페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

having made him a present of a very fine hound the other day, the knight returned it by the servant with a great many expressions of civility; but desired him to tell his master, that the dog he had sent was indeed a most excellent bass, but that at present he only wanted a counter-tenor. Could I believe my friend had ever read Shakspeare, I should certainly conclude he had taken the hint from Theseus in the Midsummer Night's Dream:

• My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So fiu'd?, so sanded 3 ; and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew,
Crook-knee'd and dew-lap'd like Thessalian bulls,
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouths like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tunable
Was never halloo'd to, nor cheer'd with horn.'

Sir Roger is so keen at this sport, that he has been out almost every day since I came down; and upon the chaplain's offering to lend me his easy pad, I was prevailed on yesterday morning to make one of the company. I was extremely pleased, as we rid along, to observe the general benevolence of all the neighbourhood, towards my friend. The farmers' sons thought themselves happy if they could open a gate for the good old knight as he passed by; which he generally requited with a nod or a smile, and a kind inquiry after their fathers or uncles.

After we had rid about a mile from home, we came upon a large heath, and the sportsmen began to beat. They had done so for some time, when, as I was at a little distance from the rest of the com

2 Flews are the large chaps of a deep-mouthed hound. 3 Marked with small spots, like sand.

pany, I saw a hare pop out from a small furze-brake almost under my horse's feet. I marked the way she took, which I endeavoured to make the company sensible of by extending my arm; but to no purpose, till Sir Roger, who knows that none of my extraordinary motions are insignificant, rode up to me, and asked me, if puss was gone that way? Upon my answering yes, he immediately called in the dogs, and put them upon the scent. As they were going off, I heard one of the country-fellows muttering to his companion, that 'twas a wonder they had not lost all their sport, for want of the silent gentleman's crying Stole away.

This, with my aversion to leaping hedges, made me withdraw to a rising ground, from whence I could have the pleasure of the whole chase, without the fatigue of keeping in with the hounds. The hare immediately threw them above a mile behind her ; but I was pleased to find, that instead of running straight forwards, or in hunter's language, * flying the country,' as I was afraid she might have done, she wheeled about, and described a sort of circle round the hill where I had taken my station, in such a manner as gave me a very distinct view of the sport. I could see her first pass by, and the dogs some time afterwards unravelling the whole track she had made, and following her through all her doubles. I was at the same time delighted in observing that deference which the rest of the pack paid to each particular hound, according to the character he had acquired amongst them. If they were at a fault, and an old hound of reputation opened but once, he was immediately followed by the whole cry; while a raw dog, or one who was a noted liar, might have yelped his heart out, without being taken notice of.

The hare now, after having squatted two or three times, and been put up again as often, came still nearer to the place where she was at first started. The dogs pursued her, and these were followed by the jolly knight, who rode upon a white gelding, encompassed by his tenants and servants, and cheering his hounds with all the gaiety of five and twenty. One of the sportsmen rode up to me, and told me, that he was sure the chase was almost at an end, because the old dogs, which had hitherto lain behind, now headed the pack. The fellow was in the right, Our hare took a large field just under us, followed by the full cry In View. I must confess the brightness of the weather, the cheerfulness of every thing around me, the chiding of the hounds, which was returned upon us in a double echo from two neighbouring hills, with the hallooing of the sportsmen, and the sounding of the horn, lifted my spirits into a most lively pleasure, which I freely indulged because I was sure it was innocent. If I was under any concern, it was on the account of the poor hare, that was now quite spent, and almost within the reach of her enemies; when the huntsman getting forward threw down his pole before the dogs. They were now within eight yards of that game which they had been pursuing for almost as many hours; yet on the signal before-mentioned they all made a sudden stand, and though they continued opening as much as before, durst not once attempt to pass beyond the pole. At the same time Sir Roger rode forward, and alighting took up the hare in his arms; which he soon after delivered up to one of his servants with

an order, if she could be kept alive, to let her go in his great orchard; where it seems he has several of these prisoners of war, who live together in a very comfortable captivity. I was highly pleased to see the discipline of the pack, and the good-nature of the knight, who could not find in his heart to murder a creature that had given him so much diversion.

As we were returning home, I remembered that Monsieur Paschal, in his most excellent discourse on the Misery of Man, tells us, that all our endeavours after greatness proceed from nothing but a desire of being surrounded by a multitude of persons and affairs that may hinder us from looking into ourselves, which is a view we cannot bear. He afterwards goes on to shew that our love of sports comes from the same reason, and is particularly severe upon hunting. " What,' says he, unless it be to drown thought, can make men throw away so much time and pains upon a silly animal, which they might buy cheaper in the market?' The foregoing reflection is certainly just, when a man suffers his whole mind to be drawn into his sports, and altogether loses himself in the woods ; but does not affect those who propose a far more laudable end from this exercise, I mean, the preservation of health, and keeping all the organs of the soul in a condition to execute her orders. Had that incomparable person, whom I last quoted, been a little more indulgent to himself in this point, the world might probably have enjoyed him much longer; whereas through too great an application to his studies in his youth he contracted that ill habit of body, which, after a tedious sickness, carried him off in the fortieth year of his age; and the whole history we have of his life till that time, is but one

continued account of the behaviour of a noble soul struggling under innumerable pains and distempers 4.

For my own part, I intend to hunt twice a week during my stay with Sir Roger; and shall prescribe the moderate use of this exercise to all my country friends, as the best kind of physic for mending a bad constitution, and preserving a good one.

I cannot do this better, than in the following lines out of Mr. Dryden':

· The first physicians by debauch were made;
Excess began, and sloth sustains the trade.
By chase our long-liv'd fathers earn'd their food;
Toil strung the nerves, and purify'd the blood;
But we their sons, a pamper'd race of men,
Are dwindled down to threescore years and ten,
Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught,
The wise for cure on exercise depend :
God never made his work for man to mend.'
BUDGELL

x.

4 Blaise Pascal, who when a mere youth might be said to challenge all the mathematicians of Europe, was born at Clermont, in Auvergne, 1623, and died in Paris, 1662.

s Epistle to his honoured kinsman John Dryden, of Ches, terton, in the county of Huntingdon, esq.

« 이전계속 »