David Lewis Paget
The Master Of Hounds - Poem by David Lewis Paget
Deep in the village of Darkling
Where the Squires and their Ladies rule,
No-one comes out in the eventime
Unless they’re a brazen fool,
The Hunt is rallied for after dark
And they wear the hood and the cowl,
Roam far and wide through the countryside
While the ravening hounds just howl.
They say that they’re hunting foxes,
But I know, that just isn’t true,
That blood they seek at the end of the week,
They may be looking for you,
They take their cues from the Magistrate
Who leads the Hunt through the grounds,
His word is law, and he sets the score,
They call him the Master of Hounds.
Sir Roland Bear has an awful stare
As he glares at you from the bench,
The lawyers do what they’re told to do
And offer little defence,
If you poach a hare from a Squire’s land
Or take a fish from his stream,
And you see him add your name to a list,
You know it’s your final scene!
For once outside in the courtyard there
The peasants will stare in dread,
They cross themselves as they pass you by
For nobody speaks to the dead!
You can’t go hide in your cottage,
If it still has a window or door,
Though you’re locked right in, the hounds of sin
Will come up through a hole in your floor.
The light of my life, Evangeline,
Was married to Percival Shroud,
He beat her once with a riding crop
To keep her bullied and cowed,
She worked all day in the Dairy,
In a barn on Percival’s Farm,
And I said one day that he’d have to pay,
I’d not see her come to harm.
She stared at me with her worried eyes
And she let me believe she cared,
We’d hide together beneath the hay
At the height of our love affair,
But one day soon, her burly groom
Had seen us going to ground,
And hauled us before the Magistrate
While our legs and our hands were bound.
‘There isn’t a place in Darkling here
For the likes of a pair like you! ’
Sir Roland Bear, his pen in the air
Considered what he would do.
‘You’ve wandered outside the marriage bounds
Brought shame on the vows you swore,
While you have sullied her decency,
And turned a wife to a whore! ’
He put his pen to the fabled list
And he wrote two names in there,
Then thrust us into the courtyard so
The folk could shame and stare.
They cut our bonds and we heard the hounds
As they howled and yapped for blood,
So we went trembling, hand in hand
To hide ourselves in the wood.
The Squires were grim and remorseless when
The Hunt pursued its fare,
Their Ladies thought it a festival
When they rubbed warm blood in their hair,
I’d said I’d not let her come to harm
But Evangeline had cried,
I broke a branch and I sharpened it
To defend my shattered pride.
They came at us like the hounds of hell
In their cloaks, and hoods and cowls,
Along with a pack of hunting dogs,
We could hear their approaching howls,
Evangeline was safe in a tree
While I stood guard below,
My fear was clear in my trembling hands
But I stood so it wouldn’t show.
A rider burst on out through the trees
And he roared, ‘Now pay for your crime! ’
I waited until he rode up close
Then I thrust my stake in his eye,
He screamed just once, and fell from his horse
And his cowl, it floated wide,
I saw I’d killed the Master of Hounds
As the dogs tore at his hide.
The Squires looked down with little remorse
At the corpse that lay in the mud,
While the ladies leapt from their jittery mounts
To dip their hands in his blood,
We made our way unseen through the woods
Escaped from the killing grounds,
And Darkling now is free from the spell
Of the evil Master of Hounds!
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