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"Welcome, traitor, to the grave! Perjur'd, bid the light farewell?"
THE WILD HUNTSMEN.
[This is a translation, or rather an imitation, of the Wilde Jager of the German poet Burger. The tradition upon which it is founded bears, that formerly a Wildgrave, or keeper of a royal forest, named Falkenburgh, was so much addicted to the pleasures of the chase, and otherwise so extremely profligate and cruel, that he not only followed this unhallowed amusement on the Sabbath, and other days consecrated to religious duty, but accompanied it with the most unheard-of oppression upon the poor peasants, who were under his vassalage. When this second Nimrod died, the people adopted a superstition, founded probably on the many various uncouth sounds heard in the depth of a German forest, during the silence of the night. They enceived they still heard the cry of the Wildgrave's hounds; and the well-known cheer of the deceased hunter, the sounds of his horses' feet, and the rustling of the branches before the game, the pack, and the sportsmen are also distinctly discriminated; but the phantoms are rarely, if ever, visible.]
THE Wildgrave winds his bugle horn.
To horse, to horse! halloo, halloo ! His fiery courser snuffs the morn,
And thronging serfs their lord pursue. The eager pack, from couples freed,
Dash through the bush, the brier, the brake; While answ'ring hound, and horn, and steed, The mountain echoes startling wake.
The beams of God's own hallow'd day
Had painted yonder spire with gold,
Loud, long, and deep, the bell had toll’d:
Two Stranger Horsemen join the train.
Well may I guess, but dare not tell; The right-hand steed was silver white, The left, the swarthy hue of hell.
The right-hand horseman, young
Shot midnight lightning's lurid ray.
Cried, "Welcome, welcome, noble lord! What sport on earth, or sea, or sky,
To match the princely chase, afford?" "Cease thy loud bugle's clanging knell,"
Cried the fair youth, with silver voice; "And for devotion's choral swell,
Exchange the rude unhallow'd noise.
"To-day, th' ill-omen'd chase forbear,
Yon bell yet summons to the fane; To-day the Warning Spirit hear,
To-morrow thou may'st mourn in vain." "Away, and sweep the glades along!"
The Sable Hunter hoarse replies;
And, launching forward with a bound, "Who, for thy drowsy priestlike rede,
Would leave the jovial horn and hound? "Hence, if our manly sport offend!
With pious fools go chant and pray :Well hast thou spoke, my dark-brow'd friend; Halloo, halloo! and, hark away!"
The Wildgrave spurr'd his courser light,
Each Stranger Horseman follow'd still.
A stag more white than mountain snow; And louder rung the Wildgrave's horn,
"Hark forward, forward! holla, ho!" A heedless wretch has cross'd the way; He gasps, the thund'ring hoofs below;
But, live who can, or die who may,
A field with autumn's blessings crown'd;
A husbandman, with toil embrown'd:
"O mercy, mercy, noble lord!
Spare the poor's pittance," was his cry, "Earn'd by the sweat these brows have pour'd, In scorching hour of fierce July."— Earnest the right-hand Stranger pleads, The left still cheering to the prey; Th' impetuous Earl no warning heeds
But furious holds the onward way. "Away, thou hound! so basely born,
Or dread the scourge's echoing blow!"— Then loudly rung his bugle horn,
"Hark forward, forward, holla, ho!"
So said, so done :-A single bound
Clears the poor labourer's humble pale; Wild follows man, and horse, and hound, Like dark December's stormy gale.
And man, and horse, and hound, and horn,
Fell Fanine marks the madd'ning throng.
Again up-rous'd, the tim'rous prey
Scours moss, and moor, and holt, and hill
He seeks the shelter of the crowd,
His harmless head he hopes to shroud.
The furious Earl pursues the chase,
Full lowly did the herdsman fall;-
The left still cheering to the prey;
But furious keeps the onward way. —“Unmanner'd dog! To stop my sport
Vain were thy cant and beggar whine, Though: human spirits, of thy sort,
Were tenants of these carrion kine !"
Again he winds his bugle horn,
Hark forward, forward, holla, ho!"
Down sinks their mangl'd herdsman near;
With blood besmear'd, and white with foam,
The humble hermit's hallow'd bow'r.
But man, and horse, and horn, and hound,
With, "Hark away! and, holla, ho!"
All mild, amid the route profane,
The holy hermit pour'd his pray'r;"Forbear with blood God's house to stain; Revere his altar, and forbear!
"The meanest brute has rights to plead,
Which, wrong'd by cruelty, or pride, Draw vengeance on the ruthless head:
Be warn'd at length, and turn aside." Still the Fair Horseman anxious pleads;
The Black, wild whooping, points the prey.→→
Alas! the Earl no warning heeds,
Not God himself, shall make me turn!"
He spurs his horse, he winds his horn,
"Hark forward, forward, holla, ho!"But off, on whirlwind's pinions borne, The stag, the hut, the hermit, go.
And horse, and man, and horn, and hound, And clamour of the chase, was gone; For hoofs, and howls, and bugle sound,
A deadly silence reign'd alone.
Wild gaz'd the affrighted Earl around;
He strove in vain to wake his horn; In vain to call; for not a sound
Could from his anxious lips be borne. He listens for his trusty hounds;
No distant baying reach'd his ears: His courser, rooted to the ground,
The quick'ning spur unmindful bears. Still dark and darker frown the shades, Dark, as the darkness of the grave; And not a sound the still invades,
Save what a distant torrent gave. High o'er the sinner's humbl'd head
At length the solemn silence broke; And, from a cloud of swarthy red,
The awful voice of thunder spoke.
Oppressor of creation fair!
"Be chas'd for ever through the wood; For ever roam the affrighted wild; And let thy fate instruct the proud,
God's meanest creature is his child"