Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

A Fox Away

FHL features poems by the old masters every now and again. This one will raise the hair on the back of your neck!

There are many splendid moments ‘twixt the cradle and the grave
When a man may reach to rapture, but the one that I would crave
Is the moment when a whimper in a crash of music merges
And four hundred hooves are beating like the thunder of the surges
And the pack comes out of covert like the curving of a wave.

The Ballad of the Foxhunter

Something happened to William Butler Yeats on his way to becoming a painter...in the footsteps of his father. He decided he liked writing poetry better. Certainly he was a favorite of most of the English teachers I’ve ever had, but I don’t remember any of them assigning his foxhunting poems for study! Yeats was born in Ireland, so the foxhunting came naturally.

“Now lay me in a cushioned chair
And carry me, you four,
With cushions here and cushions there,
To see the world once more.

The Lost Hound

lost hound.gastonLost Hound illustration by Jane Gaston from the book of the same name by Robert AshcomYoung Entry---a common phrase used to describe the puppies just entered into the pack. Very soon, most of us will be watching them with a mixture of curiosity and expectation. To the huntsman, they hold the keys to his future successes or disappointments; to the Masters they are the ratification or the despair of their breeding philosophies; to those members of the field who have walked hounds, a few are dear and even exasperating friends known practically from the cradle; to most fieldmembers, they are a curious batch of newcomers from whom much is expected. But imagine entering the pack from the puppies' point of view---suddenly turned loose for the first time midst a bewildering flurry of horses, staff, new sounds, and new sights. After a year of control and repression, the puppy is now free to blossom into the being its up-to-now-stifled genes have urged it to be. How frightening and at the same time how exhilarating! And then the moment when, experimenting with its freedom and following its nose, it suddenly finds itself completely alone for the first time ever. And utterly lost. Here's a sympathetic look by Will Ogilvie.

The winter sunset lit the leafless trees
With gold and crimson as the short day waned;
The wind had ceased its plaintive melodies;
The woodland darkened, and deep silence reigned.

Then sudden from the firs there rose a wail,
A cry that shook the heavens with distress;
A lost hound stood, one foot upon the rail,
Telling the crescent moon his loneliness.

Hunting Songs, Volume One: The Lakeland Fell Packs

lakeland_hunting_songsHunting Songs, Volume One: The Lakeland Fell Packs, Ron Black and Wendy Fraser, Blurb Publishing, 2011, 75 pages, 7.50 pounds (soft cover), 15.50 pounds (hard cover), www.cumbrian-lad.comRon Black and Wendy Fraser collaborated on this collection—a folk history, really—of Lakeland hunting songs. Over the course of three-hundred years, followers of the fell packs of the English Lake District wrote these songs to memorialize historic runs, iconic huntsmen, special foxhounds, and—what pleased me especially—brave terriers! Perhaps I just never noticed, but I cannot recall any other book of hunting songs and poems that includes odes to these feisty little creatures.

Or perhaps I paid special notice here because I now happen to be the smitten owner of a nine-month-old Border terrier whose ancestors scurried in their determined fashion over those same fells on the English-Scottish border. Here’s the story of Badger and Butcher by Mr. and Mrs. Curry, and it’s still sung today!