With fleet-limbed steeds and baying pack
They follow close on Reynard's track,
And wake the slumbering echoes round
With music of the horn and hound;
Through wood and field, o'er hill and dale,
They course him in the moonlight pale,
And sport they find which brings delight--
These reckless riders of the night!
The game is up! away, away!
Nor hedge nor fence their course can stay;
They clear them at a single leap,
And like the wind they onward sweep!
O'er fallen trunk and hidden ditch
The fearless horsemen plunge and pitch,
And heedless all they follow on
With ringing shout and winding horn!
Thy wondrous ride, oh Tam O'Shanter,
To speed like theirs was but a canter;
Had you bestrode that night instead
Of gray mare Meg a thoroughbred
(Such as Kentuckians only breed--
To Scotia then an unknown steed),
No carline could have caught his rump
And left your brute with scarce a stump!
His foaming horse with throbbing sides
Unslackened yet his pace he rides,
Till in among the yelping hounds
The foremost huntsman proudly bounds,
And sees the leaders of the chase
(Two matchless dogs that set the pace)
O'ertake the game and win the race!
And then dismounts and feels the flush
Of victory as he takes the brush!
O royal sport, befitting kings!
It bids the demon Care take wings,
And the rose's hue to the cheek it brings!
And sweeter music none can hear
Than that which greets the list'ning ear--
By distance mellowed to a key
That breathes divinest harmony--
And wakes the slumbering echoes round--
The winding horn and baying hound!