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A squadron's charge each leveret's heart dismay'd
On every covey fired a bold brigade:
La Douce Humanité approved the sport,
For great the alarm indeed, yet small the hurt;
Shouts patriotic solemnized the day,
And Seine re-echo'd Vive la Liberté!
But mad Citoyen, meek Monsieur again,
With some few added links resumes his chain.
Then since such scenes to France no more are known,
Come, view with me a hero of thine own!
One, whose free actions vindicate the cause
Of sylvan liberty o'er feudal laws.
Seek we yon glades, where the proud oak o'ertops
Wide-waving seas of birch and hazel copse,
Leaving between deserted isles of land,
Where stunted heath is patch'd with ruddy sand;
And lonely on the waste the yew is seen,
Or straggling hollies spread a brighter green.
Here, little worn, and winding dark and steep,
Our scarce mark'd path descends yon dingle deep :
Follow but heedful, cautious of a trip,
In earthly mire philosophy may slip.
Step slow and wary o'er that swampy stream,
Till, guided by the charcoal's smothering steam,
We reach the frail yet barricaded door
Of hovel formed for poorest of the poor;
No hearth the fire, no vent the smoke receives,
The walls are wattles, and the covering leaves;
For, if such hut, our forest statutes say,
Rise in the progress of one night and day,
(Though placed where still the Conqueror's hests o'er
And his son's stirrup shines the badge of law.)
The builder claims the unenviable boon,
To tenant dwelling, framed as slight and soon
As wigwam wild, that shrouds the native frore
On the bleak coast of frost-barr'd Labrador.1
Approach, and through the unlatticed window peepNay, shrink not back, the inmate is asleep; Sunk 'mid yon sordid blankets, till the sun Stoop to the west the plunderer's toils are done. Loaded and primed, and prompt for desperate hand, Rifle and fowling piece beside him stand, While round the hut are in disorder laid The tools and booty of his lawless trade; For force or fraud, resistance or escape, The crow, the saw, the bludgeon, and the crape. His pilfer'd powder in yon nook he hoards, And the filch'd lead the church's roof affords(Hence shall the rector's congregation fret, That while his sermon's dry his walls are wet.) The fish-spear barb'd, the sweeping net are there, Doe-hides, and pheasant plumes, and skins of hare, Cordage for toils, and wiring for the snare. Barter'd for game from chase or warren won, Yon cask holds moonlight," run when moon was none;
'Such is the law in the New Forest, Hampshire, tending greatly to increase the various settlements of thieves, smugglers, and deer-stealers, who infest it. In the forest courts the presiding judge wears as a badge of office an antique stirrup, said to have been that of William Rufus. See Mr. William Rose's spirited poem, entitled, "The Red King."
["To the bleak coast of savage Labrador." — FALCONER.]
"A cant term for smuggled spirits.
And late-snatch'd spoils lie stow'd in hutch apart,
To wait the associate higgler's evening cart.
Look on his pallet foul, and mark his rest: What scenes perturb'd are acting in his breast! His sable brow is wet and wrung with pain, And his dilated nostril toils in vain;
For short and scant the breath each effort draws,
And 'twixt each effort Nature claims a pause.
Beyond the loose and sable neckcloth stretch'd,
His sinewy throat seems by convulsion twitch'd,
While the tongue falters, as to utterance loath,
Sounds of dire import― watchword, threat, and oath.
Though, stupified by toil, and drugg'd with gin,
The body sleep, the restless guest within
Now plies on wood and wold his lawless trade,
Now in the fangs of justice wakes dismay'd.—
"Was that wild start of terror and despair,
Those bursting eyeballs, and that wilder'd air,
Signs of compunction for a murder'd hare?
Do the locks bristle and the eyebrows arch,
For grouse or partridge massacred in March ?"—
No, scoffer, no! Attend, and mark with awe,
There is no wicket in the gate of law!
He, that would e'er so lightly set ajar
That awful portal, must undo each bar;
Tempting occasion, habit, passion, pride,
Will join to storm the breach, and force the barrier
That ruffian, whom true men avoid and dread, Whom bruisers, poachers, smugglers, call Black Ned,
Was Edward Mansell once; -the lightest heart,
That ever play'd on holyday his part!
The leader he in every Christmas game,
The harvest-feast grew blither when he came,
And liveliest on the chords the bow did glance,
When Edward named the tune and led the dance.
Kind was his heart, his passions quick and strong,
Hearty his laugh, and jovial was his
And if he loved a gun, his father swore,
""Twas but a trick of youth would soon be o'er,
Himself had done the same some thirty years before."
But he whose humours spurn law's awful yoke,
Must herd with those by whom law's bonds are broke,
The common dread of justice soon allies
The clown, who robs the warren, or excise,
With sterner felons train'd to act more dread,
Even with the wretch by whom his fellow bled.
Then, as in plagues the foul contagions pass,
Leavening and festering the corrupted mass,―
Guilt leagues with guilt, while mutual motives draw,
Their hope impunity, their fear the law;
Their foes, their friends, their rendezvous the same,
Till the revenue balk'd, or pilfer'd game,
Flesh the young culprit, and example leads
To darker villany, and direr deeds.
Wild howl'd the wind the forest glades along,
And oft the owl renew'd her dismal song;
Around the spot where erst he felt the wound,
Red William's spectre walk'd his midnight round.
When o'er the swamp he cast his blighting look,
From the green marshes of the stagnant brook
The bittern's sullen shout the sedges shook!
The wading moon, with storm-presaging gleam,
Now gave and now withheld her doubtful beam;
The old Oak stoop'd his arms, then flung them high,
Bellowing and groaning to the troubled sky-
'Twas then, that, couch'd amid the brushwood sere,
In Malwood-walk young Mansell watch'd the deer:
The fattest buck received his deadly shot-
The watchful keeper heard, and sought the spot.
Stout were their hearts, and stubborn was their strife,
O'erpower'd at length the Outlaw drew his knife.
Next morn a corpse was found upon the fell-
The rest his waking agony may tell!