Study Guide

Whoso List to Hunt Rules and Order

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Rules and Order

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, alas, I may no more. (1-2)

The phrase "may no more" is the first clue that there is something preventing the speaker from going after what he wants. The word "may" in particular makes us think of commands and orders: "you may not come here," for example.

Yet may I, by no means, my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. (5-7)

The speaker cannot "draw" his eyes away from the deer. He's compelled, or ordered, so to speak, to look at her. Desire kind of seems like a different set of rules; like the laws of a country, the laws of desire also control and order people.

I leave off, therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind. (7-8)

The speaker's pursuit of the hind isn't just a violation of the laws of his country; it is also a violation of the rules of nature. It's like trying to catch the wind in a net, which just isn't possible.

And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about, (11-12)

The word "graven" is interesting here. The rules aren't just "written," they are inscribed, etched, carved in stone. They aren't just "plain," they are as clear as day. The consequences of disobeying this "graven" rule could be, ahem, grave. (Get it?)

"Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame." (13-14)

The rules are made clear: the deer belongs to somebody else, which means she's off limits. The Latin makes the whole deal look like a law code or something, not just some pesky, unofficial taboo.

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