"As mad as a March hare "
"Hares have long been thought to behave excitedly in March, which is their mating season. Lewis Carroll is among many who have used that in stories - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
"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 questioned and it is now thought that hares behave oddly - boxing, jumping etc. - throughout their breeding season, which extends over several months.
Be that as it may; hares, especially March hares, have that reputation, which will surely stay with them.
The first record of the belief in their madness, or in this case 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 ..."
"The first citation that uses the phrase in a form we now know it is in 1529, in Sir Thomas More's The supplycacyon of soulys:
"As mad not as a march hare, but as a madde dogge."
"The phrase has been in continuous use in the language 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. "
> Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 11:57:47 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Inventions of the March Hare ( Was Re: EASTER)
> To: [log in to unmask]
> But the madness is explicit. I wrote about it in T. S. ELIOT AND DESIRE, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY. The poems there are not about playfulness, and they include image after image of what would have been seen as madness--depersonalization, derealization, doubling--many forms of dissociation. Consider Prufrock looking out the window "to hear my Madness singing, sitting on the kerbstone. . . / I have heard my Madness chatter before day." Or the voice of "Do I know how I feel? Do I know what I think," who hears a servant speak of "what a flash of madness might reveal." Or the speaker of "The Love Song of St. Sebastion"--one hopes this sadist has madness as at least explanation.
> >>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 03/17/08 10:33 AM >>>
> Thanks for your observation, Nancy.
> I don't think Eliot would have had the hare's "madness" in mind
> when he composed the title 'Inventions of the March Hare'. One might
> as well associate the March Hare with its playfulness -- in Eliot's
> context a poetic playfulness. As for "fertility", it could be the fertility
> of early youth's poetic imagination. Well, mine was just a flashpoint --
> maybe a good starting point to reflect.
> Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I don't think I see what is apropos. March Hares are mad, and the poems of "Inventions of the March Hare" have a good deal of madness in them. They hardly have any joys of renewal or bunnies and eggs--even stale ones. And the fertility of "Prufrock's Pervigilium" is pretty disturbed and disturbing. I don't see much connection with these images of sentiment. How are they related?
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