Reynard the Fox; or, The Ghost Heath Run

Original Text: 
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.
1634   Forrard."
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: 
Publication Notes: 
Reynard the Fox (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1919).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition: