Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/171

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127
RURAL SPORTS

of the carcass, thus inveighed against by Erasmus: "When they have run down their game, what strange pleasure they take in cutting it up. Cows and sheep may be slaughtered by common butchers, but what is killed in hunting must be broke up by none under a gentleman, who shall throw down his hat, fall devoutly on his knees, and drawing out a slashing hanger (for a common knife is not good enough) after several ceremonies shall dissect all the parts as artificially as the best skilled anatomist, while all that stand round shall look very intently, and seem to be mightily surprised with the novelty, though they have seen the same an hundred times before, and he that can but dip his finger and taste of the blood shall think his own bettered thereby."

The custom mentioned in the last line is also referred to by Shakespeare in the following words: "And here thy hunters stand, Signed in thy spoil, and crimsoned in thy lethe." In a note to this passage, Mr. Madden says: "Lethe is a term used by hunters to signify the blood shed by a deer at its fall, with which it is still a custom to mark those who come in at the death." This ceremony ended the stag hunt, save for the afternoon and evening spent in all sorts of merrymakings and festive games indoors, besides eating and drinking to a late hour.