John Masefield Reynards Last Run

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

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JOHN MASEFIELD - REYNARD'S LAST RUN

Date: 28th February 2018

There's to be a vote in the Scottish Parliament about the banning of fox hunting.  

At school a lasting impression was made on me by John Masefield's poem 'Reynard's Last Run' and i've never ever forgotten the last line - the fox put up a valiant fight and even at the last they didn't give him a fair chance -

If you don't want to read the whole poem, at least please read the last line.

REYNARD`S LAST RUN

By John Masefield

The pure clean air came sweet to his lungs,
Till he thought foul scorn on those crying tongues.
In a three mile more he would reach the haven
In the Wan Dyke croaked on by the raven.
In a three mile more he would make his berth
On the hard cool floor of a Wan Dyke earth,
Too deep for spade, too curved for terrier,
With the pride of the race to make rest the merrier,
In a three mile more he would reach his dream,
So his game heart gulped and he put on steam.
Like a rocket shot to a ship ashore
The lean red bolt of his body tore,
Like a ripple of wind running swift on grass;
Like a shadow on wheat when a cloud blows past,
Like a tur4n at the buoy in a cuter sailing
When the bright green gleam lips white at the railing,
Like the April snake whipping back to sheath,
Like the gannet`s hurtle on fish beneath
Like a kestrel chasing, like a sickle reaping,
Like all things swooping, like all things sweeping,
Like a hound for stay, like a stag for swift,
With his shadow beside like spinning drift.
Past the gibbet-stock all stuck with nails,
Where they hanged in chains what had hung at jails,
Past Ashmundshowe where Ashmund sleeps,
And non e but the tumbling peewit weeps,
Past Curlew Calling, the gaunt grey corner
Where the curlew comes a s a summer mourner,
Past Blowbury Beacon, shaking his fleece,
Where all winds hurry and none brings peace;
Then down on the mile-long green decline,
Where the turf`s like spring and the air`s like wine,
Where the sweeping spurs of the downland spill
Into Wan Brook Valley and Wan Dyke Hill
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
On he went with a galloping rally
Past Maesbury Clump for Wan Brook Valley.
The blood in his veins went romping high,
“Get on, on, on, to the earth or die.”
The air of the downs went purely past
Till he felt the glory of going fast,
Till the terror of death, though there indeed,
Was lulled for a while by his pride of speed.
He was romping away from hounds and hunt,
He had Wan Dyke Hill and his earth in front,
In a one mile more when his point was made,
He would rest in safely from dog or spade;
Nose between paws he would hear the shout
Of the “Gone to earth!” to the hounds without,
The whine of the hounds, and their pad-padding;
He would hear the horn call hounds away,
And rest in peace till another day.
. . . . . . . . . . .
In one mile more he would lie at6 rest,
So for one mile more he would go his best.
He reached the dip at the long droop`s end,
And he took what speed he had still to spend.
So down past Maesbury beech-clump grey
That would not be green till the end of May,
Past Arthur`s Table, the white chalk boulder,
Where pasque flowers purple the down`s grey shoulder,
Past Quichelm`s Keeping, past Harry`s Thorn,
To Thirty Acre all thin with corn.
. . . . . . . . . . .
As he raced the corn towar4ds Wan Dyke Brook
The pack had view of the way he took;
Robin halloed from the downlan d`s crest,
He capped them on till they did their best.
The quarter-mile to the Wan Brook`s brink
Was raced as quick as a man can think.
And here, as he ran to the huntsman`s yelling,
The fox first felt that the pace was telling;
His body and lungs seemed all grown old,
His legs less certain, his heart less bold,
The hound-noise nearer, the hill-slope steeper,
The thud in the blood of his body deeper.
His pride in his speed, his joy in the race,
Were withered away, for what use was pace?
He had run his best, and the hounds ran better,
Then the going worsened, the earth was wetter.
Then his brush drooped down till it somet6imes dragged,
And his fur felt sick and his chest was tagged
With taggles of mud, and his pads seemed lead,
It was well for him he`d an earth ahead.
Down he went to the brook and over,
Our of the corn and into the clover,
Over the slope that the Wan B rook drains,
Past Battle Tump where they earthed the Danes,
Then up the hill that the Wan Dyke rings
Where the Sarsen Stones stand grand like kings.
‘ . . . . . . . . . .
Seven Sarsens of granite grim,
As he ran them by they looked at him;
As he leaped the lip of their earthen paling
The hounds were gaining and he was failing.
. . . . . . . . . . .
He passed the Sarsens, he left the spur,
He pressed uphill to be blasted fir,
He slipped as he leaped the hedge, he slithered,
“He`s mine,” thought Robin, “He`s done, he`s dithered.”
At the second attempt he cleared the fence,
He turned half-tight where the gorse was dense,
He was leading the hounds by a furlong clear,
He was past his b est, but his earth was near.
He ran up gorse to the spring of the ramp,
The steep green wall of the dead men`s camp,
He sidled up it and scampered down
To the deep green ditch of the Dead Men`s Town.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Within, as he reached that soft green turf,
The wind, was blowing lonely, moaned like surf,
Desolate ramparts, rose up steep
On either side, for the ghosts to keep.
He raced the trench, past the rabbit warren,
Close-grown with moss which the wind made barren;
He passed the spring where the rushes spread,
And there in the stones was his earth ahead,
One last short burst upon failing feet---
There life lay waiting, so sweet, so sweet,
Rest in a darkness, balm for aches.
. . . . . . . . . . .
The earth was stopped. It was barred with stakes.

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