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THE NEEDLESS ALARM.
THERE is a field, through which I often pass Thick overspread with moss and silky grass, Adjoining close to Kilwick's echoing wood, Where oft the bitch fox hides her hapless brood, Reserv'd to solace many a neighb'ring squire, That he may follow them through brake and
brier, Contusion, hazarding of neck, or spine, Which rural gentleman call sport divine. A narrow brook, by rushy banks conceal'd Runs in a bottom, and divides the field ; Oaks intersperse it, that had once a head, But now wear crests of oven-wood instead ; And where the land slopes to its wat’ry bourn, Wide yawns a gulph beside a ragged thorn; Bricks line the sides, but shiver'd long ago, And horrid brambles intertwine below; A hollow scoop'd, I judge, in ancient time, For baking earth, burning rock to lime.
Not yet the hawthorn bore her berries red, With which the fieldfare, wintry guest, is fed ; Nor autumn yet had brush'd from ev'ry spray, With her chill hand the mellow leaves away; But corn was hous'd and beans were in the stack;
Now therefore issu'd forth the spotted pack,
The sun, accomplishing his early march, His lamp now planted on Heav'n's topmost arch, When, exercise and air my only aim, And heedless whither, to that field I came, Ere yet with ruthless joy the happy hound Told hill and dale that Reynard's track was
found, Or with the high-rais'd horn's melodious clang All Kilwick* and all Dinglederry* rang.
Sheep graz'd the field; some with soft bosom
press'd The herb as soft, while nibbling stray'd the rest; Nor noise was heard but of the hasty brook, Struggling, detain'd in many a petty nook. All seem'd so peaceful, that, from them con
vey'd, To me their peace by kind contagion spread.
But when the huntsman with distended cheek, 'Gan make his instrument of music speak, And from within the wood that crash was heard,
*Two woods belonging to John Throckmorton, Esq.
Though not a hound from whom it burst ap
pear'd, The sheep recumbent, and the sheep that graz’d, All huddling into phalanx, stood and gaz'd, Admiring, terrified, the novel strain, Then cours'd the field around, and cours'd it
round again; But, recollecting with a sudden thought, That flight in circles urg'd advanc'd them nought, They gather'd close around the old pit's brink, And thought again—but knew not what to think,
The man to solitude accustom'd long Perceives in every thing that lives a tongue, Not animals alone, but shrubs and trees, Have speech for him, and understood with ease; After long drought when rains abundant fall; He hears the herbs and flow'rs rejoicing all ; Knows what the freshness of their hue implies, How glad they catch the largess of the skies; But, with precision nicer still, the mind He scans of ev'ry locomotive kind ; Birds of all feather, beasts of ev'ry name, That serve mankind, or shun them, wild or
tame ; The looks and gestures of their griefs and fears Have all articulation in his ears; He spells them true by intuition's light, And needs no glossary to set him right.
This truth premis'd was needful as a text, To win due credence to what follows next.
Awhile they mus’d; surveying ev'ry face, Thou hadst suppos'd them of superior race ; Their periwigs of wool, and fears combin'd Stamp'd on each countenance such marks of
mind, That sage they seem' as lawyers o'er a doubt Which, puzzling long, at last they puzzle out; Or academic tutors, teaching youths, Sure ne'er to want them, mathematic truths; When thus a mutton, statelier than the rest, A ram, the ewes and weathers sad, address'd.
Friends! we have liv'd too long. I never
heard. Sounds such as these, so worthy to be fear'd. Could I believe, that winds for ages pent In Earth's dark womb have found at last a vent, And from their prison-house below arise, With all these hideous howlings to the skies, I could be much compos'd, nor should appear, For such a cause, to feel the slightest fear. Yourselves have seen, what time the thunders
roll'd All night, me resting quiet in the fold, Or heard we that tremendous bray alone, I could expound the melancholy tone; Should deem it by our old companion made, The ass; for he, we know, has lately stray'd, And being lost, perhaps and wand'ring wide, Might be
suppos’d to clamour for a guide. But ah! those dreadful yells what soul can hear That owns a carcass and not quake for fear?
Demons produce them doubtless, brazen claw'd,
Him answer'd then his loving mate and true, But more discreet than he a Cambrian ewe.
How! leap into the pit our life to save ? To save our life leap all into the grave! For who can find it less ? Contemplate first The depth how awful! falling there we burst; Or should the brambles interpos’d, our fall In part abate, that happiness were small: For with a race like theirs no chance I see Of peace or ease to creatures clad as we. Meantime, noise kills not. Be it Dapple's bray, Or be it not, or be it whose it may, And rush those other sounds, that seem by
tongues Of demons utter'd from whatever lungs, Sounds are but sounds, and till the cause appear, We have at least commodious standing here. Come fiend, come fury, giant, monster, blast From Earth or Hell, we can but plunge at last.
While thus she spake, I fainter heard the
peals, For Reynard, close attended at his heels By panting dog, tir'd man, and spatter'd horse Through mere good fortune, took a diff',