T’was the morning of the hunt, when all through the land,
all the creatures were stirring for the chase was at hand.
Daylight on the crest of the new fallen snow
gave the farmland beyond a lustrous white glow.
The field that had gathered this Christmas eve morn,
was yearning to start with the huntsman’s first horn.
The horses and riders were turned out with care,
in the hope that old Reynard would be raised from his lair.
The master of the hunt mingled
in the church yard’s front court,
while the riders were treated to sherry and port.
The children were there on their ponies groomed well,
The thrill of a hunt was their’s too, I must tell.
Then the huntsman appeared in his red coat so quick,
for a moment I thought that it must be Saint Nick.
His hounds were well healed, yes, a good looking pack.
Well behaved, a bit keen from their long kennel hack.
My horse’s head raised, his ears pricked up high,
His blood was now pumping expecting hounds cry.
The huntsman ‘moved his cap to share a few words.
Then with the sound of his horn, off we rode with the herd.
The horses were snorting as we hacked down the road,
their energy was growing, they were not to be slowed.
Our master’s attention was trained up far ahead,
on the hounds, the huntsman, and the direction they led.
Master’s pace was deliberate, yes, steady and sure,
leading riders along without much astir.
The hounds drew in covert once the huntsman released,
nose’s down, front n’ forward to find the red beast.
The horses walked softly in the fresh country snow.
quietly moving while hounds working below.
But the frost on the ground made scent a bit spotty,
the thickets in the wood made it that much more knotty.
So when out of the covert arose the first cry,
our horses surged forward as the first whip flew by.
A few hounds were speaking, and running the line,
I counted eight hounds, or possibly nine.
The huntsman’s brass horn now sounded the way,
with pulsating toots, to encourage their bay.
The master and riders and horses now knew,
the hounds had found “Reynard” and ran to pursue.
The pack circled wide staying on their quick quarry.
we galloped to view the hunts unfolding story.
Over hill, over dale, then through the big woods,
we rode to keep up as best as we coulds.
The hounds were now gathered, packed up, we could see,
all standing on hind leg at the trunk of a tree.
Up high on the tree branch, safe enough and away,
not a red fox we saw, but it was a gray!
A sight for the children who chuckled and laughed,
this fox got away from hounds fourteen n’ half.
The huntsman dismounted to praise his good hounds,
while bitches and dogs were howling with sounds.
He called them away from the gnarly trees neck,
while the rest of the field shared port at the check.
Then a faint voice we heard, a call like a “coo”,
it came from afar; a whip had a view !
Their call was repeated, now stronger it came,
hounds knew this whips voice and ran off to the same.
The huntsman, remounted raced off at full tilt
his scarlet coat flapping just like a Scot’s kilt.
The path of this new fox was fast and direct,
the hounds were stretched out in their ‘tempt to connect.
We chased after the pack who were screaming in team,
They found the new line, and fresh did it seem.
Their singing together streamed through the oak forest,
Hearing not seeing the hound’s musical chorus.
Their voices then fainted with them going away,
And the valley fell silent on this wintry cold day.
We slowed so to listen as the pack was asunder.
Their roar then returned with ear popping thunder !
The hounds broke from the wood, sudden and fast,
Like a dam that had burst and was free now at last.
They streamed down the hill past the landowner’s stable,
like syrup on hot cakes from grandmother’s ladle.
We ran them afar, jumping fence rail and coop,
crossing ditches and trail creek that splashed up like soup.
Snow began falling on the days blistering chase
The squall picking up, flakes wetting our face.
We saw them slow down, our sharp running hounds,
As this fox had enough and went to his ground.
The hounds found his den, the fox snug in his hole,
digging and burrowing, just like a mole.
We stopped for the moment and cinched up our tack,
then the fox made escape, from his hole out the back !!
The hounds raised their voices ‘n resumed the days chase,
the children were giggling with smiles on their face.
The foxhounds in full cry now roaring in tongues,
echoing the hillside with their full canine lungs.
His horn full repeating, the huntsman did call,
“ Now, Hark to ‘em ! Hark to ‘em ! Hark to ‘em all ! ”
More rapid than eagles, his foxhounds they came.
Blowing his horn and shouting their names......
“ Now ! Oxbow, Now ! Oscar, Now ! Nemo and Nelli ,
On ! Olive, On ! Onyx, On Opal and Jelly !
To the top of the hill, Overtop the stone wall,
That’s the way ! That’s the way ! That’s the way all ! ”
The snowstorm picked up as we rounded the bend,
The hounds cry now stalling near the old barn’s dead end.
We slowed when the huntsman remarked with a scoff,
“Reynard’s gone up in the old barn’s hay loft !”
He now dismounted and climbed the stairs up,
the hounds he took with him, even the pups.
Our horses exhausted, blowing hard from the run,
I confess I was thinking, the chase must be done.
We stopped and looked up as the loft doors slid open
then the huntsman appeared, to report, we were hope’n.
“ Our fox has slipped out,” he remarked with a sigh,
The hunt was now over, it was hard to deny.
But as he was speaking, much to our surprise,
our fox reappeared ’tween the huntsman’s two thighs!
Through his two leg’s, old Reynard slipped by,
out the upper loft doors we viewed this fox fly!!
The hounds left on the loft raised their heads to the sky
howling like wolves in a mournful hounds cry!
Our fox soared through the air in a jump of 12 feet,
And his landing was soft in a mound of black peat.
The huntsman was laughing, he knew he was beat,
our fox had escaped with a leap of such feat!
This Christmas fox was a red, his color like fire,
with the thickest of brush, was in full furred attire.
He raced up on the snow hill then slipped the fence wire.
God’s cleverest creature, we all so admire.
Now at the top of the crest, Reynard stopped and looked back,
and gave a wink to the hounds he had just thrown off track.
As the storm pelted us, our fox fainted away,
The winter sun was in sunset, time to “Call this a day.”
So we riders and horses turned east for the home front,
regaling with joy in today’s Christmas eve fox hunt.
And our huntsman called his hounds ‘fore they did roam,
then turned with a bound too, and headed for home.
And I heard him call out as he rode out of sight,
“ A Happy Hunt to all &
a Merry Christmas tonight! ”
The story of the barn fox making his leaping escape is based on a true story experienced by Robert Taylor (MHF), the huntsman of the Goshen Hounds, in Laytonsville. Maryland during a fox hunt. Poem by: James N. Gerrety, Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.