William Henry Ogilvie
The First Flight - Poem by William Henry Ogilvie
While there's one on his feet with a tale to repeat
And another is sampling a drink,
The eager First Flight have a girth to draw tight
Or a chain to let out by a link;
While the boisterous laugh in that circle of chaff
The opening music has drowned,
You will hear the First Flight as they whisper 'That's right!'
To the note of a favourite hound.
When a holloa makes sure that his start is secure
And dispels every doubt of a run,
When the crowd gallops straight to the obvious gate
With the latch that is never undone,
You will see the First Flight cram a topper on tight,
Catch a willing old nag by the head
And clapping on sail at the blackthorn or rail,
Take the line of the robber in red.
They thunder away over stubble and clay,
Over roots or the level o' lea,
The gallant First Flight that are soon out of sight
While the slow ones are sadly at sea.
The crash of a rail in the cream of the vale
Is to them but a matter of mirth,
And the avalanche fall of a hoof-rattled wall
But the merriest music on earth.
There are gaps, there are gates for the coward who waits,
There are roads for the fellow who fears;
To left nor to right go the gallant First Flight
Save to veer with the chase as it veers.
No field has a fence so dark-looming and dense
Or a rail so unyielding and stout
But if once the First Flight have got in it all right
You may trust them to find a way out.
Now the men who ride first may be frequently cursed
As they press on the faltering pack,
But we're all of us loth to pull up for an oath
When it comes from a field or two back;
And the Master may blame and the jealous declaim
But the weakest must go to the wall,
And it's plain the First Flight have the premier right
If the hounds may be hustled at all.
Come drink with me, then, to the big-hearted men
Who have pluck to sit down and go straight!
Whether farmer or squire may they keep out of wire
And be spared a lift home on a gate!
Fill your glasses tonight to the gallant First Flight,
Let us wish them the luck of the line
And tomorrow's recall to the best game of all,
And the wind that is better than wine!
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