Dark brown copse by the side of the brook,
Cosy for foxes, brown and dark,
A covert all over the land renowned,
And pasture sound for miles around,
Wherever you like to look ;
Horses champing and pawing the ground,
Riders alert and afire for the fray,
Strung for a gallop,hist ! was it a hound ?
Hush stop the chattering : yes, they’ve found.
Loo, push him out then ! Hark cry, hark !
A frantic horn at the farther end,
And the pack comes crashing out of the covert :
Then hustle and tussle ‘twixt friend and friend,
Clump and bump ‘twixt lover and lover.
Thrilling beat of galloping feet,
Joy complete in a thumping heart,
As we urge the pace for a foremost place,
And thrust and race for a start :
Already the hounds have settled to run ;
Now ride your best, if you’d see the fun.
Oh ! such a crush in the crowded gate,
Best leave it alone, if we wouldn’t be late :
The fox is bold and a season old,
He heads for the vale and over the brook,
Already a dozen have faced it, look !
Others are pounded and have to go round, it
Is half a mile to the bridge we’re told.
While some of the more unlucky have found it
Not very deep, but devilish cold.
What though the place be both boggy and wide,
They’re smoking away on the farther side,Steady ! go steady ; catch hold of his head ;
Grip like a limpet ; sit still as the dead ;
Now gallop down at it, drive him, and ride
Over he goes like a stag in his stride.
Next there’s a bullfinch, scratchy and thick,
If you’re meaning to have it, you’d better be quick,
For the longer you falter, the blacker it grows :
” Hp! Cuckoo,” and through it like paper he goes.
Already the field are most woefully scattered,
Each fence makes our company still more select ;
And half the survivors, bespattered and battered,
Would never have caught us, if hounds hadn’t checked.
Just for a minute they busily feather,
(Time for a breather,)
Only a minute then forrard again,
All of them straining a head close together,
Nor ever a pause in and out of the lane ;
Over the grass, without sighting a covert,
All down the vale’s fairest galloping grounds,
Still we go racing with scarcely a hover,
Oblivious grown to all sights and all sounds,
At the side of the hounds.
Under us flicker the stiff stake and bounds,
Field after field, mile after mile ;
Here in a corner an intricate stile,
There a locked gate that brings somebody over,
Next a rough gap, which although it is thinnish
Yet causes our numbers still more to diminish,
(At this rate not many will get to the finish.)
Another stout fence, then a ricketty paling,
And still it is onward, straight onward we’re sailing.
Oh ! never before was there better horse mounted !
Oh ! never before was there bolder fox hunted !
But surely by now he must nearly be failing,
Surely he soon will have shot his last bolt,
Or will he stand up, till he reaches the Holt?
The blazes ! what’s this by which now we’re confronted ?
The nastiest rail in the whole of the vale ;
I fell at it once, and have never forgotten.
Wo ! Cuckoo, now steady ! why go like a gale?
Crash, rattle, and flounder ! Ye gods, it was rotten !
Look, what is that dark thing which yonder is slinking?
Ask Trojan, ask Rambler there, straining anew.
They know very well that their quarry is sinking,
As devil-go .whistle, with hackles a-bristle,
Like sheets of blown drizzle, they sweep into view.
One pitiful twist, one despairing endeavour
Poor Reynard ! they’re surging all over him now,
As game and straight-running a pilot as ever,
Broke covert to make with his life as the stake,
His seven mile point, never touching a plough.
Oh ! forty sweet minutes, comprising the acme
Of all the good things a man’s life can find scope in,
What matter to me now what troubles attack me?
I’m in at the kill, and a kill in the open.