Titus Goes Hunting and Hawking: The Poetics of Recreation and Revenge in The Siege of Jerusalem
As Titus and Vespasian engage in hawking and hunting to disguise the weakness of their army from the besieged Jews, these practices become identified simultaneously with honor and with Christian identity. Though disguised arts of war, they are deployed as a heroic pretense of peace, therefore especially honorable, used none the less to press defeat on the enemy. The poem recognizes itself, and its aristocratic lay audience, as military and crusading. The narrative of the poem is a sequence of illnesses and cures: Titus and Vespasian are cured of serious illness by converting to Christianity, as Jerusalem is cured by a medicinal bloodletting of the Other, the Jews. Josephus operates as a mirror figure for the clerical poet, as well as a marker for the regenerative power of treason, as the outsider as figure of honor who brings credit to his new Emperor. Hawking and hunting become agents of transformation and renewal, and, like the poem itself does, turn violence into the recreation of honorable men.