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The Fabled Hare

The Fabled Hare is a song cycle from Maddy Prior’s 1993 album Year. A live recording from the Lionhearts tour at Castle Hall, Liverpool on 8 May 2003 was included in her anthology Collections: A Very Best of 1995 to 2005. She returned to this song cycle in 2017 on her CD with Hannah James and Giles Lewin, Shortwinger.

Maddy Prior noted on the original album:

I’ve always recognised that hares are different from rabbits, but it was only when I was invited to write some music for a television wild life programme about them, that I realised their true individuality and rangey wildness.

They do not burrow, but live precariously on the surface in “forms” with strong hind legs as their main asset, in that speed is their best defense against foxes and dogs. The very speed and agility of the hare has prompted man to breed a hound equal to the challenge, but the hare can dodge quicker than all but the nimblest dogs and its stamina is superior after a short distance, so may survive even the handicapped situation of “coursing”.

Their mad courting behaviour is related to March because that is when they are most visible although they continue their mating activities through most of the year, hidden by darkness or long grass. Mainly the “boxing” they indulge in is between male and female. She is keeping them in order.

The hare has deep mythological significance and is known in Chinese, American Indian as wall as European stories. It was the symbol of Aestre, the pagan goddess of rebirth, before Christianity became prevalent in these islands, and as the old religion was overturned so its gods and symbols became associated with the devil and hares were thought to be witches “familiars”. This piece of music opens with a spell reputed to be used by Scottish witches to change into hares to travel undetected.

The Easter bunny is a mutated descendant of the fabled hare.


I Sall Goe Until a Hare


I sall goe until a hare
Wi sorrow and sick mickle care
I sall goe in the devil’s name
An while I come home again

Ruled By the Moon

[Maddy Prior]

I am ruled by the moon
I move under her mantle
I am the symbol of her moods
Of rebirths cycle

I am companion to the gods
I can conceive while I am pregnant
I call the dawn and spring in
I am the advent

I bring life from water
In a cup that must be broken
I whisper to the bursting egg
I’m Aestre’s token

Scent of Dog

[Maddy Prior]

Scent of dog, scent of man
Closer closer smell them coming
Hot breath, hot death
Closer closer hard the running

Tongues pant, hearts thump
Closer closer through the fields
Teeth snap, bones crack
Closer closer at my heels

Nearer yet and nearer
I can feel the poacher’s knife
He is running for his dinner
I am running for my life

Winter Wakeneth

[M. Kiszko]

Wynter wakeneth al my care
nou this leues waxeth bare;
ofte y sike ant mourne sare
when hit cometh in my thoht
of this worldes joie hou hit geth al to noht.

The Hare Said

[Maddy Prior]

Man sprays no weeds
The scythe cuts the corn bleeds
Leverets trapped in a harvest blade
’Tis the time of man, the hare said

Here’s the tractor here’s the plough
And where shall we go now
We’ll lie in forms as still as the dead
In the open fields, the hare said.

No cover but the camouflage
From the winter’s wild and bitter rage
All our defense is in our legs
We run like the wind, the hare said.

I Shall Run and Run

[Maddy Prior]

I’ve been cursed, I’ve been despised
As a witch with darkest powers
    I sall goe until a hare
I’ve been hunted, trapped and punished
In these my darkest hours
    Wi sorrow and such mickle care

I’ve been thrown into the fire
But I do not fear it
    I sall goe until a hare
It purifies and resurrects
And I can bear it
    Wi sorrow and such mickle care

I sall goe until a hare
wi sorrow and such mickle care

I have outrun dogs and foxes
And I’ve dodged the tractor wheels
    I sall goe until a hare
I’ve survived your persecution
And your ever changing field
    Wi sorrow and such mickle care

I will run and run forever
Where the wild fields are mine
    I sall goe until a hare
I’m a symbol of endurance
Running through the mists of time
    Wi sorrow and such mickle care