When Edward Langley, 2nd Duke of York, translated Gaston’s The Book of the Hunt (1389) into English in 1413, French was still the language of the Court and elsewhere. Whatever Edward had in mind, the translation the signaled the linguistic shift in English society, which Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troylus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales had significantly instigated. In 1405, Langley, a constant intriguer, was jailed by Henry IV on charges of conspiracy, and it is thought that he might have used this time to begin work on his translation.
An aficionado of the hunt, Edward recognized the book’s importance but took the liberty to change the title to The Master of Game and add new material. However, the assemblée or gathering hunter closely follows Gaston’s text.
“And the place where the gathering shall be made should be in fair mead well green, where fair trees grow all about, the one far from the other, and a clear well or beside some running brook. And it is called gathering because all the men and the hounds for hunting gather thither, for all they that go to the quest should all come again in a certain place that I have spoken of. And also they that come from home, and all the officers that come from home should bring thither all that they need, everyone in his office, well and plenteously, and should lay the towels and board clothes all about upon the green grass, and set divers meats upon [in great plenty] after the lord’s power. And some should eat sitting, and some standing, and some leaning upon their elbows, some should drink, some laugh, some jangle, some joke and some play . . . And when they shall have eaten, the lord shall devise where the relays shall go and other things, which I shall say, more plainly, and then shall every man speed him to his place . . .”
Featured Image: Bernard Van Orley’s The Month of June from the series of tapestries with hunting motifs known as The Hunts of Maximilian [Les Chasses de Maximilien] (1531-1533) shows how quickly the hunter’s table at sunrise morphs into an elaborate luncheon. Instead of the lord examining deer turds, the Archduke Maximillian (later Emperor of Austria) is waiting to be served. A large fowl has already been placed, and more food is on the way. Servants arrange to served wine cooling in a stream drink is placed on it.
See Duke of York Edward de Langley, The Master of Game (1413). Edited by William A Baillie Grohman and F. Baillie-Groham. London: Ballantyne, Hanson, 1904. Reprint Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005; Henry L. Savage, “Hunting in the Middle Ages.” Speculum 8:1 (1933): 30-41; Bernard Van Orley. The Month of June: The Hunts of the Maximilian (1531-1533), Paris, Louvre; http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=14767&langue=en