Wagner and Schopenhauer on the Subject of Hunting
Parsifal: Im Fluge treff ich, was fliegt! (Parsifal act one)
Die Meistersinger, Act II.
Driven to flight, he deludes himself that he is the hunter;
does not hear his own cry of pain;
when he digs into his own flesh
he is deluded that he gives himself pleasure!
Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Foundation of Morality, section 19, tr. E.F.J. Payne.
I recall having read of an Englishman who, while hunting in India, had shot a monkey; he could not
forget the look which the dying animal gave him, and since then had never again fired at monkeys. Similarly, William Harris, a true Nimrod, in 1836 and 1837
travelled far into the interior of Africa merely to enjoy the pleasure of hunting. In his book, published in Bombay in 1838, he describes how he shot his first
elephant, a female. The next morning he went to look for the dead animal; all the other elephants had fled from the neighbourhood except a young one, who had
spent the night with his dead mother. Forgetting all fear, he came toward the sportsmen with the clearest and liveliest evidence of inconsolable grief, and put
his tiny trunk round them in order to appeal to them for help. Harris says he was then filled with real remorse for what he had done, and felt as if he had
committed a murder.
Parsifal, Act I.
You could commit murder, here in the holy forest,
surrounded by stillness and peace?
Did not the woodland beasts approach you tamely?
Did they not greet you as friends?
Here - see here! - here you hit him,
see how the blood congeals, how the wing droops,
the snowy feathers flecked with blood -
the eyes glazed; do you see his look?
Cosima's Diaries, entry for 9-13 December 1873, tr. G. Skelton.
Recently, as we were eating hare for lunch, Lusch asked whether [Richard] had ever hunted. He said
yes, once in his youth, on Count Pachta's estate in Bohemia. He had shot at random, without taking aim, and was told that he had hit a running hare in the leg.
At the end of the hunt a dog had discovered the poor animal and dragged it out; its cry of fear pierced right through him. "That is your hare", he was told, and
there and then he swore never again to take part in such a sport.