06 November 2013

Summer and Autumnal Sports - An 1859 Poem from Long Island

By Isaac M'Lellan. Quodeck Bay, L.I., September 1, 1859.
Shrilly o'er the waters blue,
Speeds the sable wing'd curlew,
From the farthest Labrador
Where the frothy breakers roar;
From the sand bar, from the rock
Comes the migratory flock,
Hasting to the southern land,
Where their calm lagoons expand.
With a broken, plaintive cry,
Sweeps the long-winged willet by,
Dowitch, robin, snipe, and peep,
Rovers of the briny deep;
Brant birds, clad in mottled down;
Marlins, garb'd in dusky brown;
Beach-birds, with their plumes of gray
Flitting o'er the open bay,
Or across the ocean spray —
All are speeding still-their flight
From the day-dawn till the night.
Hidden in the bending sedge
At the very water's edge,
(With his "coys" of painted wood
Rang'd on bar or shallow flood
To deceive the feather'd brood),
Low the ambush'd gunner lies,
To secure the cheated prize;
Shrill, he stimulates the call
Of each wild flock, musical,
Till they hover overhead —
Till he speeds the fatal lead.
'Tis September, and the last
Of the flocks will soon have pass'd,
For they linger not, nor stay
Till October's mellow day,
Bu, like shadows, disappear
Ere the first frosts of the year.
Soon the waters of the bay,
Soon the marshes lone and gray,
Reedy isle and sandy bar,
Ocean beaches stretching far,
Will be despite — no sound
Of the snipe will there be found.
But the glorious Autumn days,
With their blue-celestial haze,
(When the woods are all ablaze
With the countless radiant dyes
Caught from the resplendent skies,)
Shall intoxicate each heart
Wedded to the sylvan art;
Then each Northern lake and flood
(Buried in primeval wood,
In profoundest solitude)
Shall in countless legions pour
All the duck tribes to the shore;
Bound for some far Southern stream,
Where the water lilies gleam;
Where wild celery and rice
Feed them with their rich supplies —
('Tis the fowler's paradise!)
There the shooter's gun shall reap
Harvests, where the wild flocks sweep,
O'er secluded cove or bay,
Over marshes far away.
When the sharp November breeze
Bloweth from the Arctic seas,
Far along the Atlantic coast
Sea birds, an unnumber'd host,
Will the Southward course pursue,
Where the seas stretch far and blue.
Sea-brant, and the pied-shell drake,
Wood-duck from the inland lake,
Cape-brace and the speckled loon,
Green teal, from the fresh lagoon.
Dusky coot and sable goose,
Gull and gannet will unloose
Their broad pinions to the gale,
And on freshing breezes sail,
Pausing not, save when they shun,
Fowler's boat or smoking gun.
Soon in the depths of lonesome wood,
Forth the partridge leads her brood,
In the stubble fields the quail
Pipes her melancholy wail;
In the swamp, by trickling spring
Breaks the woodcock on the wing;
O'er the prairies brown domain
Grouse flocks range the grassy plain;
In the thick entangled screen
Of the wildernesses green,
Far and fleet, the dappled deer,
Headlong urge their hot career;
In Canadian wilds, the bear
Growls within his forest lair,
Or the bellowing moose doth move
Thro' the dim untrampled grove;
Buffalo range far and wide
Westward of Missouri's ride;
Grisly bears maintain their reign
Far beyond the Rocky chain
Over hill and vale and streams,
Wild game in abundance teems,
Luring jocund sportsmen far
To wide waste or river bar
Where the merry huntings are.
Oh! the frantic joy that thrills
Hunters o'er the woody hills,
Oh! the electric shock that starts
Life-blood throbbing thro' the heart!
When the autumn suns arise
In the crimson'd, glorious skies,
And the bright clouds of the East
Call him to the sportsman's feast;
Call him forth with dog and gun
Call him, till the setting sun
Shall return him to his place
With rich trophies of the chase.
September 29, 1859. Montrose Independent Republican 5(39): 1.