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The fell destroyer; still the fatal cry
Insults his ears, and wounds his trembling heart.
So the poor fury-haunted wretch (his hands
In guiltless blood distain'd) still seems to hear
The dying shrieks; and the pale threatening ghost
Moves as he moves, and as he flies, pursues.
See here his slot; up yon green hill he climbs,
Pants on its brow awhile, sadly looks back
On his pursuers, covering all the plain;
But wrung with anguish, bears not long the sight,
Shoots down the steep, and sweats along the vale.
There mingles with the herd, where once he reign'd
Proud monarch of the groves, whose clashing beam
His rivals aw'd, and whose exalted power
Was still rewarded with successful love.
But the base herd have learn’d the ways of men,
Averse they fly, or with rebellious aiin
Chase him from thence: needless their impious deed,
The huntsman knows him by a thousand marks,
Black, and imbost ; nor are his hounds deceiv'd;
Too well distinguish these, and never leave
Their once devoted foe; familiar grows
His scent, and strong their appetite to kill.
Again he flies, and with redoubled speed
Skims o'er the lawn ; still the tenacious crew
Hang on the track, aloud demand their prey,
And push him many a league. If haply then
Too far escap’d, and the gay courtly train
Behind are cast, the huntsman's clanging whip
Stops full their bold career ; passive they stand,
Unmov'd, an humble, an obsequious crowd,
As if by stern Medusa gaz'd to stones.
So at their general's voice whole armies halt
In full pursuit, and check their thirst of blood.
Soon at the king's command, like hasty streams
Damm'd up awhile, they foam, and pour along
With fresh recruited might. The stag, who hop'd
His foes were lost, now once more hears astunn'd
The dreadful din; he shivers every limb,
He starts, he bounds, each bush presents a foe.
Press'd by the fresh relay, no pause allow'd,
Breathless, and faint, he faulters in his pace,
And lifts his weary limbs with pain, that scarce
Sustain their load : he pants, he sobs appall’d!
Drops down his heavy head to earth, beneath
His cumbrous beams oppress'd. But if perchance
Some prying eye surprize him ; soon he rears
Erect his towering front, bounds o'er the lawn
With ill-dissembled vigour, to amuse
The knowing forester; who inly smiles
At his weak shifts and unavailing frauds.
So midnight tapers waste their last remains,
Shine forth awhile, and as they blaze expire.
From wood to wood redoubling thunders roll,
And bellow through the vales; the moving storm
Thickens amain, and loud triumphant shouts,
And horns shrill-warbling in each glade, prelude
To his approaching fate. And now in view
With hobbling gait, and high, exerts amaz’d
What strength is left : to the last dregs of life
Reduc'd, his spirits fail, on every side
Hemm'd in, besieg'd; not the least opening left
To gleaming hope, th' unhappy's last reserve.
Where shall he turn? or whither fly? Despair
Gives courage to the weak. Resolv'd to die,
He fears no more, but rushes on his foes,
And deals his deaths around; beneath his feet
These grovelling lie, those by his antlers gor’d
Defile th' ensanguin'd plain. Ah! see distress'd
He stands at bay against yon knotty trunk,
That covers well his rear, his front presents
An host of foes. O! shun, ye noble train,
The rude encounter, and believe your lives
Your country's due alone. As now aloof
They wing around, he finds his soul uprais'd,
To dare soine great exploit; he charges home
Upon the broken pack, that on each side
Fly diverse; then as o'er the turf he strains,
He vents the cooling stream, and up the breeze
Urges his course with equal violence :
Then takes the soil, and plunges in the flood
Precipitant ; down the mid-stream he wafts
Along, till (like a ship distress’d, that runs
Into some winding creek) close to the verge
Of a small island, for his weary feet
Sure anchorage he finds, there skulks immers'd.
His nose alone above the wave draws in
The vital air ; all else beneath the flood
Conceal’d, and lost, deceives each prying eye
Of man or brute. In vain the crowding pack
Draw on the margin of the stream, or cut
The liquid wave with oary feet, that move
In equal time. The gliding waters leave
No trace behind, and his contracted pores
But sparingly perspire: the huntsman strains
His labouring lungs, and puffs his cheeks in vain :
At length a blood-hound bold, studious to kill,
And exquisite of sense, winds him from far;
Headlong he leaps into the flood, his mouth
Loud opening spends amain, and his wide throat
Swells every note with joy ; then fearless dives
Beneath the wave, hangs on his haunch, and wounds
Th' unhappy brute, that flounders in the stream
Sorely distress'd, and struggling strives to mount
The steepy shore. Haply once more escap'd,
Again he stands at bay, amid the groves
Of willows, bending low their downy heads.
Outrageous transport fires the greedy pack ;
These swim the deep, and those crawl up with pain
The slippery bank, while others on firm land
Engage; the stag repels each bold assault,
Maintains his post, and wounds for wounds returns.
As when some wily corsair boards a ship
Full-freighted, or from Afric's golden coasts,
Or India's wealthy strand, his bloody crew
Upon her deck he slings; these in the deep
Drop short, and swim to reach her steepy sides,
And clinging climb aloft; while those on board
Urge on the work of Fate ; the master bold,
Press'd to his last retreat, bravely resolves
To sink his wealth beneath the whelming wave,
His wealth, his foes, nor unreveng'd to die.
So fares it with the stag: so he resolves
To plunge at once into the flood below,
Himself, his foes, in one deep gulph immers'd.
Ere yet he executes this dire intent,
In wild disorder once more views the light;
Beneath a weight of woe he groans distress'd,
The tears run trickling down his hairy cheeks ;
He weeps, nor weeps in vain. The king beholds
His wretched plight, and tenderness innate
Moves his great soul. Soon at his high command
Rebuk'd, the disappointed, hungry pack,
Retire submiss, and grumbling quit their prey.
Great Prince! from thee what may thy subjects
So kind, and so beneficent to brutes !
O Mercy, heavenly born! sweet attribute!
Thou great, thou best prerogative of power!
Justice may guard the throne, but, join'd with thee,
On rocks of adamant it stands secure,
And braves the storm beneath ; soon as thy smiles
Gild the rough deep, the foaming waves subside,
And all the noisy tumult sinks in peace.
Argument. Of the necessity of destroying some beasts, and pre
serving others for the use of man. Of breeding of hounds; the season for this business. The choice of the dog, of great moment. Of the litter of whelps. Of the number to be reared. Of setting them out to their several walks. Care to be taken to prevent their hunting too soon. Of entering the whelps. Of breaking them from running at sheep. Of the diseases of hounds. Of their age. Of madness; two sorts of it described, the dumb and outrageous madness : its dreadful effects. Burning of the wound recommended as preventing all ill consequences. The infectious hounds to be separated, and fed