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Here the phrase "full of vent,' the reading of the Folios, has so perplexed the critics that more than one has proposed to substitute for it full of vaunt.'. The Folio text is, however, perfectly accurate, and peculiarly expressive, although it has never yet been correctly explained. The only explanation attempted is that of Johnson, repeated by subsequent editors, that ‘full of vent' means 'full of rumour, full of materials of • discourse.' This, however, is a mere conjecture, and not a happy one, as it altogether misses the distinctive meaning of the phrase. Vent is a technical term in hunting to express the scenting of the game by the hounds employed in the chase. Both noun and verb are habitually used in this sense. Their exact meaning and use will be made clear by an extract or two from Turbervile's translation of Du Fouilloux,' the popular manual of hunting in Shakspeare's day. The first extract refers to the wiles and subtleties of the hart when keenly pressed in the chase : - When a hart feeles that the • hounds hold in after him, he fleeth and seeketh to beguile • them with change in sundry sortes, for he will seeke other • harts and deare at lare, and rowseth them before the houndes to make them hunt change; therewithall he will lie flat down upon his belly in some of their layres, and so let the houndes overshoot him, and because they should have no sent of him, nor vent him, he will trusse all his four feet under his belly,
and will blow and breath upon the ground in some moist * place, in such sort that I have seen the houndes passe by
such an hart within a yard of him and never vent him.' Further on, the author speaking of the hart, says again expressly : When he smelleth or venteth anything, we say he . hath this or that in the wind.' In the same way, when the hound vents anything, he pauses to verify the scent, and then, full of eager excitement, strains in the leash to be after the game that is thus perceived to be a-foot. The following extract from the rhyming report of a huntsman upon sight of a hart in pride of grease, illustrates this :
* Then if the Prince demand what head he beare,
His beame seemd great, in good proportion led,
He seemes well fed, by all the signes I found.' The use of the noun is exemplified in another hunting rhyme, or huntsman's soliloquy, entitled “The Blazon of the · Hart,' which is of special interest from the vividness of the picture it brings before us:
* I am the hunt, which rathe and early rise,
Then I returne, to make a grave report.' The technical meaning and use of the word in these passages is sufficiently clear, and it will be seen how happily Shakspeare employs it. To strain at the lyam or leash upon good vent'is in Shakspeare's phrase to be full of vent,' or in other words keenly excited, full of pluck and courage, of throbbing energy and impetuous desire, in a word, full of all the kindling stir and commotion of anticipated conflict. This is not only in harmony with the meaning of the passage, but gives point and force to the whole description. War is naturally personified as a trained hound roused to animated motion by the scent of game, giving tongue, and straining in the slips at the near prospect of the exciting chase. This explanation justifies the reading of the Folios, - sprightly walking, audible, * full of vent,' or at least affords a better explanation of it than has yet been offered. With a single exception the early reading has been rejected by all modern editors, including, strangely enough, Mr. Knight and the Cambridge editors. The exception is Mr. Staunton, who, however, while retaining the older reading, fails to understand it, and misinterprets the passage. He explains “sprightly walking 'as • quick moving or march
ing,' with evident reference to military movements, and with regard to the special phrase under review, he says boldly • vent is voice, utterance.' But the previous epithet audible, gives this feature of the description, vent referring not to sound at all, but to the quick perception of the game, and the signs
of eagerness, such as kindled eye, dilated nostril, and muscular
"And you, good yeomen,
Cry “God for Harry, England, and Saint George !"
war, as well as in several passages in other plays. In the lines just quoted, the reference to the mettle of your pasture,' is also derived from the “Noble Art of Venerie. The colour of the stag, the size and texture of his antlers, his strength of wind and limb, and powers of endurance, depended very much upon the country in which he was reared, and especially upon the kind of pasture on which he browsed. Thus Du Fouilloux concludes a discourse on the different colours of the stag's coat, and the different descriptions of head, as follows:
“There is another forrest about four leagues from thence called Chissay, in the which the harts beare heads cleane contrary, for they are great, red, and full of marrow, and are very light when they are dry. All these things I have thought good heere to alleadge, to let you know that harts beare their heads according to the pasture and feede of the country where they are bred; for the forrest of Merevant is altogether in mountaines, vales, and caves, whereas their feed is dry, leane, and of small substance. On that other side, the forrest of Chissay is a plaine country, environed with all good pasture and corne grounds, as wheat, peason, and such, whereupon they take good nouriture: which is the cause that their heads become so faire and well spredde.' Before leaving the subject, we may notice that the word ' vent' in its technical sense is used by Shakspeare's contemporaries, especially the poets, such as Spenser and Drayton. The following extract from the graphic account of stag-hunting in the fourteenth song of the Polyolbion 'illustrates this :
Now when the hart doth heare
When after goes the cry with yellings loud and deepe.' It need hardly be added that vent in this sense is, like so many of the terms of venery, taken directly from the French, to vent the game being simply to wind, or have wind of the game. Shakspeare's very expression, indeed, exists as French phrase, and is given to illustrate the special meaning of the noun as a hunting term.
Again, Shakspeare uses the word train more than once in its technical hunting sense, the most striking instance of this special use being found in Macbeth.' When Malcolm, in order to test the sincerity of Macduff's devotion, heaps vices on himself, until Macduff, in a burst of noble sorrow and indignation, renounces his enterprise in despair, Malcolm, satisfied with the result, explains the motive of his conduct as follows: Mal.
Macduff, this noble passion,
From over-credulous haste.' It has not been noticed that trains in this extract is a technical term both in hawking and hunting; in hawking for the lure, thrown out to reclaim a falcon given to ramble, or “rake out as it is called, and thus in danger of escaping from the fowler; and in hunting for the bait trailed along the ground, and left exposed to tempt the animal from his lair or covert, and bring him fairly within the power of the lurking huntsman.
An extract or two from Turbervile will sufficiently exemplify this usage. The following is from a long and curious account of hunting the wolf, a common sport in France, and which in Shakspeare's day seems also to have prevailed to some extent in Ireland :
• When a huntsman would hunt the wolfe, he must trayne them by these means.
First, let him looke out some fayre place a mile or more from the greate woodes where there be some close standing to place a brace of good greyhounds in, if needs be, the which should be close environed, and some ponde or water by it: there shall he kill a horse or
some other great beast, and take the foure legges thereof and carye them into the woods and forests adjoyning. Then let foure good fellows take every man a legge of the beast, and drawe it at his horse tayle all alongst the pathes and wayes in the woods until they come backe againe unto the place where the dead beast lieth : there lette them lay downe their traynes. And when the wolves go out in the night to prey and to feede, they wil crosse upon the trayne and follow it untill they come at the dead carrion: there they will feede their fill. And then let the huntsman about the breake of day go thither, and leave his horse a good way off underneath the wind, and come faire and softly to the place to espie if there be any wolves feeding.'
"And when the huntsman shall by these meanes have been assured of their feeding twoo nights together, then may he make preparation to hunt them on the third day; or if they fayle to come unto the trayne the first or second day, then let him send out varlettes to trayne from about all the coverts adjoyning unto the same place: and so doing he cannot misse but draw wolves thither once within two or three nights.'
The play of Hamlet’supplies another illustration of hunting terms only partially explained. In the conversation about the players between Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern a technical term occurs, which, though sometimes rightly understood, is often erroneously interpreted, and has never been traced or elucidated in its primary meaning and use :Ham.
man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
' Ros. My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts. 'Ham. Why did you laugh, then, when I said, man delights not
· Ros. To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you: we coted them on the way, and hither are they coming to offer you
service.' Here cote, in the older spelling coat, is usually explained, even by modern editors, according to its etymology rather than according to its actual use, while none seem to be aware of its special technical meaning. Thus Mr. Collier interprets the phrase 'we coted them to mean we overtook them, or, strictly, 'came side by side with them, and Mr. Staunton boldly gives the latter part of this explanation as the full meaning of the term-coted them?- came alongside of them.' Nares, again, while stating that the term is employed in coursing, gives the same erroneous interpretation, coted, i.e. • went side by side,' and seems to have no real knowledge of its technical use. Mr. Dyce quotes from Caldecott a pertinent example of its use in contemporary literature, but he appears undecided as to the exact signification of the word, and un