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The Flying Hart

Dreamed ca. 1390 by Charles VI of France

It fortuned while the king lay at Saint Lyse (Senlis), on a night, as he lay in his bed asleep, he had a vision. It seemed to him properly that he was in the city of Arras, where he had never been before, and with him all the chivalry of France. And he thought that thither came to him the Earl of Flanders, and did set on his fist a fair falcon, a pelerin [peregrine], saying to him thus: "Sir, I give you this falcon, for the best that ever I saw, the best-flying, and beater down of fowls." Of which present the king thought he had great joy, and said, "Fair cousin, I thank you;" and therewith he thought he regarded the Constable of France, Sir Oliver Clysson, and said to him, "Sir Oliver, let us two go into the fields to prove this gentle falcon, that my cousin of Flanders hath given me."

So they two alone took their horses, and went into the fields, and soon found plenty of herons to fly at. Then the king said, "Constable, let the falcon fly, and we will see how she will chase her game." Then the constable cast off the falcon, and she mounted so high into the air that they could scarce see her, and the king thought she took her way straight to Flanders.

Then the king said, "Let us ride after my bird, I would not lose her;" and so he thought they rode after, till they came to a great marsh and a thick wood. Then the king said, "Let us alight afoot, for we cannot pass this wood on horseback... And so the king and the constable entered in the wood with great pain, and travelled so long that they came to a fair great land; and there the king thought he saw his falcon chasing herons, and fighting with them, and they with him...He thought he said to the constable, "Ah, I fear me I shall lose my falcon, whereof I am sorry, and I have no lure nor anything else wherewith to call her again."

At this point the king thought that there appeared suddenly before him a great hart [deer] with wings, and inclined himself before him, whereof he had great joy, and said to the constable, "Sir, abide you here, and I will mount on this hart and follow my falcon." And the king thought that the hart did bear him over all the great woods and trees; and there he saw how his falcon did beat down many fowls and herons, and he called her, and in contentment the falcon came and set her down on his fist, and the hart flew again over the woods and brought the king to where he had left the constable; and the hart departed, and he never saw him after.

And therewith it seemed that his valets came to them and brought them their horses, and they took the highway and came again to Arras.

And therewith the king awoke, and had great marvel at that vision; and he remembered everything right well, and showed it to them of his children that were about him; and the figure of this hart pleased him so much, that all his imagination was set thereon. And this was one of the first incidents that when he went into Flanders to fight with the Flemings, he took to his device to bear the flying hart.

From Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of England, France, &c., quoted in Frank Seafield's The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams (1865). "The Flying Hart" is my title.

Mind you, this particular Charles was later called Charles the Mad. But he had nice taste in flying deer.

--Chris Wayan



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