The Last Cock-Pheasant

A poem by R. C. Lehmann

Splendour, whom lately on your glowing flight
Athwart the chill and cheerless winter-skies
I marked and welcomed with a futile right,
And then a futile left, and strained my eyes
To see you so magnificently large,
Sinking to rest beyond the fir-wood's marge -

Not mine, not mine the fault: despise me not
In that I missed you; for the sun was down,
And the dim light was all against the shot;
And I had booked a bet of half-a-crown.
My deadly fire is apt to be upset
By many causes - always by a bet.

Or had I overdone it with the sloes,
Snared by their home-picked brand of ardent gin
Designed to warm a shivering sportsman's toes
And light a fire his reckless head within?
Or did my silly loader put me off
With aimless chatter in regard to golf?

You too, I think, displayed a lack of nerve;
You did not quite-now did you?-play the game;
For when you saw me you were seen to swerve,
Doubtless in order to disturb my aim.
No, no, you must not ask me to forgive
A swerve because you basely planned to live.

At any rate I missed you, and you went,
The last day's absolutely final bird,
Scathless, and left me very ill content;
And someone (was it I?) pronounced a word,
A word which rather forcible than nice is,
A little word which does not rhyme with Isis.

Farewell! I may behold you once again
When next November's gales have stripped the leaf.
Then, while your upward flight you grandly strain,
May I be there to add you to my sheaf;
And may they praise your tallness, saying "This
Was such a bird as men are proud to miss!"

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