to say that anyone would be interested in... x

lizspin: Bless you precious Liz, and this time, this did not come from La Wiki - but ssshhhh! Don't tell her! x

Fluttering Ribbon: You're very welcome, and I send you your good wishes in return!

Michelle: You stand out anyway, treasure, you are outstanding in fact! How could you ever think otherwise? Do you know, M, you are only the second person ever to call me pretty, and that means a lot to me! Love you bucket-loads! x

Reasons: I hope you are having a fine day today, Reasons! You must be in one of the better places in the country to see hares - How lovely that must have been for your and your darling Rugby Boy! Take care, xox

Something I wrote earlier...

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