The Goshawk

The Goshawk by T.H. White

Book: The Goshawk by T.H. White Read Free Book Online
Authors: T.H. White
intemperate and intransigent, while his small body burned with high living and lack of exercise. He had exercised himself by rage.
    I saw now that I must learn to feed him with diligent and minute observation. Suddenly I realized that this was the secret of all training. I had thought before, without understanding the thought, that the way to the heart lay through the belly. The way to government lay through the deprivation of the belly. Every great overlord had known this about my companions in the lower classes. On £90 a year those who lived in workmen’s cottages were just on that happy borderland of being sharp-set which kept us out of presumptuous courses. We were in perfectly good health, but not in a surplus state, not riotous, not fierce with surfeit. They kept us efficient and well-manned.
    So with good mastery. The trainer of horses had to look first to their oats. I wondered that schoolmasters had not discarded the ferula for washed meat. Perhaps, when I recollected the food at schools, they had: or preferred to run them both together, because of the pleasures of flagellation.
    Gos was to be trained now as Napoleon’s army had marched. It was this that must be called the fundamental of the trainer’s eye in every branch of training for the blood sports. Those checked and gaitered men at Newmarket, with their lean faces and bow legs, ultimately they were assessing the amount of food given. The lines of the blood horse on which I should lay my money next point-to-point season would not be artistic lines, not lines of force or beauty or bone or muscle: they would be lines of judicious deprivation. Of course they would not be lines of starvation, but they would be lines whose axis was the belly. This was the first law of mastery.
    Gos was hungry enough to make enormous strides, and at last I was determined to keep him so. It was a strain and a problem at first, a strain because to reward him with food was a great pleasure and temptation, a problem because it had yet to be found out how much food was necessary to keep him healthy. He had been fed low for two days now, so that this day I allowed him a foreleg, a hindleg, two kidneys and half the liver of a rabbit, feeling that I was being over-generous [1] and that he would go back next day. A third of a pound of raw beef was laid down as the daily ration for a peregrine, and I reckoned that Gos, being a tiercel, must be about the size of a female peregrine and should merit the equivalent of the same weight. It was evidently a matter of exquisite assessment which could only be judged by the austringer who knew his hawk (it would vary with different hawks of the same species) — by the austringer whose subconscious mind was in minutely contact with the subconscious mind of the bird. Every alteration in its mental behaviour, every feel of its weight on the wrist, every premonition of greater acuity in the breastbone when stroked: these and all other manifestations must tell the austringer of the fitness of his mate. Too hungry: too flourishing: the exact equipoise was the whole secret of falconry.
    The morning was spent in making Gos come quickly to the fist, off the bow perch, a distance up to two yards. He was fed with small scraps at each flight, and he behaved well. In the afternoon he was carried from one o’clock until six, and taken to the main road at Lillingstone Lovell in order to re-introduce him to the motor cars. It was a blazing day (which had its effect in raising his temperature) but on the whole the visit was successful. I sat down with him on tree-stumps, first one hundred yards, then fifty yards, then not more than one yard from the main road: and he bated from nothing except two brightly dressed country lassies who glided by on bicycles. He bated at, not from, a brood of pheasants, and took deep interest in jays and a kestrel which put out of a hedge beside the oats. Home, he came obediently the whole length of a double

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