Reynard the Fox; or, The Ghost Heath Run
Reynard the Fox; or, The Ghost Heath Run
John Masefield, Poems, II (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1945): 1-82.
1 The meet was at "The Cock and Pye
2 By Charles and Martha Enderby,"
3 The grey, three-hundred-year-old inn
4 Long since the haunt of Benjamin
5 The highwayman, who rode the bay.
6 The tavern fronts the coaching way,
7 The mail changed horses there of old.
8 It has a strip of grassy mould
9 In front of it, a broad green strip.
10 A trough, where horses' muzzles dip,
11 Stands opposite the tavern front,
12 And there that morning came the hunt,
13 To fill that quiet width of road
14 As full of men as Framilode
15 Is full of sea when tide is in.
16 The stables were alive with din
17 From dawn until the time of meeting.
18 A pad-groom gave a cloth a beating,
19 Knocking the dust out with a stake.
20 Two men cleaned stalls with fork and rake,
21 And one went whistling to the pump,
22 The handle whined, ker-lump, ker-lump,
23 The water splashed into the pail,
24 And, as he went, it left a trail,
25 Lipped over on the yard's bricked paving.
26 Two grooms (sent on before) were shaving
27 There in the yard, at glasses propped
28 On jutting bricks; they scraped and stropped,
29 And felt their chins and leaned and peered,
30 A woodland day was what they feared
31 (As second horseman), shaving there.
32 Then, in the stalls where hunters were,
33 Straw rustled as the horses shifted,
34 The hayseeds ticked and haystraws drifted
35 From racks as horses tugged their feed.
36 Slow gulping sounds of steady greed
37 Came from each stall, and sometimes stampings,
38 Whinnies (at well-known steps) and rampings,
39 To see the horse in the next stall.
40 Outside, the spangled cock did call
41 To scattering grain that Martha flung.
42 And many a time a mop was wrung
43 By Susan ere the floor was clean.
44 The harness-room, that busy scene,
45 Clinked and chinked from ostler's brightening
46 Rings and bits with dips of whitening,
47 Rubbing fox-flecks out of stirrups,
48 Dumbing buckles of their chirrups
49 By the touch of oily feathers.
50 Some, with stag's bones rubbed at leathers,
51 Brushed at saddle-flaps or hove
52 Saddle-linings to the stove.
53 Blue smoke from strong tobacco drifted
54 Out of the yard, the passers snifft it,
55 Mixed with the strong ammonia flavour
56 Of horses' stables and the savour
57 Of saddle-paste and polish spirit
58 Which put the gleam on flap and tirrit.
59 The grooms in shirts with rolled-up sleeves,
60 Belted by girths of coloured weaves,
61 Groomed the clipped hunters in their stalls.
62 One said: "My dad cured saddle-galls,
63 He called it Dr. Barton's cure---
64 Hog's lard and borax, laid on pure."
65 And others said: "Ge' back, my son."
66 "Stand over, girl; now, girl, ha' done."
67 "Now, boy, no snapping; gently. Crikes!
68 He gives a rare pinch when he likes."
69 "Drawn blood? I thought he looked a biter."
70 "I give 'em all sweet spit of nitre
71 For that, myself: that sometimes cures."
72 "Now, Beauty, mind them feet of yours."
73 They groomed, and sissed with hissing notes
74 To keep the dust out of their throats.
75 There came again and yet again
76 The feed-box lid, the swish of grain,
77 Or Joe's boots stamping in the loft,
78 The hay-fork's stab and then the soft
79 Hay's scratching slither down the shoot.
80 Then with a thud some horse's foot
81 Stamped, and the gulping munch again
82 Resumed its lippings at the grain.
83 The road outside the inn was quiet
84 Save for the poor, mad, restless pyat
85 Hopping his hanging wicker-cage.
86 No calmative of sleep or sage
87 Will cure the fever to be free.
88 He shook the wicker ceaselessly
89 Now up, now down, but never out,
90 On wind-waves, being blown about,
91 Looking for dead things good to eat.
92 His cage was strewn with scattered wheat.
93 At ten o'clock, the Doctor's lad
94 Brought up his master's hunting pad
95 And put him in a stall, and leaned
96 Against the stall, and sissed, and cleaned
97 The port and cannons of his curb.
98 He chewed a sprig of smelling herb.
99 He sometimes stopped, and spat, and chid
100 The silly things his master did.
101 At twenty past, old Baldock strode
102 His ploughman's straddle down the road.
103 An old man with a gaunt, burnt face,
104 His eyes rapt back on some far place,
105 Like some starved, half-mad saint in bliss
106 In God's world through the rags of this.
107 He leaned upon a stake of ash
108 Cut from a sapling: many a gash
109 Was in his old, full-skirted coat.
110 The twisted muscles in his throat
111 Moved, as he swallowed, like taut cord.
112 His oaken face was seamed and gored;
113 He halted by the inn and stared
114 On that far bliss, that place prepared,
115 Beyond his eyes, beyond his mind.
116 Then Thomas Copp, of Cowfoot's Wynd,
117 Drove up; and stopped to take a glass.
118 "I hope they'll gallop on my grass,"
119 He said; "my little girl does sing
120 To see the red coats galloping.
121 It's good for grass, too, to be trodden
122 Except they poach it, where it's sodden."
123 Then Billy Waldrist, from the Lynn,
124 With Jockey Hill, from Pitts, came in
125 And had a sip of gin and stout
126 To help the jockey's sweatings out.
127 "Rare day for scent," the jockey said.
128 A pony like a feather bed
129 On four short sticks, took place aside.
130 The little girl who rode astride
131 Watched everything with eyes that glowed
132 With glory in the horse she rode.
133 At half-past ten some lads on foot
134 Came to be beaters to a shoot
135 Of rabbits on the Warren Hill.
136 Rough sticks they had, and Hob and Jill,
137 Their ferrets, in a bag, and netting.
138 They talked of dinner-beer and betting,
139 And jeered at those who stood around.
140 They rolled their dogs upon the ground
141 And teased them: "Rats," they cried, "go fetch!"
142 "Go seek, good Roxer; 'z bite, good betch.
143 What dinner-beer'll they give us, lad?
144 Sex quarts the lot last year we had.
145 They'd ought to give us seven this.
146 Seek, Susan; what a betch it is."
147 A pommle cob came trotting up,
148 Round-bellied like a drinking-cup,
149 Bearing on back a pommle man,
150 Round-bellied like a drinking-can.
151 The clergyman from Condicote.
152 His face was scarlet from his trot,
153 His white hair bobbed about his head
154 As halos do round clergy dead.
155 He asked Tom Copp, "How long to wait?"
156 His loose mouth opened like a gate,
157 To pass the wagons of his speech.
158 He had a mighty voice to preach,
159 Though indolent in other matters.
160 He let his children go in tatters.
161 His daughter Madge on foot, flush-cheeked
162 In broken hat and boots that leaked,
163 With bits of hay all over her,
164 Her plain face grinning at the stir
165 (A broad pale face, snub-nosed, with speckles
166 Of sandy eyebrows sprinkt with freckles),
167 Came after him and stood apart
168 Beside the darling of her heart,
169 Miss Hattie Dyce from Baydon Dean,
170 A big young fair one, chiselled clean
171 Brow, chin and nose, with great blue eyes
172 All innocence and sweet surprise,
173 And golden hair piled coil on coil,
174 Too beautiful for time to spoil.
175 They talked in undertones together---
176 Not of the hunting, nor the weather.
177 Old Steven from Scratch Steven Place
178 (A white beard and a rosy face)
179 Came next on his stringhalty grey.
180 "I've come to see the hounds away,"
181 He said, "and ride a field or two.
182 We old have better things to do
183 Than breaking all our necks for fun."
184 He shone on people like the sun,
185 And on himself for shining so.
186 Three men came riding in a row;
187 John Pym, a bull-man, quick to strike,
188 Gross and blunt-headed like a shrike,
189 Yet sweet-voiced as a piping flute;
190 Tom See, the trainer, from the Toot,
191 Red, with an angry, puzzled face
192 And mouth twitched upward out of place,
193 Sucking cheap grapes and spitting seeds;
194 And Stone, of Bartle's Cattle Feeds,
195 A man whose bulk of flesh and bone
196 Made people call him Twenty Stone.
197 He was the man who stood a pull
198 At Tencombe with the Jersey bull,
199 And brought the bull back to his stall.
200 Some children ranged the tavern-wall,
201 Sucking their thumbs and staring hard;
202 Some grooms brought horses from the yard.
203 Jane Selbie said to Ellen Tranter,
204 "A lot on 'em come doggin', ant her?"
205 "A lot on 'em," said Ellen. "Look,
206 There'm Mr. Gaunt of Water's Hook.
207 They say he ..." (whispered). "Law!" said Jane.
208 Gaunt flung his heel across the mane,
209 And slithered from his horse and stamped.
210 "Boots tight," he said, "my feet are cramped."
211 A loose-shod horse came clicking-clack;
212 Nick Wolvesey on a hired hack
213 Came tittup, like a cup and ball.
214 One saw the sun, moon, stars, and all
215 The great green earth 'twixt him and saddle;
216 Then Molly Wolvesey riding straddle,
217 Red as a rose with eyes like sparks;
218 Two boys from college out for larks
219 Hunted bright Molly for a smile,
220 But were not worth their quarry's while.
221 Two eyeglassed gunners dressed in tweed
222 Came with a spaniel on a lead
223 And waited for a fellow-gunner.
224 The parson's son, the famous runner,
225 Came dressed to follow hounds on foot.
226 His knees were red as yew-tree root
227 From being bare, day in, day out.
228 He wore a blazer, and a clout
229 (His sweater's arms) tied round his neck.
230 His football shorts had many a speck
231 And splash of mud from many a fall
232 Got as he picked the slippery ball
233 Heeled out behind a breaking scrum.
234 He grinned at people, but was dumb,
235 Not like these lousy foreigners.
236 The otter-hounds and harriers
237 From Godstow to the Wye all knew him.
238 And with him came the stock which grew him,
239 The parson and his sporting wife.
240 She was a stout one, full of life,
241 With red, quick, kindly, manly face.
242 She held the knave, queen, king and ace,
243 In every hand she played with men.
244 She was no sister to the hen,
245 But fierce and minded to be queen.
246 She wore a coat and skirt of green,
247 A waistcoat cut of hunting red,
248 Her tiepin was a fox's head.
249 The parson was a manly one,
250 His jolly eyes were bright with fun
251 His jolly mouth was well inclined
252 To cry aloud his jolly mind
253 To everyone, in jolly terms.
254 He did not talk of churchyard worms,
255 But of our privilege as dust
256 To box a lively bout with lust
257 Ere going to heaven to rejoice.
258 He loved the sound of his own voice,
259 His talk was like a charge of horse,
260 His build was all compact, for force,
261 Well-knit, well-made, well-coloured, eager.
262 He kept no Lent to make him meagre,
263 He loved his God, himself and man,
264 He never said, "Life's wretched span;
265 This wicked world," in any sermon.
266 This body that we feed the worm on,
267 To him, was jovial stuff that thrilled.
268 He liked to see the foxes killed;
269 But most he felt himself in clover
270 To hear, "Hen left, hare right, cock over,"
271 At woodside, when the leaves are brown.
272 Some grey cathedral in a town
273 Where drowsy bells toll out the time
274 To shaven closes sweet with lime,
275 And wallflower roots rive out the mortar
276 All summer on the Norman dortar
277 Was certain some day to be his;
278 Nor would a mitre go amiss
279 To him, because he governed well.
280 His voice was like the tenor bell
281 When services were said and sung,
282 And he had read in many a tongue,
283 Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Greek.
284 Two bright young women, nothing meek,
285 Rode up on bicycles and propped
286 Their wheels in such wise that they dropped
287 To bring the parson's son to aid.
288 Their cycling suits were tailor-made,
289 Smart, mannish, pert, but feminine.
290 The colour and the zest of wine
291 Were in their presence and their bearing;
292 Like spring, they brought the thought of pairing,
293 The parson's lady thought them pert.
294 And they could mock a man and flirt,
295 Do billiard tricks with corks and pennies,
296 Sing ragtime songs and win at tennis
297 The silver cigarette-case prize.
298 They had good colour and bright eyes,
299 Bright hair, bright teeth and pretty skin,
300 Which many lads had longed to win
301 On darkened stairways after dances.
302 Their reading was the last romances,
303 And they were dashing hockey players.
304 Men called them "Jill and Joan, the slayers."
305 They were as bright as fresh sweet-peas.
306 Old Farmer Bennett followed these
307 Upon his big-boned savage black,
308 Whose mule-teeth yellowed to bite back
309 Whatever came within his reach.
310 Old Bennett sat him like a leech,
311 The grim old rider seemed to be
312 As hard about the mouth as he.
313 The beaters nudged each other's ribs
314 With "There he goes, his bloody Nibs.
315 He come on Joe and Anty Cop
316 And beat 'em with his hunting-crop
317 Like tho' they'd bin a sack of beans.
318 His pickers were a pack of queans,
319 And Joe and Anty took a couple.
320 He caught 'em there, and banged 'em supple.
321 Women and men, he didn't care
322 (He'd kill 'em some day, if he dare),
323 He beat the whole four nearly dead:
324 'I'll learn 'ee rabbit in my shed;
325 That's how my ricks get set afire.'"
326 That's what he said, the bloody liar;
327 Old oaf! I'd like to burn his ricks,
328 Th' old swine 's too free with fists and sticks.
329 He keeps that Mrs. Jones himselve."
330 Just like an axehead on its helve
331 Old Bennett sat and watched the gathering.
332 He'd given many a man a lathering
333 In field or barn, and women too.
334 His cold eye reached the women through
335 With comment, and the men with scorn.
336 He hated women gently born,
337 He hated all beyond his grasp,
338 For he was minded like the asp,
339 That strikes whatever is not dust.
340 Charles Copse, of Copse Hold Manor, thrust
341 Next into view. In face and limb
342 The beauty and the grace of him
343 Were like the Golden Age returned.
344 His grave eyes steadily discerned
345 The good in men and what was wise.
346 He had deep blue, mild-coloured eyes
347 And shocks of harvest-coloured hair
348 Still beautiful with youth. An air
349 Or power of kindness went about him;
350 No heart of youth could ever doubt him
351 Or fail to follow where he led.
352 He was a genius, simply bred,
353 And quite unconscious of his power.
354 He was the very red rose flower
355 Of all that coloured countryside.
356 Gauchos had taught him how to ride.
357 He knew all arts, but practised most
358 The art of bettering flesh and ghost
359 In men and lads down in the mud.
360 He knew no class in flesh and blood.
361 He loved his kind. He spent some pith,
362 Long since, relieving Ladysmith.
363 Many a horse he trotted tame
364 Heading commandos from their aim
365 In those old days upon the veldt.
366 An old bear in a scarlet pelt
367 Came next, old Squire Harridew,
368 His eyebrows gave a man the grue,
369 So bushy and so fierce they were;
370 He had a bitter tongue to swear.
371 A fierce, hot, hard, old, stupid squire,
372 With all his liver made of fire,
373 Small brain, great courage, mulish will.
374 The hearts in all his house stood still
375 When someone crossed the Squire's path.
376 For he was terrible in wrath,
377 And smashed whatever came to hand.
378 Two things he failed to understand,
379 The foreigner and what was new.
380 His daughters, Carrie, Jane and Lou,
381 Rode with him, Carrie at his side.
382 His son, the ne'er-do-weel, had died
383 In Arizona long before.
384 The Squire set the greatest store
385 By Carrie, youngest of the three,
386 And lovely to the blood was she;
387 Blonde, with a face of blush and cream,
388 And eyes deep violet in their gleam,
389 Bright blue when quiet in repose,
390 She was a very golden rose.
391 And many a man when sunset came
392 Would see the manor windows flame,
393 And think, "My beauty's home is there,"
394 Queen Helen had less golden hair,
395 Queen Cleopatra paler lips,
396 Queen Blanche's eyes were in eclipse
397 By golden Carrie's glancing by.
398 She had a wit for mockery
399 And sang mild, pretty, senseless songs
400 Of sunsets, Heav'n and lovers' wrongs,
401 Sweet to the Squire when he had dined.
402 A rosebud need not have a mind.
403 A lily is not sweet from learning.
404 Jane looked like a dark-lantern, burning,
405 Outwardly dark, unkempt, uncouth,
406 But minded like the living truth,
407 A friend that nothing shook nor wearied.
408 She was not "Darling Jane'd" nor "dearie'd."
409 She was all prickles to the touch,
410 So sharp that many feared to clutch,
411 So keen that many thought her bitter.
412 She let the little sparrows twitter.
413 She had a hard, ungracious way.
414 Her storm of hair was iron-grey,
415 And she was passionate in her heart
416 For women's souls that burn apart,
417 Just as her mother's had, with Squire.
418 She gave the sense of smouldering fire.
419 She was not happy being a maid,
420 At home, with Squire, but she stayed,
421 Enduring life, however bleak,
422 To guard her sisters, who were weak,
423 And force a life for them from Squire.
424 And she had roused and stood his fire
425 A hundred times, and earned his hate,
426 To win those two a better state.
427 Long years before the Canon's son
428 Had cared for her, but he had gone
429 To Klondyke, to the mines, for gold,
430 To find, in some strange way untold,
431 A foreign grave that no men knew.
432 No depth, nor beauty, was in Lou,
433 But charm and fun, for she was merry,
434 Round, sweet and little, like a cherry,
435 With laughter like a robin's singing;
436 She was not kitten-like and clinging,
437 But pert and arch and fond of flirting,
438 In mocking ways that were not hurting,
439 And merry ways that women pardoned.
440 Not being married yet she gardened.
441 She loved sweet music; she would sing
442 Songs made before the German King
443 Made England German in her mind.
444 She sang "My Lady is unkind,"
445 "The Hunt is up," and those sweet things
446 Which Thomas Campion set to strings,
447 "Thrice toss," and "What," and "Where are now?"
448 The next to come was Major Howe
449 Driv'n in a dog-cart by a groom.
450 The testy major was in fume
451 To find no hunter standing waiting;
452 The groom who drove him caught a rating,
453 The groom who had the horse in stable
454 Was damned in half the tongues of Babel,
455 The Major being hot and heady
456 When horse or dinner was not ready.
457 He was a lean, tough, liverish fellow,
458 With pale blue eyes (the whites pale yellow),
459 Moustache clipped toothbrush-wise, and jaws
460 Shaved bluish like old partridge claws.
461 When he had stripped his coat he made
462 A speckless presence for parade,
463 New pink, white cords, and glossy tops,
464 New gloves, the newest thing in crops,
465 Worn with an air that well expressed
466 His sense that no one else was dressed.
467 Quick trotting after Major Howe
468 Came Doctor Frome of Quickemshow,
469 A smiling silent man whose brain
470 Knew all of every secret pain
471 In every man and woman there.
472 Their inmost lives were all laid bare
473 To him, because he touched their lives
474 When strong emotions sharp as knives
475 Brought out what sort of soul each was.
476 As secret as the graveyard grass
477 He was, as he had need to be.
478 At some time he had had to see
479 Each person there, sans clothes, sans mask,
480 Sans lying even, when to ask
481 Probed a tamed spirit into truth.
482 Richard, his son, a jolly youth,
483 Rode with him, fresh from Thomas's,
484 As merry as a yearling is
485 In May-time in a clover patch.
486 He was a gallant chick to hatch,
487 Big, brown and smiling, blithe and kind,
488 With all his father's love of mind
489 And greater force to give it act.
490 To see him when the scrum was packed,
491 Heave, playing forward, was a sight.
492 His tackling was the crowd's delight
493 In many a danger close to goal.
494 The pride in the three-quarter's soul
495 Dropped, like a wet rag, when he collared.
496 He was as steady as a bollard,
497 And gallant as a skysail yard,
498 He rode a chestnut mare which sparred.
499 In good St. Thomas' Hospital
500 He was the crown imperial
501 Of all the scholars of his year.
502 The Harold lads, from Tencombe Weir,
503 Came all on foot in corduroys,
504 Poor widowed Mrs. Harold's boys,
505 Dick, Hal and Charles, whose father died.
506 (Will Masemore shot him in the side
507 By accident at Masemore Farm.
508 A hazel knocked Will Masemore's arm
509 In getting through a hedge; his gun
510 Was not half-cocked, so it was done,
511 And those three boys left fatherless.)
512 Their gaitered legs were in a mess
513 With good red mud from twenty ditches,
514 Hal's face was plastered like his breeches.
515 Dick chewed a twig of juniper.
516 They kept at distance from the stir,
517 Their loss had made them lads apart.
518 Next came the Colways' pony-cart
519 From Coln St. Evelyn's with the party.
520 Hugh Colway, jovial, bold and hearty,
521 And Polly Colway's brother, John
522 (Their horses had been both sent on),
523 And Polly Colway drove them there.
524 Poor pretty Polly Colway's hair!
525 The grey mare killed her at the brook
526 Down seven springs mead at Water Hook
527 Just one month later, poor sweet woman.
528 Her brother was a rat-faced Roman,
529 Lean, puckered, tight-skinned from the sea,
530 Commander in the Canace
531 Able to drive a horse, or ship,
532 Or crew of men without a whip
533 By will, as long as they could go.
534 His face would wrinkle, row on row,
535 From mouth to hair-roots when he laughed,
536 He looked ahead as though his craft
537 Were with him still, in dangerous channels.
538 He and Hugh Colway tossed their flannels
539 Into the pony-cart and mounted.
540 Six foiled attempts the watchers counted,
541 The horses being bickering things
542 That so much scarlet made like kings,
543 Such sidling and such pawing and shifting.
544 When Hugh was up his mare went drifting
545 Sidelong and feeling with her heels
546 For horses' legs and poshay wheels,
547 While lather creamed her neat clipped skin.
548 Hugh guessed her foibles with a grin.
549 He was a rich town-merchant's son,
550 A wise and kind man, fond of fun,
551 Who loved to have a troop of friends
552 At Coln St. Eves for all week-ends,
553 And troops of children in for tea.
554 He gloried in a Christmas-tree.
555 And Polly was his heart's best treasure,
556 And Polly was a golden pleasure
557 To everyone, to see or hear.
558 Poor Polly's dying struck him queer,
559 He was a darkened man thereafter,
560 Cowed, silent, he would wince at laughter
561 And be so gentle it was strange
562 Even to see. Life loves to change.
563 Now Coln St. Evelyn's hearths are cold,
564 The shutters up, the hunters sold,
565 And green mould damps the locked front door,
566 But this was still a month before,
567 And Polly, golden in the chaise,
568 Still smiled, and there were golden days,
569 Still thirty days, for those dear lovers.
570 The Riddens came, from Ocle Covers,
571 Bill Ridden riding Stormalong
572 (By Tempest out of Love-me-Long),
573 A proper handful of a horse
574 That nothing but the Aintree course
575 Could bring to terms, save Bill perhaps.
576 All sport, from bloody war to scraps,
577 Came well to Bill, that big-mouthed smiler.
578 They nicknamed him "the mug-beguiler,"
579 For Billy lived too much with horses,
580 In copers' yards and sharpers' courses,
581 To lack the sharper-coper streak.
582 He did not turn the other cheek
583 When struck (as English Christians do);
584 He boxed like a Whitechapel Jew,
585 And many a time his knuckles bled
586 Against a racecourse-gipsy's head.
587 For "hit him first and argue later"
588 Was truth at Billy's Alma Mater,
589 Not love, not any bosh of love.
590 His hand was like a chamois glove,
591 And riding was his chief delight.
592 He bred the chaser Chinese-White
593 From Lilybud by Mandarin.
594 And when his mouth tucked corners in,
595 And scent was high and hounds were going,
596 He went across a field like snowing
597 And tackled anything that came.
598 His wife, Sal Ridden, was the same,
599 A loud, bold, bonde, abundant mare
600 With white horse-teeth and stooks of hair
601 (Like polished brass) and such a manner
602 It flaunted from her like a banner.
603 Her father was Tom See the trainer.
604 She rode a lovely earth-disdainer
605 Which she and Billy wished to sell.
606 Behind them rode her daughter Belle,
607 A strange, shy, lovely girl, whose face
608 Was sweet with thought and proud with race,
609 And bright with joy at riding there.
610 She was as good as blowing air,
611 But shy and difficult to know.
612 The kittens in the barley-mow,
613 The setter's toothless puppies sprawling,
614 The blackbird in the apple calling,
615 All knew her spirit more than we.
616 So delicate these maidens be
617 In loving lovely helpless things.
618 The Manor set, from Tencombe Rings,
619 Came with two friends, a set of six.
620 Ed Manor with his cockerel chicks,
621 Nob, Cob and Bunny, as they called them
622 (God help the school or rule which galled them;
623 They carried head), and friends from town.
624 Ed Manor trained on Tencombe Down,
625 He once had been a famous bat;
626 He had that stroke, "the Manor-pat,"
627 Which snicked the ball for three, past cover.
628 He once scored twenty in an over.
629 But now he cricketed no more.
630 He purpled in the face and swore
631 At all three sons, and trained, and told
632 Long tales of cricketing of old,
633 When he alone had saved his side,
634 Drink made it doubtful if he lied.
635 Drink purpled him, he could not face
636 The fences now, nor go the pace
637 He brought his friends to meet; no more.
638 His big son Nob, at whom he swore,
639 Swore back at him, for Nob was surly,
640 Tall, shifty, sullen-smiling, burly,
641 Quite fearless, built with such a jaw
642 That no man's rule could be his law
643 Nor any woman's son his master.
644 Boxing he relished. He could plaster
645 All those who boxed out Tencombe way.
646 A front tooth had been knocked away
647 Two days before, which put his mouth
648 A little to the east of south,
649 And put a venom in his laughter.
650 Cob was a lighter lad, but dafter,
651 Just past eighteen, while Nob was twenty,
652 Nob had no nerves but Cob had plenty,
653 So Cobby went where Nobby led.
654 He had no brains inside his head,
655 Was fearless, just like Nob, but put
656 Some clog of folly round his foot,
657 Where Nob put will of force or fraud.
658 He spat aside and muttered Gawd
659 When vext; he took to whisky kindly
660 And loved and followed Nobby blindly,
661 And rode as in the saddle born.
662 Bun looked upon the two with scorn.
663 He was the youngest, and was wise.
664 He too was fair, with sullen eyes,
665 He too (a year before) had had
666 A zest for going to the bad,
667 With Cob and Nob. He knew the joys
668 Of drinking with the stable-boys,
669 Or smoking while he filled his skin
670 With pints of Guinness dashed with gin
671 And Cobby yelled a bawdy ditty,
672 Or cutting Nobby for the kitty,
673 And damning people's eyes and guts,
674 Or drawing evening-church for sluts;
675 He knew them all and now was quit.
676 Sweet Polly Colway managed it
677 And Bunny changed. He dropped his drink
678 (The pleasant pit's seductive brink),
679 He started working in the stable,
680 And well, for he was shrewd and able.
681 He left the doubtful female friends
682 Picked up at Evening-Service ends,
683 He gave up cards and swore no more.
684 Nob called him "the Reforming Whore,"
685 "The Soul's Awakening," or "The Text,"
686 Nob being always coarse when vext.
687 Ed Manor's friends were Hawke and Sladd,
688 Old college friends, the last he had,
689 Rare horsemen, but their nerves were shaken
690 By all the whisky they had taken.
691 Hawke's hand was trembling on his rein.
692 His eyes were dead-blue like a vein,
693 His peaked, sad face was touched with breeding,
694 His querulous mind was quaint from reading,
695 His piping voice still quirked with fun.
696 Many a mad thing he had done,
697 Riding to hounds and going to races.
698 A glimmer of the gambler's graces,
699 Wit, courage, devil, touched his talk.
700 Sladd's big fat face was white as chalk,
701 His mind went wandering, swift yet solemn,
702 Twixt winning post and betting-column,
703 The weights and forms and likely colts.
704 He said, "This road is full of jolts.
705 I shall be seasick riding here.
706 Oh, damn last night with that liqueur!"
707 Len Stokes rode up on Peterkin;
708 He owned the downs by Baydon Whin;
709 And grazed some thousand sheep: the boy
710 Grinned round at men with jolly joy
711 At being alive and being there.
712 His big round face and mop of hair
713 Shone, his great teeth shone in his grin.
714 The clean blood in his clear tanned skin
715 Ran merry, and his great voice mocked
716 His young friends present till they rocked.
717 Steer Harpit came from Rowell Hill,
718 A small, frail man, all heart and will,
719 A sailor, as his voice betrayed.
720 He let his whip-thong droop and played
721 At snicking off the grass-blades with it.
722 John Hankerton, from Compton Lythitt,
723 Was there with Pity Hankerton,
724 And Mike, their good-for-little son,
725 Back, smiling, from his seventh job.
726 Joan Urch was there upon her cob,
727 Tom Sparsholt on his lanky grey,
728 John Restrop from Hope Goneaway,
729 And Vaughan, the big black handsome devil,
730 Loose-lipped with song and wine and revel,
731 All rosy from his morning tub.
732 The Godsdown tigress with her cub
733 (Lady and Tommy Crowmarsh) came.
734 The great eyes smouldered in the dame,
735 Wit glittered, too, which few men saw.
736 There was more beauty there than claw.
737 Tommy in bearing, horse and dress,
738 Was black, fastidious handsomeness,
739 Choice to his trimmed soul's finger-tips,
740 Heredia's sonnets on his lips.
741 A line undrawn, a plate not bitten,
742 A stone uncut, a phrase unwritten
743 That would be perfect, made his mind.
744 A choice pull from a rare print, signed,
745 Was Tommy. He collected plate
746 (Old Sheffield), and he owned each state
747 Of all the Meryon Paris etchings.
748 Colonel Sir Button Budd of Fletchings
749 Was there; Long Robert Thrupp was there
750 (Three yards of him men said there were),
751 Long as the King of Prussia's fancy.
752 He rode the long-legged Necromancy,
753 A useless racehorse that could canter.
754 George Childrey with his jolly banter
755 Was there, Nick Childrey, too, come down
756 The night before from London town
757 To hunt and have his lungs blown clean.
758 The Ilsley set from Tuttocks Green
759 Was there (old Henry Ilsley drove).
760 Carlotta Ilsley brought her love,
761 A flop-jowled broker from the city.
762 Men pitied her, for she was pretty.
763 Some grooms and second horsemen mustered.
764 A lot of men on foot were clustered
765 Round the inn-door all busy drinking,
766 One heard the kissing glasses clinking
767 In passage as the tray was brought.
768 Two terriers (which they had there) fought
769 There on the green, a loud, wild whirl.
770 Bell stopped them like a gallant girl.
771 The hens behind the tavern clucked.
772 Then on a horse which bit and bucked
773 (The half-broke four-year-old Marauder)
774 Came Minton-Price of th' Afghan border,
775 Lean, puckered, yellowed, knotted, scarred,
776 Tough as a hide-rope twisted hard,
777 Tense tiger-sinew knit to bone.
778 Strange-wayed from having lived alone
779 With Kafir, Afghan and Beloosh,
780 In stations frozen in the Koosh
781 Where nothing but the bullet sings.
782 His mind had conquered many things---
783 Painting, mechanics, physics, law.
784 White-hot, hand-beaten things to draw
785 Self-hammered from his own soul's stithy.
786 His speech was blacksmith-sparked and pithy.
787 Danger had been his brother bred;
788 The stones had often been his bed
789 In bickers with the border-thieves.
790 A chestnut mare with swerves and heaves
791 Came plunging, scattered all the crowd,
792 She tossed her head and laughed aloud
793 And bickered sideways past the meet.
794 From pricking ears to mincing feet
795 She was all tense with blood and quiver,
796 You saw her clipt hide twitch and shiver
797 Over her netted cords of veins.
798 She carried Cothill, of the Sleins;
799 A tall, black, bright-eyed, handsome lad.
800 Great power and great grace he had.
801 Men hoped the greatest things of him.
802 His grace made people think him slim,
803 But he was muscled like a horse,
804 A sculptor would have wrought his torse
805 In bronze or marble for Apollo.
806 He loved to hurry like a swallow
807 For miles on miles of short-grassed sweet,
808 Blue, hare-belled downs where dewy feet
809 Of pure winds hurry ceaselessly.
810 He loved the downland like a sea.
811 The downland where the kestrels hover;
812 The downland had him for a lover.
813 And every other thing he loved
814 In which a clean free spirit moved.
815 So beautiful he was, so bright,
816 He looked to men like young delight
817 Gone courting April maidenhood,
818 That has the primrose in her blood,
819 He on his mincing lady mare.
820 Ock Gurney and old Pete were there
821 Riding their bonny cobs and swearing,
822 Ock's wife had giv'n them both a fairing,
823 A horse-rosette red, white and blue.
824 Their cheeks were brown as any brew,
825 And every comer to the meet
826 Said, "Hello, Ock," or "Morning, Pete,
827 Be you a-going to a wedding?"
828 "Why, noa," they said, "we'm going a-bedding,
829 Now ben't us, uncle, ben't us, Ock?"
830 Pete Gurney was a lusty cock
831 Turned sixty-three, but bright and hale,
832 A dairy-farmer in the vale,
833 Much like a robin in the face,
834 Much character in little space,
835 With little eyes like burning coal;
836 His mouth was like a slit or hole
837 In leather that was seamed and lined.
838 He had the russet-apple mind
839 That betters as the weather worsen.
840 He was a manly English person,
841 Kind to the core, brave, merry, true.
842 One grief he had, a grief still new,
843 That former Parson joined with Squire
844 In putting down the Playing Quire
845 In church, and putting organ in.
846 "Ah, boys, that was a pious din,
847 That Quire was; a pious praise
848 The noise was that we used to raise,
849 I and my serpent, George with his'n,
850 On Easter Day in 'He is risen,'
851 Or blessed Christmas in 'Venite.'
852 And how the trombone came in mighty
853 In Alleluias from the heart!
854 Pious, for each man played his part,
855 Not like 'tis now." Thus he, still sore
856 For changes forty years before
857 When all (that could) in time and tune
858 Blew trumpets to the newë moon.
859 He was a bachelor from choice.
860 He and his nephew farmed the Boyce
861 Prime pasture-land for thirty cows
862 Ock's wife, Selina Jane, kept house,
863 And jolly were the three together.
864 Ock had a face like summer weather,
865 A broad red sun, split by a smile.
866 He mopped his forehead all the while
867 And said "By damn," and "Ben't us, Unk?"
868 His eyes were close and deeply sunk.
869 He cursed his hunter like a lover:
870 "Now blast your soul, my dear, give over.
871 Woa, now, my pretty, damn your eyes."
872 Like Pete, he was of middle size,
873 Dean-oak-like, stuggy, strong in shoulder.
874 He stood a wrestle like a boulder,
875 He had a back for pitching hay.
876 His singing voice was like a bay.
877 In talk he had a sideways spit,
878 Each minute to refresh his wit.
879 He cracked Brazil-nuts with his teeth.
880 He challenged Cobbet of the Heath
881 (Weight-lifting champion) once, but lost.
882 Hunting was what he loved the most
883 Next to his wife and Uncle Pete.
884 With beer to drink and cheese to eat
885 And rain in May to fill the grasses,
886 This life was not a dream that passes
887 To Ock, but like the summer flower.
888 But now the clock had struck the hour,
889 And round the corner down the road
890 The bob-bob-bobbing serpent flowed
891 With three black knobs upon its spine,
892 Three bobbing black caps in a line.
893 A glimpse of scarlet at the gap
894 Showed underneath each bobbing cap,
895 And at the corner by the gate
896 One heard Tom Dansey give a rate:
897 "Hey, drop it, Jumper; have a care!"
898 There came a growl, half-rate, half-swear
899 A spitting crack, a tuneful whimper
900 And sweet religion entered Jumper.
901 There was a general turn of faces,
902 The men and horses shifted places,
903 And round the corner came the Hunt,
904 Those feathery things, the hounds, in front.
905 Intent, wise, dipping, trotting, straying,
906 Smiling at people, shoving, playing,
907 Nosing to children's faces, waving
908 Their feathery sterns, and all behaving,
909 One eye to Dansey on Maroon.
910 Their padding cat-feet beat a tune,
911 And though they trotted up so quiet
912 Their noses brought them news of riot,
913 Wild smells of things with living blood,
914 Hot smells, against the grippers good,
915 Of weasel, rabbit, cat and hare,
916 Whose feet had been before them there,
917 Whose taint still tingled every breath;
918 But Dansey on Maroon was death,
919 So, though their noses roved, their feet
920 Larked and trit-trotted to the meet.
921 Bill Tall and Ell and Mirtie Key
922 (Aged fourteen years between the three)
923 Were flooded by them at the bend,
924 They thought their little lives would end;
925 The grave, sweet eyes looked into theirs,
926 Cold noses came, and clean short hairs,
927 And tails all crumpled up like ferns,
928 A sea of moving heads and sterns,
929 All round them, brushing coat and dress,
930 One paused, expecting a caress.
931 The children shrank into each other,
932 Shut eyes, clutched tight, and shouted "Mother!"
933 With mouths wide open, catching tears.
934 Sharp Mrs. Tall allayed their fears,
935 "Err out the road, the dogs won't hurt 'ee.
936 There now, you've cried your faces dirty.
937 More cleaning up for me to do.
938 What? Cry at dogs, great lumps like you?"
939 She licked her handkerchief and smeared
940 Their faces where the dirt appeared.
941 The hunt trit-trotted to the meeting,
942 Tom Dansey touching cap to greeting,
943 Slow lifting crop-thong to the rim,
944 No hunter there got more from him
945 Except some brightening of the eye
946 He halted at the Cock and Pye,
947 The hounds drew round him on the green,
948 Arrogant, Daffodil and Queen,
949 Closest, but all in little space.
950 Some lolled their tongues, some made grimace,
951 Yawning, or tilting nose in quest,
952 All stood and looked about with zest,
953 They were uneasy as they waited.
954 Their sires and dams had been well-mated,
955 They were a lovely pack for looks.
956 Their forelegs drumsticked without crooks,
957 Straight, without over-tread or bend
958 Muscled to gallop to the end,
959 With neat feet round as any cat's.
960 Great-chested, muscled in the slacs,
961 Bright, clean, short-coated, broad in shoulder,
962 With stag-like eyes that seemed to smoulder.
963 The heads well-cocked, the clean necks strong,
964 Brows broad, ears close, the muzzles long,
965 And all like racers in the thighs;
966 Their noses exquisitely wise,
967 Their minds being memories of smells;
968 Their voices like a ring of bells;
969 Their sterns all spirit, cock and feather;
970 Their colours like the English weather,
971 Magpie and hare, and badger-pye,
972 Like minglings in a double dye,
973 Some smutty-nosed, some tan, none bald;
974 Their manners were to come when called,
975 Their flesh was sinew knit to bone,
976 Their courage like a banner blown.
977 Their joy to push him out of cover,
978 And hunt him till they rolled him over.
979 They were as game as Robert Dover.
980 Tom Dansey was a famous whip,
981 Trained as a child in horsemanship,
982 Entered, as soon as he was able,
983 As boy at Caunter's racing-stable;
984 There, like the other boys, he slept
985 In stall beside the horse he kept,
986 Snug in the straw; and Caunter's stick
987 Brought morning to him all too quick.
988 He learned the high, quick gingery ways
989 Of thoroughbreds; his stable days
990 Made him a rider, groom and vet.
991 He promised to be too thick-set
992 For jockeying, so left it soon.
993 Now he was whip and rode Maroon.
994 He was a small, lean, wiry man,
995 With sunk cheeks weathered to a tan
996 Scarred by the spikes of hawthorn sprays
997 Dashed thro' head down, on going days,
998 In haste to see the line they took.
999 There was a beauty in his look,
1000 It was intent. His speech was plain.
1001 Maroon's head, reaching to the rein,
1002 Had half his thought before he spoke.
1003 His "Gone away," when foxes broke
1004 Was like a bell. His chief delight
1005 Was hunting fox from noon to night.
1006 His pleasure lay in hounds and horses:
1007 He loved the Seven Springs water-courses,
1008 Those flashing brooks (in good sound grass,
1009 Where scent would hang like breath on glass).
1010 He loved the English countryside:
1011 The wine-leaved bramble in the ride,
1012 The lichen on the apple-trees,
1013 The poultry ranging on the lees,
1014 The farms, the moist earth-smelling cover,
1015 His wife's green grave at Mitcheldover,
1016 Where snowdrops pushed at the first thaw.
1017 Under his hide his heart was raw
1018 With joy and pity of these things.
1019 The second whip was Kitty Myngs,
1020 Still but a lad but keen and quick
1021 (Son of old Myngs, who farmed the Wick),
1022 A horse-mouthed lad who knew his work.
1023 He rode the big black horse, the Turk.
1024 And longed to be a huntsman bold.
1025 He had the horse-look, sharp and old,
1026 With much good-nature in his face.
1027 His passion was to go the pace,
1028 His blood was crying for a taming.
1029 He was the Devil's chick for gaming,
1030 He was a rare good lad to box.
1031 He sometimes had a main of cocks
1032 Down at the Flags. His job with hounds
1033 At present kept his blood in bounds
1034 From rioting and running hare.
1035 Tom Dansey made him have a care.
1036 He worshipped Dansey heart and soul.
1037 To be a huntsman was his goal;
1038 To be with hounds, to charge full tilt
1039 Blackthorns that made the gentry wilt
1040 Was his ambition and his hope.
1041 He was a hot colt needing rope,
1042 He was too quick to speak his passion
1043 To suit his present huntsman's fashion.
1044 The huntsman, Robin Dawe, looked round,
1045 He sometimes called a favourite hound,
1046 Gently, to see the creature turn,
1047 Look happy up and wag his stern.
1048 He smiled and nodded and saluted
1049 To those who hailed him, as it suited.
1050 And patted Pip's, his hunter's neck.
1051 His new pink was without a speck.
1052 He was a red-faced smiling fellow,
1053 His voice clear tenor, full and mellow,
1054 His eyes, all fire, were black and small.
1055 He had been smashed in many a fall.
1056 His eyebrow had a white curved mark
1057 Left by the bright shoe of The Lark
1058 Down in a ditch by Seven Springs.
1059 His coat had all been trod to strings,
1060 His ribs laid bare and shoulder broken,
1061 Being jumped on down at Water's Oaken
1062 The time his horse came down and rolled.
1063 His face was of the country mould
1064 Such as the mason sometimes cutted
1065 On English moulding-ends which jutted
1066 Out of the church walls, centuries since.
1067 And as you never know the quince,
1068 How good he is, until you try,
1069 So, in Dawe's face, what met the eye
1070 Was only part; what lay behind
1071 Was English character and mind,
1072 Great kindness, delicate sweet feeling
1073 (Most shy, most clever in concealing
1074 Its depth) for beauty of all sorts,
1075 Great manliness and love of sports,
1076 A grave, wise thoughtfulness and truth,
1077 A merry fun outlasting youth,
1078 A courage terrible to see,
1079 And mercy for his enemy.
1080 He had a clean-shaved face, but kept
1081 A hedge of whisker neatly clipped,
1082 A narrow strip or picture-frame
1083 (Old Dawe, the woodman, did the same),
1084 Under his chin from ear to ear.
1085 But now the resting hounds gave cheer,
1086 Joyful and Arrogant and Catch-him
1087 Smelt the glad news and ran to snatch him:
1088 The Master's dogcart turned the bend.
1089 Damsel and Skylark knew their friend,
1090 A thrill ran through the pack like fire
1091 And little whimpers ran in quire.
1092 The horses cocked and pawed and whickered
1093 Young Cothill's chaser kicked and bickered
1094 And stood on end and struck out sparks,
1095 Joyful and Catch-him sang like larks.
1096 There was the Master in the trap,
1097 Clutching old Roman in his lap,
1098 Old Roman, crazy for his brothers,
1099 And putting frenzy in the others
1100 To set them at the dogcart wheels,
1101 With thrusting heads and little squeals.
1102 The Master put old Roman by,
1103 And eyed the thrusters heedfully.
1104 He called a few pet hounds and fed
1105 Three special friends with scraps of bread,
1106 Then peeled his wraps, climbed down and strode
1107 Through all those clamourers in the road,
1108 Saluted friends, looked round the crowd,
1109 Saw Harridew's three girls and bowed,
1110 Then took White Rabbit from the groom.
1111 He was Sir Peter Bynd, of Coombe;
1112 Past sixty now, though hearty still,
1113 A living picture of good-will,
1114 An old, grave soldier, sweet and kind,
1115 A courtier with a knightly mind,
1116 Who felt whatever thing he thought.
1117 His face was scarred, for he had fought
1118 Five wars for us. Within his face
1119 Courage and power had their place,
1120 Rough energy, decision, force.
1121 He smiled about him from his horse.
1122 He had a welcome and salute
1123 For all, on horse or wheel or foot
1124 Whatever kind of life each followed.
1125 His tanned, drawn cheeks looked old and hollowed,
1126 But still his bright blue eyes were young,
1127 And when the pack crashed into tongue,
1128 And stanch White Rabbit shook like fire,
1129 He sent him at it like a flier,
1130 And lived with hounds while horses could.
1131 "They'm lying in the Ghost Heath Wood,
1132 Sir Peter," said an earth-stopper
1133 (Old Baldy Hill), "you'll find 'em there.
1134 'Z I come'd across I smell 'em plain.
1135 There's one up back, down Tuttock's drain,
1136 But, Lord, it's just a bog, the Tuttocks,
1137 Hounds would be swallered to the buttocks.
1138 Heath Wood, Sir Peter's best to draw."
1139 Sir Peter gave two minutes' law
1140 For Kingston Challow and his daughter;
1141 He said, "They're late. We'll start the slaughter.
1142 Ghost Heath, then, Dansey. We'll be going."
1143 Now, at his word, the tide was flowing.
1144 Off went Maroon, off went the hounds,
1145 Down road, then off, to Chols Elm Grounds,
1146 Across soft turf with dead leaves cleaving
1147 And hillocks that the mole was heaving,
1148 Mild going to those trotting feet.
1149 After the scarlet coats the meet
1150 Came clopping up the grass in spate;
1151 They poached the trickle at the gate
1152 Their horses' feet sucked at the mud,
1153 Excitement in the horses' blood.
1154 Cocked forward every ear and eye,
1155 They quivered as the hounds went by,
1156 They trembled when they first trod grass,
1157 They would not let another pass,
1158 They scattered wide up Chols Elm Hill.
1159 The wind was westerly but still,
1160 The sky a high fair-weather cloud,
1161 Like meadows ridge-and-furrow ploughed,
1162 Just glinting sun but scarcely moving.
1163 Blackbirds and thrushes thought of loving,
1164 Catkins were out; the day seemed tense
1165 It was so still. At every fence
1166 Cow-parsley pushed its thin green fern.
1167 White-violet leaves showed at the burn.
1168 Young Cothill let his chaser go
1169 Round Chols Elm Field a turn or so
1170 To soothe his edge. The riders went
1171 Chatting and laughing and content
1172 In groups of two or three together,
1173 The hounds, a flock of shaking feather,
1174 Bobbed on ahead, past Chols Elm Cop,
1175 The horses' shoes went clip-a-clop,
1176 Along the stony cart-track there,
1177 The little spinney was all bare,
1178 But in the earth-moist winter day
1179 The scarlet coats twixt tree and spray
1180 The glistening horses pressing on,
1181 The brown-faced lads, Bill, Dick and John,
1182 And all the hurry to arrive,
1183 Were beautiful like spring alive.
1184 The hounds melted away with Master,
1185 The tanned lads ran, the field rode faster,
1186 The chatter joggled in the throats
1187 Of riders bumping by like boats,
1188 "We really ought to hunt a bye day."
1189 "Fine day for scent," "A fly or die day."
1190 "They chopped a bagman in the check,
1191 He had a collar round his neck."
1192 "Old Ridden's girl 's a pretty flapper."
1193 "That Vaughan 's a cad, the whippersnapper."
1194 "I tell 'ee, lads, I seed 'em plain
1195 Down in the Rough at Shifford's Main,
1196 Old Squire stamping like a Duke,
1197 So red with blood I thought he'd puke
1198 In appleplexie, as they do.
1199 Miss Jane stood just as white as dew
1200 And heard him out in just white heat,
1201 And then she trimmed him down a treat.
1202 About Miss Lou it was, or Carrie
1203 (She'd be a pretty peach to marry)."
1204 "Her'll draw up-wind, so us'll go
1205 Down by the furze, we'll see 'em so."
1206 "Look, there they go, lad!"
1207 There they went,
1208 Across the brook and up the bent,
1209 Past Primrose Wood, past Brady Ride,
1210 Along Ghost Heath to cover side.
1211 The bobbing scarlet, trotting pack,
1212 Turf scatters tossed behind each back,
1213 Some horses blowing with a whinny,
1214 A jam of horses in the spinney,
1215 Close to the ride-gate; leather straining,
1216 Saddles all creaking, men complaining,
1217 Chaffing each other as they past,
1218 On Ghost Heath turf they trotted fast.
1219 Now as they neared the Ghost Heath Wood
1220 Some riders grumbled, "What 's the good?
1221 It 's shot all day and poached all night.
1222 We shall draw blank and lose the light,
1223 And lose the scent and lose the day.
1224 Why can't he draw Hope Goneaway,
1225 Or Tuttocks Wood, instead of this?
1226 There's no fox here, there never is."
1227 But as he trotted up to cover
1228 Robin was watching to discover
1229 What chance there was, and many a token
1230 Told him that though no hound had spoken,
1231 Most of them stirred to something there.
1232 The old hounds' muzzles searched the air,
1233 Thin ghosts of scents were in their teeth
1234 From foxes which had crossed the Heath
1235 Not very many hours before.
1236 "We'll find," he said, "I'll bet, a score."
1237 Along Ghost Heath they trotted well,
1238 The hoof-cuts made the bruised earth smell,
1239 The shaken brambles scattered drops,
1240 Stray pheasants kukkered out of copse,
1241 Cracking the twigs down with their knockings
1242 And planing out of sight with cockings;
1243 A scut or two lopped white to bramble.
1244 And now they gathered to the gamble
1245 At Ghost Heath Wood on Ghost Heath Down,
1246 The hounds went crackling through the brown
1247 Dry stalks of bracken killed by frost.
1248 The wood stood silent in its host
1249 Of halted trees all winter bare.
1250 The boughs, like veins that suck the air,
1251 Stretched tense, the last leaf scarcely stirred,
1252 There came no song from any bird;
1253 The darkness of the wood stood still
1254 Waiting for fate on Ghost Heath Hill.
1255 The whips crept to the sides to view,
1256 The Master gave the nod, and "Leu,
1257 Leu in. Ed-hoick, ed-hoick. Leu in!"
1258 Went Robin, cracking through the whin
1259 And through the hedge-gap into cover.
1260 The binders crashed as hounds went over,
1261 And cock-cock-cock the pheasants rose.
1262 Then up went stern and down went nose,
1263 And Robin's cheerful tenor cried,
1264 Through hazel-scrub and stub and ride:
1265 "Oh, wind him! beauties, push him out,
1266 Yooi, on to him, Yahout, Yahout,
1267 Oh, push him out, Yooi, wind him, wind him!"
1268 The beauties burst the scrub to find him;
1269 They nosed the warren's clipped green lawn,
1270 The bramble and the broom were drawn,
1271 The covert's northern end was blank.
1272 They turned to draw along the bank
1273 Through thicker cover than the Rough,
1274 Through three-and-four-year understuff
1275 Where Robin's forearm screened his eyes;
1276 "Yooi, find him, beauties," came his cries.
1277 "Hark, hark to Daffodil," the laughter
1278 Fal'n from his horn, brought whimpers after,
1279 For ends of scents were everywhere.
1280 He said, "This Hope's a likely lair,
1281 And there's his billets, grey and furred.
1282 And George, he's moving, there's a bird."
1283 A blue uneasy jay was chacking
1284 (A swearing screech, like tearing sacking)
1285 From tree to tree, as in pursuit,
1286 He said, "That's it. There's fox afoot.
1287 And there, they're feathering, there she speaks.
1288 Good Daffodil, good Tarrybreeks,
1289 Hark there to Daffodil, hark, hark!"
1290 The mild horn's note, the soft-flaked spark
1291 Of music fell on that rank scent.
1292 From heart to wild heart magic went.
1293 The whimpering quivered, quavered, rose.
1294 "Daffodil has it. There she goes.
1295 Oh, hark to her!" With wild high crying
1296 From frantic hearts the hounds went flying
1297 To Daffodil, for that rank taint.
1298 A waft of it came warm but faint
1299 In Robin's mouth, and faded so.
1300 "First find a fox, then let him go,"
1301 Cried Robin Dawe. "For any sake
1302 Ring, Charley, till you're fit to break."
1303 He cheered his beauties like a lover
1304 And charged beside them into cover.
1305 On old Cold Crendon's windy tops
1306 Grows wintrily Blown Hilcote Copse,
1307 Wind-bitten beech with badger barrows,
1308 Where brocks cat wasp-grubs with their marrows
1309 And foxes lie on short-grassed turf,
1310 Nose between paws, to hear the surf
1311 Of wind in the beeches drowsily.
1312 There was our fox bred lustily
1313 Three years before, and there he berthed,
1314 Under the beech-roots snugly earthed,
1315 With a roof of flint and a floor of chalk
1316 And ten bitten hens' heads each on its stalk,
1317 Some rabbits' paws, some fur from scuts,
1318 A badger's corpse and a smell of guts.
1319 And there on the night before my tale
1320 He trotted out for a point in the vale.
1321 He saw, from the cover edge, the valley
1322 Go trooping down with its droops of sally
1323 To the brimming river's lipping bend,
1324 And a light in the inn at Water's End.
1325 He heard the owl go hunting by
1326 And the shriek of the mouse the owl made die,
1327 And the purr of the owl as he tore the red
1328 Strings from between his claws and fed;
1329 The smack of joy of the horny lips
1330 Marbled green with the blobby strips.
1331 He saw the farms where the dogs were barking,
1332 Cold Crendon Court and Copsecote Larking;
1333 The fault with the spring as bright as gleed,
1334 Green-slash-laced with water weed.
1335 A glare in the sky still marked the town,
1336 Though all folk slept and the blinds were down,
1337 The street lamps watched the empty square,
1338 The night-cat sang his evil there.
1339 The fox's nose tipped up and round,
1340 Since smell is a part of sight and sound.
1341 Delicate smells were drifting by,
1342 The sharp nose flaired them heedfully;
1343 Partridges in the clover stubble,
1344 Crouched in a ring for the stoat to nubble.
1345 Rabbit bucks beginning to box;
1346 A scratching place for the pheasant cocks,
1347 A hare in the dead grass near the drain,
1348 And another smell like the spring again.
1349 A faint rank taint like April coming,
1350 It cocked his ears and his blood went drumming,
1351 For somewhere out by Ghost Heath Stubs
1352 Was a roving vixen wanting cubs.
1353 Over the valley, floating faint
1354 On a warmth of windflaw, came the taint;
1355 He cocked his ears, he upped his brush,
1356 And he went upwind like an April thrush.
1357 By the Roman Road to Braiches Ridge,
1358 Where the fallen willow makes a bridge,
1359 Over the brook by White Hart's Thorn
1360 To the acres thin with pricking corn,
1361 Over the sparse green hair of the wheat,
1362 By the Clench Brook Mill at Clench Brook Leat,
1363 Through Cowfoot Pastures to Nonely Stevens,
1364 And away to Poltrewood St. Jevons.
1365 Past Tott Hill Down all snaked with meuses,
1366 Past Clench St. Michael and Naunton Crucis,
1367 Past Howle's Oak Farm where the raving brain
1368 Of a dog who heard him foamed his chain;
1369 Then off, as the farmer's window opened,
1370 Past Stonepits Farm to Upton Hope End,
1371 Over short sweet grass and worn flint arrows
1372 And the three dumb hows of Tencombe Barrows.
1373 And away and away with a rolling scramble,
1374 Through the sally and up the bramble,
1375 With a nose for the smells the night wind carried,
1376 And his red fell clean for being married;
1377 For clicketting time and Ghost Heath Wood
1378 Had put the violet in his blood.
1379 At Tencombe Rings near the Manor Linney
1380 His foot made the great black stallion whinny,
1381 And the stallion's whinny aroused the stable
1382 And the bloodhound bitches stretched their cable,
1383 And the clink of the bloodhounds' chain aroused
1384 The sweet-breathed kye as they chewed and drowsed,
1385 And the stir of the cattle changed the dream
1386 Of the cat in the loft to tense green gleam.
1387 The red-wattled black cock hot from Spain
1388 Crowed from his perch for dawn again,
1389 His breast-pufft hens, one-legged on perch,
1390 Gurgled, beak-down, like men in church,
1391 They crooned in the dark, lifting one red eye
1392 In the raftered roost as the fox went by.
1393 By Tencombe Regis and Slaughters Court,
1394 Through the great grass square of Roman Fort,
1395 By Nun's Wood Yews and the Hungry Hill,
1396 And the Corpse Way Stones all standing still.
1397 By Seven Springs Mead to Deerlip Brook,
1398 And a lolloping leap to Water Hook.
1399 Then with eyes like sparks and his blood awoken,
1400 Over the grass to Water's Oaken,
1401 And over the hedge and into ride
1402 In Ghost Heath Wood for his roving bride.
1403 Before the dawn he had loved and fed
1404 And found a kennel, and gone to bed
1405 On a shelf of grass in a thick of gorse
1406 That would bleed a hound and blind a horse.
1407 There he slept in the mild west weather
1408 With his nose and brush well tucked together,
1409 He slept like a child, who sleeps yet hears
1410 With the self who needs neither eyes nor ears.
1411 He slept while the pheasant cock untucked
1412 His head from his wing flew down and kukked,
1413 While the drove of the starlings whirred and wheeled
1414 Out of the ash-trees into field,
1415 While with great black flags that flogged and paddled
1416 The rooks went out to the plough and straddled,
1417 Straddled wide on the moist red cheese
1418 Of the furrows driven at Uppat's Leas.
1419 Down in the village men awoke,
1420 The chimneys breathed with a faint blue smoke.
1421 The fox slept on, though tweaks and twitches,
1422 Due to his dreams, ran down his flitches.
1423 The cows were milked and the yards were sluiced,
1424 And the cocks and hens let out of roost,
1425 Windows were opened, mats were beaten,
1426 All men's breakfasts were cooked and eaten;
1427 But out in the gorse on the grassy shelf
1428 The sleeping fox looked after himself.
1429 Deep in his dream he heard the life
1430 Of the woodland seek for food or wife,
1431 The hop of a stoat, a buck that thumped,
1432 The squeal of a rat as a weasel jumped,
1433 The blackbird's chackering scattering crying,
1434 The rustling bents from the rabbits flying,
1435 Cows in a byre, and distant men,
1436 And Condicote church-clock striking ten.
1437 At eleven o'clock a boy went past,
1438 With a rough-haired terrier following fast.
1439 The boy's sweet whistle and dog's quick yap
1440 Woke the fox from out of his nap.
1441 He rose and stretched till the claws in his pads
1442 Stuck hornily out like long black gads.
1443 He listened a while, and his nose went round
1444 To catch the smell of the distant sound.
1445 The windward smells came free from taint---
1446 They were rabbit, strongly, with lime-kiln, faint,
1447 A wild-duck, likely, at Sars Holt Pond,
1448 And sheep on the Sars Holt Down beyond.
1449 The leeward smells were much less certain,
1450 For the Ghost Heath Hill was like a curtain,
1451 Yet vague, from the leeward, now and then,
1452 Came muffled sounds like the sound of men.
1453 He moved to his right to a clearer space,
1454 And all his soul came into his face,
1455 Into his eyes and into his nose,
1456 As over the hill a murmur rose.
1457 His ears were cocked and his keen nose flaired,
1458 He sneered with his lips till his teeth were bared,
1459 He trotted right and lifted a pad
1460 Trying to test what foes he had.
1461 On Ghost Heath turf was a steady drumming
1462 Which sounded like horses quickly coming,
1463 It died as the hunt went down the dip,
1464 Then Malapert yelped at Myngs's whip.
1465 A bright iron horseshoe clinked on stone,
1466 Then a man's voice spoke, not one alone,
1467 Then a burst of laughter, swiftly still,
1468 Muffled away by Ghost Heath Hill.
1469 Then, indistinctly, the clop, clip, clep,
1470 On Brady Ride, of a horse's step.
1471 Then silence, then, in a burst, much clearer,
1472 Voices and horses coming nearer,
1473 And another noise, of a pit-pat beat
1474 On the Ghost Hill grass, of foxhound feet.
1475 He sat on his haunches listening hard,
1476 While his mind went over the compass card.
1477 Men were coming and rest was done,
1478 But he still had time to get fit to run;
1479 He could outlast horse and outrace hound,
1480 But men were devils from Lobs's Pound.
1481 Scent was burning, the going good,
1482 The world one lust for a fox's blood,
1483 The main earths stopped and the drains put to,
1484 And fifteen miles to the land he knew.
1485 But of all the ills, the ill least pleasant
1486 Was to run in the light when men were present.
1487 Men in the fields to shout and sign
1488 For a lift of hounds to a fox's line.
1489 Men at the earth, at the long point's end,
1490 Men at each check and none his friend,
1491 Guessing each shift that a fox contrives;
1492 But still, needs must when the devil drives.
1493 He readied himself, then a soft horn blew,
1494 Then a clear voice caroled, "Ed-hoick. Eleu."
1495 Then the wood-end rang with the clear voice crying
1496 And the cackle of scrub where hounds were trying.
1497 Then the horn blew nearer, a hound's voice quivered,
1498 Then another, then more, till his body shivered,
1499 He left his kennel and trotted thence
1500 With his ears flexed back and his nerves all tense.
1501 He trotted down with his nose intent
1502 For a fox's line to cross his scent,
1503 It was only fair (he being a stranger)
1504 That the native fox should have the danger.
1505 Danger was coming, so swift, so swift,
1506 That the pace of his trot began to lift
1507 The blue-winged Judas, a jay began
1508 Swearing, hounds whimpered, air stank of man.
1509 He hurried his trotting, he now felt frighted,
1510 It was his poor body made hounds excited.
1511 He felt as he ringed the great wood through
1512 That he ought to make for the land he knew.
1513 Then the hounds' excitement quivered and quickened,
1514 Then a horn blew death till his marrow sickened,
1515 Then the wood behind was a crash of cry
1516 For the blood in his veins; it made him fly.
1517 They were on his line; it was death to stay.
1518 He must make for home by the shortest way,
1519 But with all this yelling and all this wrath
1520 And all these devils, how find a path?
1521 He ran like a stag to the wood's north corner,
1522 Where the hedge was thick and the ditch a yawner,
1523 But the scarlet glimpse of Myngs on Turk,
1524 Watching the woodside, made him shirk.
1525 He ringed the wood and looked at the south.
1526 What wind there was blew into his mouth.
1527 But close to the woodland's blackthorn thicket
1528 Was Dansey, still as a stone, on picket.
1529 At Dansey's back were a twenty more
1530 Watching the cover and pressing fore.
1531 The fox drew in and flaired with his muzzle.
1532 Death was there if he messed the puzzle.
1533 There were men without and hounds within,
1534 A crying that stiffened the hair on skin.
1535 Teeth in cover and death without,
1536 Both deaths coming, and no way out.
1537 His nose ranged swiftly, his heart beat fast,
1538 Then a crashing cry rose up in a blast,
1539 Then horse-hooves trampled, then horses' flitches
1540 Burst their way through the hazel switches.
1541 Then the horn again made the hounds like mad,
1542 And a man, quite near, said, "Found, by Gad!"
1543 And a man, quite near, said, "Now he'll break.
1544 Larks Leybourne Copse is the line he'll take."
1545 And men moved up with their talk and stink
1546 And the traplike noise of the horseshoe clink.
1547 Men whose coming meant death from teeth
1548 In a worrying wrench, with him beneath.
1549 The fox sneaked down by the cover side
1550 (With his ears flexed back) as a snake would glide;
1551 He took the ditch at the cover-end,
1552 He hugged the ditch as his only friend.
1553 The blackbird cock with the golden beak
1554 Got out of his way with a jabbering shriek,
1555 And the shriek told Tom on the raking bay
1556 That for eighteenpence he was gone away.
1557 He ran in the hedge in the triple growth
1558 Of bramble and hawthorn, glad of both,
1559 Till a couple of fields were past, and then
1560 Came the living death of the dread of men.
1561 Then, as he listened, he heard a "Hoy!"
1562 Tom Dansey's horn and "Awa-wa-woy!"
1563 Then all hounds crying with all their forces,
1564 Then a thundering down of seventy horses.
1565 Robin Dawe's horn and halloes of "Hey
1566 Hark Hollar, Hoik!" and "Gone away!"
1567 "Hark Hollar Hoik!" and a smack of the whip,
1568 A yelp as a tail hound caught the clip.
1569 "Hark Hollar, Hark Hollar!" then Robin made
1570 Pip go crash through the cut and laid.
1571 Hounds were over and on his line
1572 With a head like bees upon Tipple Tine.
1573 The sound of the nearness sent a flood
1574 Of terror of death through the fox's blood.
1575 He upped his brush and he cocked his nose,
1576 And he went upwind as a racer goes.
1577 Bold Robin Dawe was over first,
1578 Cheering his hounds on at the burst;
1579 The field were spurring to be in it.
1580 "Hold hard, sirs, give them half a minute,"
1581 Came from Sir Peter on his white.
1582 The hounds went romping with delight
1583 Over the grass and got together,
1584 The tail hounds galloped hell-for-leather
1585 After the pack at Myngs's yell.
1586 A cry like every kind of bell
1587 Rang from these rompers as they raced.
1588 The riders, thrusting to be placed,
1589 Jammed down their hats and shook their horses;
1590 The hounds romped past with all their forces,
1591 They crashed into the blackthorn fence.
1592 The scent was heavy on their sense,
1593 So hot, it seemed the living thing,
1594 It made the blood within them sing;
1595 Gusts of it made their hackles rise,
1596 Hot gulps of it were agonies
1597 Of joy, and thirst for blood and passion.
1598 "Forrard!" cried Robin, "that's the fashion."
1599 He raced beside his pack to cheer.
1600 The field's noise died upon his ear,
1601 A faint horn, far behind, blew thin
1602 In cover, lest some hound were in.
1603 Then instantly the great grass rise
1604 Shut field and cover from his eyes,
1605 He and his racers were alone.
1606 "A dead fox or a broken bone,"
1607 Said Robin, peering for his prey.
1608 The rise, which shut the field away,
1609 Showed him the vale's great map spread out,
1610 The down's lean flank and thrusting snout,
1611 Pale pastures, red-brown plough, dark wood,
1612 Blue distance, still as solitude,
1613 Glitter of water here and there,
1614 The trees so delicately bare,
1615 The dark green gorse and bright green holly.
1616 "O glorious God," he said, "how jolly!"
1617 And there downhill two fields ahead
1618 The lolloping red dog-fox sped
1619 Over Poor Pastures to the brook.
1620 He grasped these things in one swift look,
1621 Then dived into the bullfinch heart
1622 Through thorns that ripped his sleeves apart
1623 And skutched new blood upon his brow.
1624 "His point's Lark's Leybourne Covers now,"
1625 Said Robin, landing with a grunt.
1626 "Forrard, my beautifuls!"
1627 The hunt
1628 Followed downhill to race with him,
1629 White Rabbit, with his swallow's skim,
1630 Drew within hail. "Quick burst, Sir Peter."
1631 "A traveller. Nothing could be neater.
1632 Making for Godsdown Clumps, I take it?"
1633 "Lark's Leybourne, sir, if he can make it.
1635 Bill Ridden thundered down,
1636 His big mouth grinned beneath his frown,
1637 The hounds were going away from horses.
1638 He saw the glint of watercourses,
1639 Yell Brook and Wittold's Dyke, ahead,
1640 His horseshoes sliced the green turf red.
1641 Young Cothill's chaser rushed and past him,
1642 Nob Manor, running next, said "Blast him!
1643 The poet chap who thinks he rides."
1644 Hugh Colway's mare made straking strides
1645 Across the grass, the Colonel next,
1646 Then Squire, volleying oaths, and vext,
1647 Fighting his hunter for refusing;
1648 Bell Ridden, like a cutter cruising,
1649 Sailing the grass; then Cob on Warder,
1650 Then Minton Price upon Marauder;
1651 Ock Gurney with his eyes intense,
1652 Burning as with a different sense,
1653 His big mouth muttering glad "By damns!"
1654 Then Pete, crouched down from head to hams,
1655 Rapt like a saint, bright focussed flame;
1656 Bennett, with devils in his wame,
1657 Chewing black cud and spitting slanting;
1658 Copse scattering jests and Stukely ranting;
1659 Sal Ridden taking line from Dansey;
1660 Long Robert forcing Necromancy;
1661 A dozen more with bad beginnings;
1662 Myngs riding hard to snatch an innings.
1663 A wild last hound with high shrill yelps
1664 Smacked forrard with some whipthong skelps.
1665 Then last of all, at top of rise,
1666 The crowd on foot, all gasps and eyes;
1667 The run up hill had winded them.
1668 They saw the Yell Brook like a gem
1669 Blue in the grass a short mile on;
1670 They heard faint cries, but hounds were gone
1671 A good eight fields and out of sight,
1672 Except a rippled glimmer white
1673 Going away with dying cheering,
1674 And scarlet flappings disappearing,
1675 And scattering horses going, going,
1676 Going like mad, White Rabbit snowing
1677 Far on ahead, a loose horse taking
1678 Fence after fence with stirrups shaking,
1679 And scarlet specks and dark specks dwindling.
1680 Nearer, were twigs knocked into kindling,
1681 A much bashed fence still dropping stick,
1682 Flung clods still quivering from the kick;
1683 Cut hoof-marks pale in cheesy clay,
1684 The horse-smell blowing clean away;
1685 Birds flitting back into the cover.
1686 One last faint cry, then all was over.
1687 The hunt had been, and found, and gone.
1688 At Neaking's Farm three furlongs on,
1689 Hounds raced across the Waysmore Road,
1690 Where many of the riders slowed
1691 To tittup down a grassy lane
1692 Which led as hounds led in the main,
1693 And gave no danger of a fall.
1694 There as they tittupped one and all,
1695 Big Twenty Stone came scattering by,
1696 His great mare made the hoof-casts fly.
1697 "By leave!" he cried. "Come on! Come up!
1698 This fox is running like a tup;
1699 Let's leave this lane and get to terms,
1700 No sense in crawling here like worms.
1701 Come, let me pass and let me start.
1702 This fox is running like a hart,
1703 And this is going to be a run.
1704 Come on, I want to see the fun.
1705 Thanky. By leave! Now, Maiden, do it."
1706 He faced the fence and put her through it,
1707 Shielding his eyes lest spikes should blind him;
1708 The crashing blackthorn closed behind him.
1709 Mud-scatters chased him as he scudded;
1710 His mare's ears cocked, her neat feet thudded.
1711 The kestrel cruising over meadow
1712 Watched the hunt gallop on his shadow,
1713 Wee figures, almost at a stand,
1714 Crossing the multicoloured land,
1715 Slow as a shadow on a dial.
1716 Some horses, swerving at a trial,
1717 Balked at a fence: at gates they bunched.
1718 The mud about the gates was dunched
1719 Like German cheese; men pushed for places
1720 And kicked the mud into the faces
1721 Of those who made them room to pass.
1722 The half-mile's gallop on the grass
1723 Had tailed them out and warmed their blood.
1724 "His point's the Banner Barton Wood."
1725 "That, or Goat's Gorse." "A stinger, this."
1726 "You're right in that; by Jove, it is."
1727 "An upwind travelling fox, by George!"
1728 "They say Tom viewed him at the forge."
1729 "Well, let me pass and let's be on."
1730 They crossed the lane to Tolderton,
1731 The hill-marl died to valley clay,
1732 And there before them ran the grey
1733 Yell Water, swirling as it ran,
1734 The Yell Brook of the hunting man.
1735 The hunters eyed it and were grim.
1736 They saw the water snaking slim
1737 Ahead, like silver; they could see
1738 (Each man) his pollard willow-tree
1739 Firming the bank; they felt their horses
1740 Catch the gleam's hint and gather forces;
1741 They heard the men behind draw near.
1742 Each horse was trembling as a spear
1743 Trembles in hand when tense to hurl.
1744 They saw the brimmed brook's eddies curl;
1745 The willow-roots like water-snakes;
1746 The beaten holes the ratten makes.
1747 They heard the water's rush; they heard
1748 Hugh Colway's mare come like a bird;
1749 A faint cry from the hounds ahead.
1750 Then saddle-strain, the bright hooves' tread,
1751 Quick words, the splash of mud, the launch,
1752 The sick hope that the bank be staunch,
1753 Then Souse, with Souse to left and right.
1754 Maroon across, Sir Peter's white
1755 Down but pulled up, Tom over, Hugh
1756 Mud to the hat but over too,
1757 Well splashed by Squire, who was in.
1758 With draggled pink stuck close to skin
1759 The Squire leaned from bank and hauled
1760 His mired horse's rein; he bawled
1761 For help from each man racing by.
1762 "What, help you pull him out? Not I.
1763 What made you pull him in?" They said.
1764 Nob Manor cleared and turned his head,
1765 And cried, "Wade up. The ford's upstream."
1766 Ock Gurney in a cloud of steam
1767 Stood by his dripping cob and wrung
1768 The taste of brook mud from his tongue,
1769 And scraped his poor cob's pasterns clean.
1770 "Lord, what a crowner we've a-been.
1771 This jumping brook's a mucky job."
1772 He muttered, grinning, "Lord, poor cob!
1773 Now, sir, let me." He turned to Squire
1774 And cleared his hunter from the mire
1775 By skill and sense and strength of arm.
1776 Meanwhile the fox passed Nonesuch Farm,
1777 Keeping the spinney on his right.
1778 Hounds raced him here with all their might
1779 Along the short firm grass, like fire.
1780 The cowman viewed him from the byre
1781 Lolloping on, six fields ahead,
1782 Then hounds, still carrying such a head
1783 It made him stare, then Rob on Pip,
1784 Sailing the great grass like a ship,
1785 Then grand Maroon in all his glory,
1786 Sweeping his strides, his great chest hoary
1787 With foam fleck and the pale hill-marl.
1788 They strode the Leet, they flew the Snarl,
1789 They knocked the nuts at Nonesuch Mill,
1790 Raced up the spur of Gallows Hill
1791 And viewed him there. The line he took
1792 Was Tineton and the Pantry Brook,
1793 Going like fun and hounds like mad.
1794 Tom glanced to see what friends he had
1795 Still within sight, before he turned
1796 The ridge's shoulder; he discerned,
1797 One field away, young Cothill sailing
1798 Easily up. Pete Gurney failing,
1799 Hugh Colway quartering on Sir Peter,
1800 Bill waiting on the mare to beat her,
1801 Sal Ridden skirting to the right.
1802 A horse, with stirrups flashing bright
1803 Over his head at every stride,
1804 Looked like the Major's; Tom espied
1805 Far back a scarlet speck of man
1806 Running, and straddling as he ran.
1807 Charles Copse was up, Nob Manor followed,
1808 Then Bennett's big-boned black that wallowed,
1809 Clumsy, but with the strength of ten.
1810 Then black and brown and scarlet men,
1811 Brown horses, white and black and grey,
1812 Scattered a dozen fields away.
1813 The shoulder shut the scene away.
1814 From the Gallows Hill to the Tineton Copse
1815 There were ten ploughed fields, like ten full-stops,
1816 All wet red clay, where a horse's foot
1817 Would be swathed, feet thick, like an ash-tree root.
1818 The fox raced on, on the headlands firm,
1819 Where his swift feet scared the coupling worm;
1820 The rooks rose raving to curse him raw,
1821 He snarled a sneer at their swoop and caw.
1822 Then on, then on, down a half-ploughed field
1823 Where a ship-like plough drove glitter-keeled,
1824 With a bay horse near and a white horse leading,
1825 And a man saying "Zook," and the red earth bleeding.
1826 He gasped as he saw the ploughman drop
1827 The stilts and swear at the team to stop.
1828 The ploughman ran in his red clay clogs,
1829 Crying, "Zick un, Towzer; zick, good dogs!"
1830 A couple of wire-haired lurchers lean
1831 Arose from his wallet, nosing keen;
1832 With a rushing swoop they were on his track,
1833 Putting chest to stubble to bite his back.
1834 He swerved from his line with the curs at heel,
1835 The teeth as they missed him clicked like steel.
1836 With a worrying snarl, they quartered on him,
1837 While the ploughman shouted, "Zick; upon him."
1838 The lurcher dogs soon shot their bolt,
1839 And the fox raced on by the Hazel Holt,
1840 Down the dead grass tilt to the sandstone gash
1841 Of the Pantry Brook at Tineton Ash.
1842 The loitering water, flooded full,
1843 Had yeast on its lip like raddled wool,
1844 It was wrinkled over with Arab script
1845 Of eddies that twisted up and slipped
1846 The stepping-stones had a rush about them,
1847 So the fox plunged in and swam without them.
1848 He crossed to the cattle's drinking shallow,
1849 Firmed up with rush and the roots of mallow;
1850 He wrung his coat from his draggled bones
1851 And romped away for the Sarsen Stones.
1852 A sneaking glance with his ears flexed back
1853 Made sure that his scent had failed the pack,
1854 For the red clay, good for corn and roses,
1855 Was cold for scent and brought hounds to noses
1856 He slackened pace by the Tineton Tree
1857 (A vast hollow ash-tree grown in three),
1858 He wriggled a shake and padded slow,
1859 Not sure if the hounds were on or no.
1860 A horn blew faint, then he heard the sounds
1861 Of a cantering huntsman, lifting hounds;
1862 The ploughman had raised his hat for sign,
1863 And the hounds were lifted and on his line.
1864 He heard the splash in the Pantry Brook,
1865 And a man's voice: "Thiccy's the line he took."
1866 And a clear "Yoi doit!" and a whimpering quaver,
1867 Though the lurcher dogs had dulled the savour.
1868 The fox went off while the hounds made halt,
1869 And the horses breathed and the field found fault,
1870 But the whimpering rose to a crying crash
1871 By the hollow ruin of Tineton Ash.
1872 Then again the kettledrum horsehooves beat,
1873 And the green blades bent to the fox's feet,
1874 And the cry rose keen not far behind
1875 Of the "Blood, blood, blood," in the foxhounds' mind.
1876 The fox was strong, he was full of running,
1877 He could run for an hour and then be cunning,
1878 But the cry behind him made him chill,
1879 They were nearer now and they meant to kill.
1880 They meant to run him until his blood
1881 Clogged on his heart as his brush with mud,
1882 Till his back bent up and his tongue hung flagging,
1883 And his belly and brush were filthed from dragging.
1884 Till he crouched stone-still, dead-beat and dirty,
1885 With nothing but teeth against the thirty.
1886 And all the way to that blinding end
1887 He would meet with men and have none his friend:
1888 Men to holloa and men to run him,
1889 With stones to stagger and yells to stun him;
1890 Men to head him, with whips to beat him,
1891 Teeth to mangle and mouths to eat him.
1892 And all the way, that wild high crying.
1893 To cold his blood with the thought of dying,
1894 The horn and the cheer, and the drum-like thunder
1895 Of the horsehooves stamping the meadows under.
1896 He upped his brush and went with a will
1897 For the Sarsen Stones on Wan Dyke Hill.
1898 As he ran the meadow by Tineton Church
1899 A christening party left the porch;
1900 They stood stock still as he pounded by,
1901 They wished him luck but they thought he'd die.
1902 The toothless babe in his long white coat
1903 Looked delicate meat, the fox took note;
1904 But the sight of them grinning there, pointing finger,
1905 Made him put on steam till he went a stinger.
1906 Past Tineton Church, over Tineton Waste,
1907 With the lolloping ease of a fox's haste,
1908 The fur on his chest blown dry with the air,
1909 His brush still up and his cheek-teeth bare.
1910 Over the Waste, where the ganders grazed,
1911 The long swift lilt of his loping lazed,
1912 His ears cocked up as his blood ran higher,
1913 He saw his point, and his eyes took fire.
1914 The Wan Dyke Hill with its fir-tree barren,
1915 Its dark of gorse and its rabbit-warren,
1916 The Dyke on its heave like a tightened girth,
1917 And holes in the Dyke where a fox might earth.
1918 He had rabbited there long months before,
1919 The earths were deep and his need was sore;
1920 The way was new, but he took a bearing,
1921 And rushed like a blown ship billow-sharing.
1922 Off Tineton Common to Tineton Dean,
1923 Where the wind-hid elders pushed with green;
1924 Through the Dean's thin cover across the lane,
1925 And up Midwinter to King of Spain.
1926 Old Joe, at digging his garden grounds,
1927 Said: "A fox, being hunted; where be hounds?
1928 O lord, my back, to be young again,
1929 'Stead a zellin' zider in King of Spain!
1930 O hark! I hear 'em, O sweet, O sweet.
1931 Why there be redcoat in Gearge's wheat.
1932 And there be redcoat, and there they gallop.
1933 Thur go a browncoat down a wallop.
1934 Quick, Ellen, quick! Come, Susan, fly!
1935 Here'm hounds. I zeed the fox go by,
1936 Go by like thunder, go by like blasting,
1937 With his girt white teeth all looking ghasting.
1938 Look, there come hounds! Hark, hear 'em crying?
1939 Lord, belly to stubble, ain't they flying!
1940 There's huntsman, there. The fox come past
1941 (As I was digging) as fast as fast.
1942 He's only been gone a minute by;
1943 A girt dark dog as pert as pye."
1944 Ellen and Susan came out scattering
1945 Brooms and dustpans till all was clattering;
1946 They saw the pack come head-to-foot
1947 Running like racers, nearly mute;
1948 Robin and Dansey quartering near
1949 All going gallop like startled deer.
1950 A half-dozen flitting scarlets showing
1951 In the thin green Dean where the pines were growing.
1952 Black coats and brown coats thrusting and spurring,
1953 Sending the partridge coveys whirring.
1954 Then a rattle uphill and a clop up lane,
1955 It emptied the bar of the King of Spain.
1956 Tom left his cider, Dick left his bitter,
1957 Granfer James left his pipe and spitter;
1958 Out they came from the sawdust floor.
1959 They said, "They'm going." They said, "O Lor'!"
1960 The fox raced on, up the Barton Balks,
1961 With a crackle of kex in the nettle stalks,
1962 Over Hammond's grass to the dark green line
1963 Of the larch-wood smelling of turpentine.
1964 Scratch Steven Larches, black to the sky,
1965 A sadness breathing with one long sigh,
1966 Grey ghosts of trees under funeral plumes,
1967 A mist of twig over soft brown glooms.
1968 As he entered the wood he heard the smacks,
1969 Chip-jar, of the fir-pole feller's axe.
1970 He swerved to the left to a broad green ride,
1971 Where a boy made him rush for the farther side.
1972 He swerved to the left, to the Barton Road,
1973 But there were the timberers come to load---
1974 Two timber-carts and a couple of carters
1975 With straps round their knees instead of garters.
1976 He swerved to the right, straight down the wood,
1977 The carters watched him, the boy hallooed.
1978 He leaped from the larch-wood into tillage,
1979 The cobbler's garden of Barton village.
1980 The cobbler bent at his wooden foot,
1981 Beating sprigs in a broken boot;
1982 He wore old glasses with thick horn rim,
1983 He scowled at his work, for his sight was dim.
1984 His face was dingy, his lips were grey,
1985 From primming sparrowbills day by day.
1986 As he turned his boot he heard a noise
1987 At his garden-end, and he thought, "It's boys."
1988 He saw his cat nip up on the shed,
1989 Where her back arched up till it touched her head;
1990 He saw his rabbit race round and round
1991 Its little black box three feet from ground.
1992 His six hens cluckered and flocked to perch,
1993 "That's boys," said cobbler, "so I'll go search."
1994 He reached his stick and blinked in his wrath,
1995 When he saw a fox in his garden path.
1996 The fox swerved left and scrambled out,
1997 Knocking crinked green shells from the brussels-sprout
1998 He scrambled out through the cobbler's paling,
1999 And up Pill's orchard to Purton's Tailing,
2000 Across the plough at the top of bent,
2001 Through the heaped manure to kill his scent,
2002 Over to Aldam's, up to Cappell's,
2003 Past Nursery Lot with its whitewashed apples,
2004 Past Colston's Broom, past Gaunt's, past Shere's,
2005 Past Foxwhelps' Oasts with their hooded ears,
2006 Past Monk's Ash Clerewell, past Beggars' Oak,
2007 Past the great elms blue with the Hinton smoke.
2008 Along Long Hinton to Hinton Green,
2009 Where the wind-washed steeple stood serene
2010 With its golden bird still sailing air.
2011 Past Banner Barton, past Chipping Bare,
2012 Past Maddings Hollow, down Dundry Dip,
2013 And up Goose Grass to the Sailing Ship.
2014 The three black firs of the Ship stood still
2015 On the bare chalk heave of the Dundry Hill.
2016 The fox looked back as he slackened past
2017 The scaled red-bole of the mizen-mast.
2018 There they were coming, mute but swift---
2019 A scarlet smear in the blackthorn rift,
2020 A white horse rising, a dark horse flying,
2021 And the hungry hounds too tense for crying.
2022 Stormcock leading, his stern spear straight,
2023 Racing as though for a piece of plate,
2024 Little speck horsemen field on field;
2025 Then Dansey viewed him and Robin squealed.
2026 At the "View Halloo!" the hounds went frantic,
2027 Back went Stormcock and up went Antic,
2028 Up went Skylark as Antic sped,
2029 It was zest to blood how they carried head.
2030 Skylark drooped as Maroon drew by,
2031 Their hackles lifted, they scored to cry.
2032 The fox knew well that, before they tore him,
2033 They should try their speed on the downs before him.
2034 There were three more miles to the Wan Dyke Hill,
2035 But his heart was high that he beat them still.
2036 The wind of the downland charmed his bones,
2037 So off he went for the Sarsen Stones.
2038 The moan of the three great firs in the wind
2039 And the "Ai" of the foxhounds died behind;
2040 Wind-dapples followed the hill-wind's breath
2041 On the Kill Down Gorge where the Danes found death.
2042 Larks scattered up; the peewits feeding
2043 Rose in a flock from the Kill Down Steeding.
2044 The hare leaped up from her form and swerved
2045 Swift left for the Starveall, harebell-turved.
2046 On the wind-bare thorn some longtails prinking
2047 Cried sweet as though wind-blown glass were chinking.
2048 Behind came thudding and loud halloo,
2049 Or a cry from hounds as they came to view.
2050 The pure clean air came sweet to his lungs,
2051 Till he thought foul scorn of those crying tongues.
2052 In a three mile more he would reach the haven
2053 In the Wan Dyke croaked on by the raven.
2054 In a three mile more he would make his berth
2055 On the hard cool floor of a Wan Dyke earth,
2056 Too deep for spade, too curved for terrier,
2057 With the pride of the race to make rest the merrier.
2058 In a three mile more he would reach his dream,
2059 So his game heart gulped and he put on steam.
2060 Like a rocket shot to a ship ashore
2061 The lean red bolt of his body tore,
2062 Like a ripple of wind running swift on grass;
2063 Like a shadow on wheat when a cloud blows past,
2064 Like a turn at the buoy in a cutter sailing
2065 When the bright green gleam lips white at the railing.
2066 Like the April snake whipping back to sheath,
2067 Like the gannets' hurtle on fish beneath,
2068 Like a kestrel chasing, like a sickle reaping,
2069 Like all things swooping, like all things sweeping,
2070 Like a hound for stay, like a stag for swift,
2071 With his shadow beside like spinning drift.
2072 Past the gibbet-stock all stuck with nails,
2073 Where they hanged in chains what had hung at jails,
2074 Past Ashmundshowe where Ashmund sleeps,
2075 And none but the tumbling peewit weeps,
2076 Past Curlew Calling, the gaunt grey corner
2077 Where the curlew comes as a summer mourner,
2078 Past Blowbury Beacon, shaking his fleece,
2079 Where all winds hurry and none brings peace;
2080 Then down on the mile-long green decline,
2081 Where the turf's like spring and the air's like wine,
2082 Where the sweeping spurs of the downland spill
2083 Into Wan Brook Valley and Wan Dyke Hill.
2084 On he went with a galloping rally
2085 Past Maesbury Clump for Wan Brook Valley.
2086 The blood in his veins went romping high,
2087 "Get on, on, on, to the earth or die."
2088 The air of the downs went purely past
2089 Till he felt the glory of going fast,
2090 Till the terror of death, though there indeed,
2091 Was lulled for a while by his pride of speed.
2092 He was romping away from hounds and hunt,
2093 He had Wan Dyke Hill and his earth in front,
2094 In a one mile more when his point was made
2095 He would rest in safety from dog or spade;
2096 Nose between paws he would hear the shout
2097 Of the "Gone to earth!" to the hounds without,
2098 The whine of the hounds, and their cat-feet gadding,
2099 Scratching the earth, and their breath pad-padding:
2100 He would hear the horn call hounds away,
2101 And rest in peace till another day.
2102 In one mile more he would lie at rest,
2103 So for one mile more he would go his best.
2104 He reached the dip at the long droop's end
2105 And he took what speed he had still to spend.
2106 So down past Maesbury beech-clump grey
2107 That would not be green till the end of May,
2108 Past Arthur's Table, the white chalk boulder,
2109 Where pasque flowers purple the down's grey shoulder,
2110 Past Quichelm's Keeping, past Harry's Thorn,
2111 To Thirty Acre all thin with corn.
2112 As he raced the corn towards Wan Dyke Brook
2113 The pack had view of the way he took;
2114 Robin hallooed from the downland's crest,
2115 He capped them on till they did their best.
2116 The quarter-mile to the Wan Brook's brink
2117 Was raced as quick as a man can think.
2118 And here, as he ran to the huntsman's yelling,
2119 The fox first felt that the pace was telling;
2120 His body and lungs seemed all grown old,
2121 His legs less certain, his heart less bold,
2122 The hound-noise nearer, the hill-slope steeper,
2123 The thud in the blood of his body deeper.
2124 His pride in his speed, his joy in the race,
2125 Were withered away, for what use was pace?
2126 He had run his best, and the hounds ran better,
2127 Then the going worsened, the earth was wetter.
2128 Then his brush drooped down till it sometimes dragged,
2129 And his fur felt sick and his chest was tagged
2130 With taggles of mud, and his pads seemed lead,
2131 It was well for him he'd an earth ahead.
2132 Down he went to the brook and over,
2133 Out of the corn and into the clover,
2134 Over the slope that the Wan Brook drains,
2135 Past Battle Tump where they earthed the Danes,
2136 Then up the hill that the Wan Dyke rings
2137 Where the Sarsen Stones stand grand like kings.
2138 Seven Sarsens of granite grim,
2139 As he ran them by they looked at him;
2140 As he leaped the lip of their earthen paling
2141 The hounds were gaining and he was failing.
2142 He passed the Sarsens, he left the spur,
2143 He pressed uphill to the blasted fir,
2144 He slipped as he leaped the hedge; he slithered.
2145 "He's mine," thought Robin. "He's done; he's dithered."
2146 At the second attempt he cleared the fence,
2147 He turned half-right where the gorse was dense,
2148 He was leading hounds by a furlong clear.
2149 He was past his best, but his earth was near.
2150 He ran up gorse to the spring of the ramp,
2151 The steep green wall of the dead men's camp,
2152 He sidled up it and scampered down
2153 To the deep green ditch of the dead men's Town.
2154 Within, as he reached that soft green turf,
2155 The wind, blowing lonely, moaned like surf,
2156 Desolate ramparts rose up steep
2157 On either side, for the ghosts to keep.
2158 He raced the trench, past the rabbit warren,
2159 Close-grown with moss which the wind made barren;
2160 He passed the spring where the rushes spread,
2161 And there in the stones was his earth ahead.
2162 One last short burst upon failing feet---
2163 There life lay waiting, so sweet, so sweet,
2164 Rest in a darkness, balm for aches.
2165 The earth was stopped. It was barred with stakes.
2166 With the hounds at head so close behind
2167 He had to run as he changed his mind.
2168 This earth, as he saw, was stopped, but still
2169 There was one earth more on the Wan Dyke Hill---
2170 A rabbit burrow a furlong on,
2171 He could kennel there till the hounds were gone.
2172 Though his death seemed near he did not blench,
2173 He upped his brush and he ran the trench.
2174 He ran the trench while the wind moaned treble,
2175 Earth trickled down, there were falls of pebble.
2176 Down in the valley of that dark gash
2177 The wind-withered grasses looked like ash.
2178 Trickles of stones and earth fell down
2179 In that dark alley of Dead Men's Town.
2180 A hawk arose from a fluff of feathers,
2181 From a distant fold came a bleat of wethers.
2182 He heard no noise from the hounds behind
2183 But the hill-wind moaning like something blind.
2184 He turned the bend in the hill, and there
2185 Was his rabbit-hole with its mouth worn bare;
2186 But there, with a gun tucked under his arm,
2187 Was young Sid Kissop of Purlpit's Farm,
2188 With a white hob ferret to drive the rabbit
2189 Into a net which was set to nab it.
2190 And young Jack Cole peered over the wall,
2191 And loosed a pup with a "Z'bite en, Saul,"
2192 The terrier pup attacked with a will,
2193 So the fox swerved right and away down hill.
2194 Down from the ramp of the Dyke he ran
2195 To the brackeny patch where the gorse began,
2196 Into the gorse, where the hill's heave hid
2197 The line he took from the eyes of Sid;
2198 He swerved downwind and ran like a hare
2199 For the wind-blown spinney below him there.
2200 He slipped from the gorse to the spinney dark
2201 (There were curled grey growths on the oak-tree bark);
2202 He saw no more of the terrier pup,
2203 But he heard men speak and the hounds come up.
2204 He crossed the spinney with ears intent
2205 For the cry of hounds on the way he went;
2206 His heart was thumping, the hounds were near now,
2207 He could make no sprint at a cry and cheer now,
2208 He was past his perfect, his strength was failing,
2209 His brush sag-sagged and his legs were ailing.
2210 He felt, as he skirted Dead Men's Town,
2211 That in one mile more they would have him down.
2212 Through the withered oak's wind-crouching tops
2213 He saw men's scarlet above the copse,
2214 He heard men's oaths, yet he felt hounds slacken,
2215 In the frondless stalks of the brittle bracken.
2216 He felt that the unseen link which bound
2217 His spine to the nose of the leading hound
2218 Was snapped, that the hounds no longer knew
2219 Which way to follow nor what to do;
2220 That the threat of the hounds' teeth left his neck,
2221 They had ceased to run, they had come to check.
2222 They were quartering wide on the Wan Hill's bent.
2223 The terrier's chase had killed his scent.
2224 He heard bits chink as the horses shifted,
2225 He heard hounds cast, then he heard hounds lifted,
2226 But there came no cry from a new attack;
2227 His heart grew steady, his breath came back.
2228 He left the spinney and ran its edge
2229 By the deep dry ditch of the blackthorn hedge;
2230 Then out of the ditch and down the meadow,
2231 Trotting at ease in the blackthorn shadow,
2232 Over the track called Godsdown Road,
2233 To the great grass heave of the gods' abode.
2234 He was moving now upon land he knew:
2235 Up Clench Royal and Morton Tew,
2236 The Pol Brook, Cheddesdon, and East Stoke Church,
2237 High Clench St. Lawrence and Tinker's Birch.
2238 Land he had roved on night by night,
2239 For hot blood-suckage or furry bite.
2240 The threat of the hounds behind was gone;
2241 He breathed deep pleasure and trotted on.
2242 While young Sid Kissop thrashed the pup
2243 Robin on Pip came heaving up,
2244 And found his pack spread out at check.
2245 "I'd like to wring your terrier's neck,"
2246 He said, "you see? He's spoiled our sport.
2247 He's killed the scent." He broke off short,
2248 And stared at hounds and at the valley.
2249 No jay or magpie gave a rally
2250 Down in the copse, no circling rooks
2251 Rose over fields; old Joyful's looks
2252 Were doubtful in the gorse, the pack
2253 Quested both up and down and back.
2254 He watched each hound for each small sign.
2255 They tried, but could not hit the line,
2256 The scent was gone. The field took place
2257 Out of the way of hounds. The pace
2258 Had tailed them out; though four remained;
2259 Sir Peter, on White Rabbit, stained
2260 Red from the brooks, Bill Ridden cheery,
2261 Hugh Colway with his mare dead weary,
2262 The Colonel with Marauder beat.
2263 They turned towards a thud of feet;
2264 Dansey, and then young Cothill came
2265 (His chestnut mare was galloped tame).
2266 "There's Copse a field behind," he said.
2267 "Those last miles put them all to bed.
2268 They're strung along the downs like flies."
2269 Copse and Nob Manor topped the rise.
2270 "Thank God! A check," they said, "at last."
2271 "They cannot own it; you must cast,"
2272 Sir Peter said. The soft horn blew,
2273 Tom turned the hounds upwind. They drew
2274 Upwind, downhill, by spinney-side.
2275 They tried the brambled ditch; they tried
2276 The swamp, all choked with bright green grass
2277 And clumps of rush, and pools like glass,
2278 Long since the dead men's drinking pond.
2279 They tried the white-leaved oak beyond,
2280 But no hound spoke to it or feathered.
2281 The horse-heads drooped like horses tethered,
2282 The men mopped brows. "An hour's hard run.
2283 Ten miles," they said, "we must have done.
2284 It's all of six from Colston's Gorses."
2285 The lucky got their second horses.
2286 The time ticked by. "He's lost," they muttered.
2287 A pheasant rose. A rabbit scuttered.
2288 Men mopped their scarlet cheeks and drank.
2289 They drew downwind along the bank
2290 (The Wan Way) on the hill's south spur,
2291 Grown with dwarf oak and juniper,
2292 Like dwarves alive, but no hound spoke.
2293 The seepings made the ground one soak.
2294 They turned the spur; the hounds were beat.
2295 Then Robin shifted in his seat
2296 Watching for signs, but no signs showed.
2297 "I'll lift across the Godsdown Road
2298 Beyond the spinney," Robin said.
2299 Tom turned them; Robin went ahead.
2300 Beyond the copse a great grass fallow
2301 Stretched towards Stoke and Cheddesdon Mallow,
2302 A rolling grass where hounds grew keen.
2303 "Yoi doit, then! This is where he's been,"
2304 Said Robin, eager at their joy.
2305 "Yooi, Joyful, lad! Yooi, Cornerboy!
2306 They're on to him."
2307 At his reminders
2308 The keen hounds hurried to the finders.
2309 The finding hounds began to hurry,
2310 Men jammed their hats, prepared to scurry.
2311 The "Ai, Ai," of the cry began,
2312 Its spirit passed to horse and man;
2313 The skirting hounds romped to the cry.
2314 Hound after hound cried "Ai, Ai, Ai,"
2315 Till all were crying, running, closing,
2316 Their heads well up and no heads nosing.
2317 Joyful ahead with spear-straight stern
2318 They raced the great slope to the burn.
2319 Robin beside them, Tom behind
2320 Pointing past Robin down the wind.
2321 For there, two furlongs on, he viewed
2322 On Holy Hill or Cheddesdon Rood,
2323 Just where the ploughland joined the grass,
2324 A speck down the first furrow pass,
2325 A speck the colour of the plough.
2326 "Yonder he goes. We'll have him now,"
2327 He cried. The speck passed slowly on,
2328 It reached the ditch, paused, and was gone.
2329 Then down the slope and up the Rood
2330 Went the hunt's gallop. Godsdown Wood
2331 Dropped its last oak-leaves at the rally.
2332 Over the Rood to High Clench Valley
2333 The gallop led: the redcoats scattered,
2334 The fragments of the hunt were tattered
2335 Over five fields, ev'n since the check.
2336 "A dead fox or a broken neck,"
2337 Said Robin Dawe. "Come up, the Dane."
2338 The hunter lent against the rein,
2339 Cocking his ears; he loved to see
2340 The hounds at cry. The hounds and he
2341 The chiefs in all that feast of pace.
2342 The speck in front began to race.
2343 The fox heard hounds get on to his line,
2344 And again the terror went down his spine;
2345 Again the back of his neck felt cold,
2346 From the sense of the hounds' teeth taking hold.
2347 But his legs were rested, his heart was good,
2348 He had breath to gallop to Mourne End Wood;
2349 It was four miles more, but an earth at end,
2350 So he put on pace down the Rood Hill Bend.
2351 Down the great grass slope which the oak-trees dot,
2352 With a swerve to the right from the keeper's cot,
2353 Over High Clench Brook in its channel deep
2354 To the grass beyond, where he ran to sheep.
2355 The sheep formed line like a troop of horse,
2356 They swerved, as he passed, to front his course.
2357 From behind, as he ran, a cry arose:
2358 "See the sheep there. Watch them. There he goes!"
2359 He ran the sheep that their smell might check
2360 The hounds from his scent and save his neck,
2361 But in two fields more he was made aware
2362 That the hounds still ran; Tom had viewed him there.
2363 Tom had held them on through the taint of sheep;
2364 They had kept his line, as they meant to keep.
2365 They were running hard with a burning scent,
2366 And Robin could see which way he went.
2367 The pace that he went brought strain to breath,
2368 He knew as he ran that the grass was death.
2369 He ran the slope towards Morton Tew
2370 That the heave of the hill might stop the view,
2371 Then he doubled down to the Blood Brook red,
2372 And swerved upstream in the brook's deep bed.
2373 He splashed the shallows, he swam the deeps,
2374 He crept by banks as a moorhen creeps;
2375 He heard the hounds shoot over his line,
2376 And go on, on, on, towards Cheddesdon Zine.
2377 In the minute's peace he could slacken speed,
2378 The ease from the strain was sweet indeed.
2379 Cool to the pads the water flowed.
2380 He reached the bridge on the Cheddesdon Road.
2381 As he came to light from the culvert dim
2382 Two boys on the bridge looked down on him;
2383 They were young Bill Ripple and Harry Meun;
2384 "Look, there be squirrel, a-swimmin', see 'un?"
2385 "Noa, ben't a squirrel, be fox, be fox.
2386 Now, Hal, get pebble, we'll give 'en socks."
2387 "Get pebble, Billy, dub'un a plaster;
2388 There's for thy belly, I'll learn 'ee, master."
2389 The stones splashed spray in the fox's eyes,
2390 He raced from brook in a burst of shies,
2391 He ran for the reeds in the withy car,
2392 Where the dead flags shake and the wild-duck are.
2393 He pushed through the reeds, which cracked at his passing,
2394 To the High Clench Water, a grey pool glassing;
2395 He heard Bill Ripple, in Cheddesdon Road,
2396 Shout, "This way, huntsmen, it's here he goed."
2397 The "Leu, Leu, Leu," went the soft horn's laughter,
2398 The hounds (they had checked) came romping after;
2399 The clop of the hooves on the road was plain,
2400 Then the crackle of reeds, then cries again.
2401 A whimpering first, then Robin's cheer,
2402 Then the "Ai, Ai, Ai"; they were all too near,
2403 His swerve had brought but a minute's rest;
2404 Now he ran again, and he ran his best.
2405 With a crackle of dead dry stalks of reed
2406 The hounds came romping at topmost speed;
2407 The redcoats ducked as the great hooves skittered
2408 The Blood Brook's shallows to sheets that glittered;
2409 With a cracking whip and a "Hoik, Hoik, Hoik,
2410 Forrard!" Tom galloped. Bob shouted "Yoick!"
2411 Like a running fire the dead reeds crackled;
2412 The hounds' heads lifted, their necks were hackled.
2413 Tom cried to Bob, as they thundered through,
2414 "He is running short, we shall kill at Tew."
2415 Bob cried to Tom as they rode in team,
2416 "I was sure, that time, that he turned upstream.
2417 As the hounds went over the brook in stride
2418 I saw old Daffodil fling to side,
2419 So I guessed at once, when they checked beyond."
2420 The ducks flew up from the Morton Pond;
2421 The fox looked up at their tailing strings,
2422 He wished (perhaps) that a fox had wings.
2423 Wings with his friends in a great V straining
2424 The autumn sky when the moon is gaining;
2425 For better the grey sky's solitude
2426 Then to be two miles from the Mourne End Wood
2427 With the hounds behind, clean-trained to run,
2428 And your strength half spent and your breath half done.
2429 Better the reeds and the sky and water
2430 Than that hopeless pad from a certain slaughter.
2431 At the Morton Pond the fields began---
2432 Long Tew's green meadows; he ran, he ran.
2433 First the six green fields that make a mile,
2434 With the lip-ful Clench at the side the while,
2435 With rooks above, slow-circling, showing
2436 The world of men where a fox was going;
2437 The fields all empty, dead grass, bare hedges,
2438 And the brook's bright gleam in the dark of sedges.
2439 To all things else he was dumb and blind;
2440 He ran with the hounds a field behind.
2441 At the sixth green field came the long slow climb
2442 To the Mourne End Wood, as old as time;
2443 Yew woods dark, where they cut for bows,
2444 Oak woods green with the mistletoes,
2445 Dark woods evil, but burrowed deep
2446 With a brock's earth strong, where a fox might sleep.
2447 He saw his point on the heaving hill,
2448 He had failing flesh and a reeling will;
2449 He felt the heave of the hill grow stiff,
2450 He saw black woods, which would shelter---if
2451 Nothing else, but the steepening slope
2452 And a black line nodding, a line of hope---
2453 The line of the yews on the long slope's brow,
2454 A mile, three-quarters, a half-mile now.
2455 A quarter-mile, but the hounds had viewed;
2456 They yelled to have him this side the wood.
2457 Robin capped them. Tom Dansey steered them;
2458 With a "Yooi! Yooi! Yooi!" Bill Ridden cheered them.
2459 Then up went hackles as Shatterer led.
2460 "Mob him!" cried Ridden, "the wood's ahead.
2461 Turn him, damn it! Yooi! beauties, beat him,
2462 O God, let them get him: let them eat him!
2463 O God!" said Ridden, "I'll eat him stewed,
2464 If you'll let us get him this side the wood."
2465 But the pace, uphill, made a horse like stone;
2466 The pack went wild up the hill alone.
2467 Three hundred yards and the worst was past,
2468 The slope was gentler and shorter-grassed;
2469 The fox saw the bulk of the woods grow tall
2470 On the brae ahead, like a barrier-wall.
2471 He saw the skeleton trees show sky
2472 And the yew-trees darken to see him die,
2473 And the line of the woods go reeling black:
2474 There was hope in the woods---and behind, the pack.
2475 Two hundred yards and the trees grew taller,
2476 Blacker, blinder, as hope grew smaller;
2477 Cry seemed nearer, the teeth seemed gripping,
2478 Pulling him back; his pads seemed slipping.
2479 He was all one ache, one gasp, one thirsting,
2480 Heart on his chest-bones, beating, bursting;
2481 The hounds were gaining like spotted pards,
2482 And the wood hedge still was a hundred yards.
2483 The wood hedge black was a two-year, quick
2484 Cut-and-laid that had sprouted thick
2485 Thorns all over and strongly plied.
2486 With a clean red ditch on the take-off side.
2487 He saw it now as a redness, topped
2488 With a wattle of thorn-work spiky cropped,
2489 Spiky to leap on, stiff to force,
2490 No safe jump for a failing horse;
2491 But beyond it darkness of yews together,
2492 Dark green plumes over soft brown feather,
2493 Darkness of woods where scents were blowing---
2494 Strange scents, hot scents, of wild things going,
2495 Scents that might draw these hounds away.
2496 So he ran, ran, ran to that clean red clay.
2497 Still, as he ran, his pads slipped back,
2498 All his strength seemed to draw the pack,
2499 The trees drew over him dark like Norns,
2500 He was over the ditch and at the thorns.
2501 He thrust at the thorns, which would not yield;
2502 He leaped, but fell, in sight of the field.
2503 The hounds went wild as they saw him fall,
2504 The fence stood stiff like a Bucks flint wall.
2505 He gathered himself for a new attempt;
2506 His life before was an old dream dreamt,
2507 All that he was was a blown fox quaking,
2508 Jumping at thorns too stiff for breaking,
2509 While over the grass in crowd, in cry,
2510 Came the grip teeth grinning to make him die,
2511 The eyes intense, dull, smouldering red,
2512 The fell like a ruff round each keen head,
2513 The pace like fire, and scarlet men
2514 Galloping, yelling, "Yooi, eat him, then!"
2515 He gathered himself, he leaped, he reached
2516 The top of the hedge like a fish-boat beached.
2517 He steadied a second and then leaped down
2518 To the dark of the wood where bright things drown.
2519 He swerved, sharp right, under young green firs.
2520 Robin called on the Dane with spurs.
2521 He cried, "Come, Dansey; if God's not good,
2522 We shall change our fox in this Mourne End Wood."
2523 Tom cried back as he charged like spate,
2524 "Mine can't jump that, I must ride to gate."
2525 Robin answered, "I'm going at him.
2526 I'll kill that fox, if it kills me, drat him!
2527 We'll kill in covert. Gerr on, now, Dane."
2528 He gripped him tight and he made it plain,
2529 He slowed him down till he almost stood,
2530 While his hounds went crash into Mourne End Wood.
2531 Like a dainty dancer, with footing nice
2532 The Dane turned side for a leap in twice.
2533 He cleared the ditch to the red clay bank,
2534 He rose at the fence as his quarters sank,
2535 He barged the fence as the bank gave way,
2536 And down he came in a fall of clay.
2537 Robin jumped off him and gasped for breath.
2538 He said, "That's lost him as sure as death.
2539 They've overrun him. Come up, the Dane.
2540 We'll kill him yet, if we ride to Spain."
2541 He scrambled up to his horse's back,
2542 He thrust through cover, he called his pack;
2543 He cheered them on till they made it good,
2544 Where the fox had swerved inside the wood.
2545 The fox knew well as he ran the dark,
2546 That the headlong hounds were past their mark;
2547 They had missed his swerve and had overrun,
2548 But their devilish play was not yet done.
2549 For a minute he ran and heard no sound,
2550 Then a whimper came from a questing hound,
2551 Then a "This way, beauties," and then "Leu, Leu,"
2552 The floating laugh of the horn that blew.
2553 Then the cry again, and the crash and rattle
2554 Of the shrubs burst back as they ran to battle,
2555 Till the wood behind seemed risen from root,
2556 Crying and crashing, to give pursuit,
2557 Till the trees seemed hounds and the air seemed cry,
2558 And the earth so far that he needs must die,
2559 Die where he reeled in the woodland dim,
2560 With a hound's white grips in the spine of him.
2561 For one more burst he could spurt, and then
2562 Wait for the teeth, and the wrench, and men.
2563 He made his spurt for the Mourne End rocks
2564 The air blew rank with the taint of fox;
2565 The yews gave way to a greener space
2566 Of great stone strewn in a grassy place.
2567 And there was his earth at the great grey shoulder
2568 Sunk in the ground, of a granite boulder.
2569 A dry, deep burrow with rocky roof,
2570 Proof against crowbars, terrier-proof,
2571 Life to the dying, rest for bones.
2572 The earth was stopped; it was filled with stones.
2573 Then, for a moment, his courage failed,
2574 His eyes looked up as his body quailed,
2575 Then the coming of death, which all things dread,
2576 Made him run for the wood ahead.
2577 The taint of fox was rank on the air,
2578 He knew, as he ran, there were foxes there.
2579 His strength was broken, his heart was bursting,
2580 His bones were rotten, his throat was thirsting;
2581 His feet were reeling, his brush was thick
2582 From dragging the mud, and his brain was sick.
2583 He thought as he ran of his old delight
2584 In the wood in the moon in an April night,
2585 His happy hunting, his winter loving,
2586 The smells of things in the midnight roving,
2587 The look of his dainty-nosing, red,
2588 Clean-felled dam with her footpad's tread;
2589 Of his sire, so swift, so game, so cunning,
2590 With craft in his brain and power of running;
2591 Their fights of old when his teeth drew blood,
2592 Now he was sick, with his coat all mud.
2593 He crossed the covert, he crawled the bank,
2594 To a meuse in the thorns, and there he sank,
2595 With his ears flexed back and his teeth shown white,
2596 In a rat's resolve for a dying bite.
2597 And there, as he lay, he saw the vale,
2598 That a struggling sunlight silvered pale:
2599 The Deerlip Brook like a strip of steel,
2600 The Nun's Wood Yews where the rabbits squeal,
2601 The great grass square of the Roman Fort,
2602 And the smoke in the elms at Crendon Court.
2603 And above the smoke in the elm-tree tops
2604 Was the beech-clump's blur, Blown Hilcote Copse,
2605 Where he and his mates had long made merry
2606 In the bloody joys of the rabbit-herry.
2607 And there as he lay and looked, the cry
2608 Of the hounds at head came rousing by;
2609 He bent his bones in the blackthorn dim.
2610 But the cry of the hounds was not for him.
2611 Over the fence with a crash they went,
2612 Belly to grass, with a burning scent;
2613 Then came Dansey, yelling to Bob:
2614 "They've changed! Oh, damn it! now here's a job."
2615 And Bob yelled back: "Well, we cannot turn 'em,
2616 It's Jumper and Antic, Tom, we'll learn 'em!
2617 We must just go on, and I hope we kill."
2618 They followed hounds down the Mourne End Hill.
2619 The fox lay still in the rabbit-meuse,
2620 On the dry brown dust of the plumes of yews.
2621 In the bottom below a brook went by,
2622 Blue, in a patch, like a streak of sky.
2623 There one by one, with a clink of stone,
2624 Came a red or dark coat on a horse half-blown.
2625 And man to man with a gasp for breath
2626 Said: "Lord, what a run! I'm fagged to death."
2627 After an hour no riders came,
2628 The day drew by like an ending game;
2629 A robin sang from a pufft red breast,
2630 The fox lay quiet and took his rest.
2631 A wren on a tree-stump carolled clear,
2632 Then the starlings wheeled in a sudden sheer,
2633 The rooks came home to the twiggy hive
2634 In the elm-tree tops which the winds do drive.
2635 Then the noise of the rooks fell slowly still,
2636 And the lights came out in the Clench Brook Mill;
2637 Then a pheasant cocked, then an owl began,
2638 With the cry that curdles the blood of man.
2639 The stars grew bright as the yews grew black,
2640 The fox rose stiffly and stretched his back.
2641 He flaired the air, then he padded out
2642 To the valley below him, dark as doubt,
2643 Winter-thin with the young green crops,
2644 For old Cold Crendon and Hilcote Copse.
2645 As he crossed the meadows at Naunton Larking
2646 The dogs in the town all started barking,
2647 For with feet all bloody and flanks all foam,
2648 The hounds and the hunt were limping home;
2649 Limping home in the dark dead-beaten,
2650 The hounds all rank from a fox they'd eaten.
2651 Dansey saying to Robin Dawe:
2652 "The fastest and longest I ever saw."
2653 And Robin answered: "Oh, Tom, 'twas good!
2654 I thought they'd changed in the Mourne End Wood,
2655 But now I feel that they did not change.
2656 We've had a run that was great and strange;
2657 And to kill in the end, at dusk, on grass!
2658 We'll turn to the Cock and take a glass,
2659 For the hounds, poor souls! are past their forces;
2660 And a gallon of ale for our poor horses,
2661 And some bits of bread for the hounds, poor things!
2662 After all they've done (for they've done like kings)
2663 Would keep them going till we get in.
2664 We had it alone from Nun's Wood Whin."
2665 Then Tom replied: "If they changed or not,
2666 There've been few runs longer and none more hot,
2667 We shall talk of to-day until we die."
2668 The stars grew bright in the winter sky,
2669 The wind came keen with a tang of frost,
2670 The brook was troubled for new things lost,
2671 The copse was happy for old things found,
2672 The fox came home and he went to ground.
2673 And the hunt came home and the hounds were fed,
2674 They climbed to their bench and went to bed;
2675 The horses in stable loved their straw.
2676 "Good-night, my beauties," said Robin Dawe.
2677 Then the moon came quiet and flooded full
2678 Light and beauty on clouds like wool,
2679 On a feasted fox at rest from hunting,
2680 In the beech-wood grey where the brocks were grunting.
2681 The beech-wood grey rose dim in the night
2682 With moonlight fallen in pools of light,
2683 The long dead leaves on the ground were rimed;
2684 A clock struck twelve and the church-bells chimed.
Publication Start Year
Reynard the Fox (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1919).
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh