George J Whyte Melville

The Lord of the Valley

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Hunters are fretting, and hacks in a lather,
Sportsmen arriving from left and from right;
Bridle-roads bringing them, see how they gather,
Dotting the meadows in scarlet and white.
Foot-people staring and horsemen preparing,
Now there's a murmur, astir, and a shout,
Fresh from his carriage, as bridegroom in marriage,
The Lord of the Valley leaps gallantly out.
Time, the avenger, neglecting or scorning,
Gazes about him in beauteous disdain,
Lingers to toy with the whisper of morning,
Daintily, airily, paces the plain.
Then in a second, his course having reckoned,
Line that all Leicestershire cannot surpass,
Fleet as the swallow, when summer-winds follow,
The Lord of the Valley skims over the grass
Where shall we take him? Ah! now for the tussle,
These are the beauties, can stoop, and can fly,
Down go their noses, together they bustle,
Dashing and flinging, and scorning to cry.
Never stand dreaming, while yonder they're streaming,
If ever you meant it, man, mean it today!
Bold ones are riding and fast ones are striding,
The Lord of the Valley is forward, away!
Hard on his track o'er the open, and facing
The cream of the country, the pick of the chase,
Mute as a dream, his pursuers are racing,
Silence, you know's the criterion of pace.
Swarming and driving, while man and horse striving,
By hugging and cramming scarce live with them still,
The fastest are failing, the truest are tailing,
The Lord of the Valley is over the Hill!
Yonder a steed is rolled up with his master,
Here, in a double, another lies cast;
Faster and faster come grief and disaster,
All but the good ones are weeded at last.
Hunters so limber at water and timber,
Now on the causeway are fain to be led,
Beat, but still going, a countryman sowing ,
Has sighted the Lord of the Valley ahead!
There in the bottom, see, sluggish and idle,
Steals the dark stream where the willowtree grows,
Harden your heart and catch hold of your bridle,
Steady him! rouse him! and over he goes.
Look, in a minute a dozen are in it,
But forward! hark forward! for draggled and blown,
A check though desiring, with courage untiring,
The Lord of the Valley is holding his own.
Onward we struggle in sorrow and labour,
Lurching and lobbing, and "bellows to mend",
Each, while he smiles at the plight of his neighbour,
Only is anxious to get to the end.
Horses are flagging, hounds drooping and lagging,
But gathering down yonder, where press as they may,
Mobbed, driven, and haunted, but game and undaunted,
The Lord of the Valley stands proudly at bay.
Now here's to the Baron, and all his supporters,
The thrusters, the skirters, the whole of the tale;
And here's to the fairest of all hunting quarters,
The widest of pastures, three cheers for the Vale!
For the fair lady rider, the rogue who beside her
Finds breath in a gallop his suit to advance,
The hounds for our pleasure, that time us the measure,
The Lord of the Valley that leads us the dance.

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George J Whyte Melville