And all but won that desperate game;
For, scarce a spear’s length from his haunch,
Vindictive toiled the bloodhounds stanch;
Nor nearer might the dogs attain,
Nor farther might the quarry strain
Thus up the margin of the lake,
Between the precipice and brake,
O’er stock and rock their race they take.
The Hunter marked that mountain high,
The lone lake’s western boundary,
And deemed the stag must turn to bay,
Where that huge rampart barred the way;
Already glorying in the prize,
Measured his antlers with his eyes;
For the death-wound and death-halloo
Mustered his breath, his whinyard drew:—
But thundering as he came prepared,
With ready arm and weapon bared,
The wily quarry shunned the shock,
And turned him from the opposing rock;
Then, dashing down a darksome glen,
Soon lost to hound and Hunter’s ken,
In the deep Trosachs’ wildest nook
His solitary refuge took.
There, while close couched the thicket shed
Cold dews and wild flowers on his head,
He heard the baffled dogs in vain
Rave through the hollow pass amain,
Chiding the rocks that yelled again.
Close on the hounds the Hunter came,
To cheer them on the vanished game;
But, stumbling in the rugged dell,
The gallant horse exhausted fell.
The impatient rider strove in vain
To rouse him with the spur and rein,
For the good steed, his labors o’er,
Stretched his stiff limbs, to rise no more;
Then, touched with pity and remorse,
He sorrowed o’er the expiring horse.
’I little thought, when first thy rein
I slacked upon the banks of Seine,
That Highland eagle e’er should feed
On thy fleet limbs, my matchless steed!
Woe worth the chase, woe worth the day,
That costs thy life, my gallant gray!’
Then through the dell his horn resounds,
From vain pursuit to call the hounds.
Back limped, with slow and crippled pace,
The sulky leaders of the chase;
Close to their master’s side they pressed,
With drooping tail and humbled crest;
But still the dingle’s hollow throat
Prolonged the swelling bugle-note.
The owlets started from their dream,
The eagles answered with their scream,
Round and around the sounds were cast,
Till echo seemed an answering blast;
And on the Hunter tried his way,
To join some comrades of the day,
Yet often paused, so strange the road,
So wondrous were the scenes it showed.