The Hound In The Bag And The Snipe To The Four Winds

Yet, why should we prize futilities to such an expanse? To what avail should we step purblindly into the haughty palaces, where we, perchance, would encounter but troubles and mortification? Are we not indeed the grandchildren of the poet who, above all, labored the point of auream mediocritatem1, of simple, humble and joyous life, which any soul can bring to pass when it knoweth how to limit its necessities and proclivities to its own good fortune? Have we not indeed been instructed by the words of our ancient chronicle, when it speaks of the debauched appetites and coveting of the gluttonous and intemperate kings? "Alas, unsatisfied human nature, feathering its own nest and craving reckless possessions; the more it accumulates, the more it covets! The cravings of man have no borne; it deems him, in having much, that he hath no thing; the more the Lord giveth unto him, the less it cloys; owner of his own possession, he even ventures to engulf another man's fortune, and thus, in coveting his neighbor's, he arriveth at forfeiting his own!"2 Further then, have we not been cradled in our infancy with vernal verses which instruct us that, beneath our noble Carpathians' brow, man can relish all the benefits of a tranquil existence? Weary, vexed by vanities, deceits, and worldly feuds, which for an instant have made him scorn his minion viol – the precious fatherly inheritance – the Romanian poet most fondly reminisces. He pictures the pleasing country life, the tranquil sighting of the plain, the enlivening delights of hunting; thereupon, in clear and sweetly undulated verse, he paints the peaceful and cheery livelihood we – the ignorant – diurnally relinquish to the clamorous illusion of city life. Listen to him even now, my friend, how he murmurs softly, in his ancient tongue: Meadow's emerald unfoldingunder Carpath' canopy.Open plain the valiant crad'lingVallachs knight'd in eulogy. Yonder side, behold the ruinsof a gov'ning city of yore;rivulet halves cheerful hither many a mirthful grove or moor. Yonder down I have a houselet o'er proud a hillock's top,runs a creek amidst its valleysweetly murm'ring past the slope. A-breast, in attire enameledmore of hillocks to be seen.Yonder in the dales in blossomLambs crop, frolic, then, roll in. Casting off the world's grand honors,hopes, and constant vain conceitsundeniably – illusions,ardent foes, dishearten'd freres; It is there, entwined with haleness,And consorted with repose,All the virtuous favours on meCast tenfold this life a-holds. Some time in the garden, vineyardoften-times in fields of corn,I would 'set a good example' to the hands, in toiling scorn; Some time with a sling too treach'rousI would trap the winging friends,Sometimes with a roaring barrelI would lead them to their ends; Some time with yon hounds in darkwoods,reynards and the cowardly coneand the vicious-looting gray wolfI would damage to the bone.3 […] It is at this moment that I must confess, I have never, since I saw the day of light, owned a hound, neither have I have hunted with a borrowed one. Therefore, thou should not expect anything to the effect of exulting this kind of delight from my own person, or, indeed, to be more eloquent, from my own heart or spirit. "All for the better," one will certainly say, and be in the right: for, on such occasion, in the stead of having a personal say, and of laboriously concocting unseemly depictions or ill-spoken speculations, I am compelled to ask of others to show me how man's fantasy can be ignited by a favorite hunt and how pen and brush have succeeded in capturing its attractiveness. Nevertheless, it is to no avail that I am searching for such images in the realm of art, which should have exalted me and instill'd that delight, that titillation of contentedness witness'd by heart and mind when a fancy or an emotion is carried by a work of art, express'd with potency and executed with talent. I will not deny that such masterpieces must exist amongst the multitudes of paintings depicting hunting scenes with a land spaniel, which enrich the collections of canvases and albums of the connoisseurs all around Europe throughout the year. Nonetheless, so far my waggish mind would not let me reminisce of other than hoaxes deployed by Philipon, Cham, Bertall, Daumier and the entire jolly gang of prolific caricaturists from Charivari, the Journal pour rire, Monde illustré and a host of other cheery pamphlets destined to illustrate each autumn, at the opening of the hunting season, the pitiful Parisian bourgeois, an honest merchant as is Mr Philistine, or Mr Malingerer, or Mr Ton-Patera4 as well as other impeccable, indigenous characters. Methinks I can picture the poor nimrod , portly and gargantuan, wading with moil and toil on a sleety rain, through a miry waterside; with slimey mud veneering his boots and all in lather for yoking his game bag around his crook backed neck where he no hares or partridges killed by the scores but his very own darling spaniel would be conserved who, run-down, as it seems, from patrolling, would reckon – what, I wonder – that it shew much more profit if the mongrel and not the game, would rest in the heart of the march, as if it were in front of his master's fireplace. Then, behold a fellow, scrawny and gaunt, as if he were a crock, bespectacled, agape, unloading his rifle – and good riddance to the bullet – into the prim snipe eyed at the fringe of the moorland. "Fetch!" says he with a haughty outburst to the spaniel, which returns, somewhat stupefied, with a bandy-legged toad in its snout, whilst the feathered fellow elopes, mocking them into convulsions in its fickle flight.
Excerpted from Pseudo-Kynegetikos, 1874
1 Horace – Carmina: "He who is content with the worthy mediocrity is spared from both the disgrace of a vile abode and, wisely, from the coveting of palaces." (auth. n.);2 These words are employed by Miron Costin in reference to kings and emperors, in Chronicles of Romania, 2nd ed. (Mihail Kogălniceanu, ed.), Bucharest, 1872, p.304 (auth. n.);3 A Collection of Poetry by His High Chancellor Ienăchiţă Văcărescu, Bucharest, 1848, pp. 3-21: A Spring's Day and a Night at Văcăreşti or Cupid's Spring, stanza XXIV and further (auth. n.); *4 Ton patera (Gr.) – "tombateră" (Ro.) – a cap of Oriental tradition, worn in the first half of the past century by boyars and rich merchants in the Romanian Provinces. Here, in its figurative acceptation of a "retrograde character."

by Alexandru Odobescu (1834-1895)