24 October 2013

Field Sports - A Poem of Greeting

By William E. MacMaster of the Albany Argus and the Philadelphia Press. Written for the occasion. [The shooting match at Coney Island, sponsored by the New York State Association for the Protection of Fish and Game.]
Hail, brother sportsmen of the Empire State,
I give you greeting in my humble lay;
More noble hearts, or strife more truly great,
Ne'er nerved the heroes of our palmiest day.
From Erie's shore to Coney's Island's strand,
From the old "North Woods" to the "Southern Tier,"
Here where the Atlantic laves our native land,
Again our contests signalize the year.
In mimic war matched like a Spartan band,
With eye undaunted, nerves staunch as steel;
You'll win your honors from a comrade's hand,
In emulation which only sportsmen feel.
Like the bold clansmen or Auld Scotia's pride,
Where every plaid sheds lustre on the scene;
Here at her threshold our contests to decide,
New York gives welcome to all clubs I ween.
Here then on wings poetic we will try,
Nor hope our Muse to amuse you with her lay;
Yet clip not our pinions ere the birds do fly,
Since ammunition's not restricted in this fray.
Then pass the amber cup with jolly cheer,
And crown our sportsmen heroes of the year;
For bards poetic, like birds who soar and sing,
Do flutter least when longest on the wing.
From scenes like these of gay and mimic strife,
We turn exultant to the sterner life: —
Where rosy fingers paint the dappled morn,
And merry huntsman, with resounding horn,
Summons the drowsy dogs to eager ear,
And rouse from leafy couch the startled deer.
Bid the well-trained pack with cautious pace,
"Point" well the grouse with an unerring trace,
While field and wood resound the flying war,
While every mountain echoes from afar!
Till vale and forest repeat the loud refrain
While the warm scent draws on the deep mouthed train.
Hurrah for the prairies
And sports of the field,
Where grouse in full coveys
Lie closely concealed;
Where mountain and forest
Nor deep tangled glen,
Interfere with our dogs
Or weary the men;
Where the untrodden acres
Like oceans are spread,
And the birds are still waiting
Our deluge of lead!
"Hie on!" what a magic
That sound to the ears
Of full-blooded pointers,
Whose instinct it cheers; —
They dash on like coursers
Until the warm scent,
Unerringly leads them,
Where now more intent —
Staunch as old veterans
To their "points" they stand,
Each "backing" the other
And waiting command!
Now swift on the pinion,
From stubble they rise;
The quick blood is mounting, —
Their flight fills the skies.
Escape? It is hopeless,
Our scattering lead
Is thundering over them!
And the dogs "mark" them, dead!
When summer's o'er and autumn mild succeeds,
And quail or partridge on the heather feeds;
Before his lord the setter then should go,
And beat the cover carefully and slow.
When the days shorten and the nights grow chill,
And softer light doth rest on vale and hill,
The sportsman then will change his hunting ground
For lakes and streams where water-fowl abound.
Where heavy geese scream up against the sky,
And swift-winged teal almost our skill defy.
Where skies are darkened by mallard in their flight,
And the rice fields are garrisoned at night.
Now comes the sport which gives such manly zest.
Wild fowl shooting, most difficult and best.
To measure speed and distance, and to bring
A teal at sixty yards upon the wing: —
Or land a widgeon with unerring skill,
On some safe log, convenient to your will;
Requires a master in the sportsman's art,
Whose every nerve obeys his head and heart.
Hunting in all phases, on the field or flood,
Makes men more hardy, more humane and good;
Gives health and pleasure, sets the spirit free,
Teaches love of nature — helps the memory;
And more than this, it teaches love of law,
Which will not kill to feed a greedy maw.
How the locks bristle and the eyebrows arch,
For quail or partridge massacred in March.
With what contempt true sportsmen shun the spot,
Whereon they meet some hunter for the pot: —
Poor worthless d — —, his head beneath a price,
Else Courts might ask if "Pott"-ers hunted twice.
Gladly would I sing when our hunt is o'er,
The pleasure which our camp has still in store;
The smoking viands of our morning air;
Appetites keen as is the morning air;
A hospitality that's no empty name —
Each guest a brother whencesoe'er he came.
A cordial greeting, then, brothers of a race
Whose deeds are sung in many a loving chase; —
Heroes whose brows by fairer hands than mine
Are wreathed with chaplets-human, yet divine
May scenes like these their annual pleasures bring,
And bards more worthy of their merits sing;
While here with new fields and contests at bay,
I give you welcome in my humble lay.
June 23, 1881. Forest and Stream 16(21): 407.