William Henry Ogilvie

The Happiest Man in England

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The happiest man in England rose an hour before the dawn;
The stars were in the purple and the dew was on the lawn;
He sang from bed to bathroom-he could only sing ‘John Peel' ;
He donned his boots and breeches and he buckled on his steel.
He chose his brightest waistcoat and his stock with care he tied,
Though scarce a soul would see him in his early morning ride.
He hurried to the stable through the dim light of the stars,
And there his good horse waited, clicking rings and bridle-bars.
The happiest man in England took a grey lock in his hand
And settled in his saddle like a seagull on the sand.
Then from the shadowy kennel all the eager pack outpoured,
And the happiest man in England saw them scatter on the sward.
He trotted through the beeches long before the east was red,
Then he turned across the pasture and he gave the grey his head;
And the hounds swept on beside him in a merry mottled crowd,
And he blew them down the valley with a horn-blast, good and loud.
The happiest man in England turned down the stony lane,
The heart of him was singing as he heard the hoofs again;
And where the blind ditch narrows and the deep-set gorse begins
He waved his pack to covert, and he cheered them through the whins.
He heard old Gladstone whimper, then Merryman give tongue;
He saw the green gorse shaking as the whole pack checked and swung;
Then through the ditch came creeping a shy cub lithe and lean,
And nothing but a cocked grey ear betrayed that he was seen.
But once beyond the brambles and across the heath and clear
With half a league of open ground and not a whinbush near,
The happiest man in England blew the freedom of the pass,
And two-and-twenty couple backed his music on the grass.
He holds no brief for slaughter, but the cubs must take their chance;
The weak must first go under that the strong may lead the dance;
And when the grey strides out and shakes the foam- flecks from his rings
The happiest man in England would not change his place with kings.

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William Henry Ogilvie