The Old Huntsman Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


I've never ceased to curse the day I signedA
A seven years' bargain for the Golden FleeceB
'Twas a bad deal all round and dear enoughC
It cost me what with my daft managementD
And the mean folk as owed and never paid meE
And backing losers and the local bucksF
Egging me on with whiskys while I braggedG
The man I was when huntsman to the SquireH
I'd have been prosperous if I'd took a farmI
Of fifty acres drove my gig and haggledJ
At Monday markets now I've squandered allK
My savings nigh three hundred pound I gotL
As testimonial when I'd grown too stiffM
And slow to press a beaten foxN
The FleeceB
'Twas the damned Fleece that wore my Emily outO
The wife of thirty years who served me wellP
Not like this beldam clattering in the kitchenQ
That never trims a lamp nor sweeps the floorR
And brings me greasy soup in a foul crockS
Blast the old harridan What's fetched her nowT
Leaving me in the dark and short of fireU
And where's my pipe 'Tis lucky I've a turnV
For thinking and remembering all that's pastW
And now's my hour before I hobble to bedX
To set the works a wheezing wind the clockS
That keeps the time of life with feeble tickY
Behind my bleared old face that stares and wondersZ
It's queer how in the dark comes back to mindA
Some morning of September We've been diggingA2
In a steep sandy warren riddled with holesB2
And I've just pulled the terrier out and leftC2
A sharp nosed cub face blinking there and snappingA2
Then in a moment seen him mobbed and tornD2
To strips in the baying hurly of the packE2
I picture it so clear the dusty sunshineF2
On bracken and the men with spades that wipeG2
Red faces one tilts up a mug of aleH2
And having stopped to clean my gory handsI2
I whistle the jostling beauties out of the woodJ2
I'm but a daft old fool I often wishK2
The Squire were back again ah he was a manL2
They don't breed men like him these days he'd comeM2
For sure and sit and talk and suck his briarU
Till the old wife brings up a dish of teaE
Ay those were days when I was serving SquireH
I never knowed such sport as '-
The winter afore the one that snowed us sillyE
Once in a way the parson will drop inN2
And read a bit o' the Bible if I'm badO2
And pray the Lord to make my spirit wholeP2
In faith he leaves some 'baccy on the shelfQ2
And wonders I don't keep a dog to cheer meE
Because he knows I'm mortal fond of dogsR2
I ask you what's a gent like that to meE
As wouldn't know Elijah if I saw himS2
Nor have the wit to keep him on the talkT2
'Tis kind of parson to be troubling stillU2
With such as me but he's a town bred chapV2
Full of his college notions and Christmas hymnsW2
Religion beats me I'm amazed at folkX2
Drinking the gospels in and never scratchingA2
Their heads for questions When I was a ladO2
I learned a bit from mother and never thoughtY2
To educate myself for prayers and psalmsZ2
But now I'm old and bald and serious mindedA3
With days to sit and ponder I'd no chanceB3
When young and gay to get the hang of allK
This Hell and Heaven and when the clergy hoickA2
And holloa from their pulpits I'm asleepC3
However hard I listen and when they prayD3
It seems we're all like children sucking sweetsE3
In school and wondering whether master seesF3
I used to dream of Hell when I was firstG3
Promoted to a huntsman's job and scentH3
Was rotten and all the foxes disappearedI3
And hounds were short of blood and officersZ
From barracks over rode 'em all day longA2
On weedy whistling nags that knocked a holeP2
In every fence good sportsmen to a manL2
And brigadiers by now but dreadful hardJ3
On a young huntsman keen to show some sportK3
Ay Hell was thick with captains and I rodeL3
The lumbering brute that's beat in half a mileM3
And blunders into every blind old ditchN3
Hell was the coldest scenting land I've knownO3
And both my whips were always lost and houndsP3
Would never get their heads down and a manL2
On a great yawing chestnut trying to cast 'emM2
While I was in a corner pounded byQ3
The ugliest hog backed stile you've clapped your eyes onR3
There was an iron spiked fence round all the covertsP3
And civil spoken keepers I couldn't trustS3
And the main earth unstopp'd The fox I foundT3
Was always a three legged 'un from a bagA2
Who reeked of aniseed and wouldn't runQ
The farmers were all ploughing their old pastureU
And bellowing at me when I rode their beansP3
To cast for beaten fox or galloped onR3
With hounds to a lucky view I'd lost my voiceP3
Although I shouted fit to burst my gutsP3
And couldn't blow my hornD2
And when I wokeA2
Emily snored and barn cocks started crowingA2
And morn was at the window and I was gladO2
To be alive because I heard the cryQ3
Of hounds like church bells chiming on a SundayD3
Ay that's the song I'd wish to hear in HeavenQ
The cry of hounds was Heaven for me I knowU3
Parson would call me crazed and wrong to say itV3
But where's the use of life and being gladO2
If God's not in your gladnessP3
I've no brainsP3
For book learned studies but I've heard men sayP3
There's much in print that clergy have to wink atW3
Though many I've met were jolly chaps and rodeL3
To hounds and walked me puppies and could pickA2
Good legs and loins and necks and shoulders ayP3
And feet 'twas necks and feet I looked at firstG3
Some hounds I've known were wise as half your saintsP3
And better hunters That old dog of the Duke'sP3
Harlequin what a dog he was to drawX3
And what a note he had and what a noseP3
When foxes ran down wind and scent was catchyE
And that light lemon bitch of the Squire's old DorcasP3
She were a marvellous hunter were old DorcasP3
Ay oft I've thought 'If there were hounds in HeavenQ
With God as master taking no subscriptionQ
And all His bless egrave d country farmed by tenantsP3
And a straight necked old fox in every gorse '-
But when I came to work it out I foundT3
There'd be too many huntsmen wanting placesP3
Though some I've known might get a job with NickA2
I've come to think of God as something likeA2
The figure of a man the old Duke wasP3
When I was turning hounds to Nimrod KingA2
Before his Grace was took so bad with goutO
And had to quit the saddle Tall and spareY3
Clean shaved and grey with shrewd kind eyes that twinkledJ
And easy walk who when he gave good wordsP3
Gave them whole hearted and would never blameZ3
Without just cause Lord God might be like thatW3
Sitting alone in a great room of booksP3
Some evening after huntingA2
Now I'm tiredA4
With hearkening to the tick tack on the shelfQ2
And pondering makes me doubtfulB4
Riding homeC4
On a moonless night of cloud that feels like frostD4
Though stars are hidden hold your feet up horseP3
And thinking what a task I had to drawX3
A pack with all those lame 'uns and the lotL
Wanting a rest from all this open weatherU
That's what I'm doing nowT
And likely tooE4
The frost'll be a long 'un and the nightF4
One sleep The parsons say we'll wake to findA
A country blinding white with dazzle of snowU3
The naked stars make men feel lonely wheelingA2
And glinting on the puddles in the roadL3
And then you listen to the wind and wonderU
If folk are quite such bucks as they appearG4
When dressed by London tailors looking downH4
Their boots at covert side and thinking bigA2
This world's a funny place to live in SoonI4
I'll need to change my country but I knowU3
'Tis little enough I've understood my lifeJ4
And a power of sights I've missed and foreign marvelsP3
I used to feel it riding on spring daysP3
In meadows pied with sun and chasing cloudsP3
And half forget how I was there to catchK4
The foxes lose the angry eager feelingA2
A huntsman ought to have that's out for bloodA3
And means his hounds to get itV3
Now I knowU3
It's God that speaks to us when we're bewitchedL4
Smelling the hay in June and smiling quietM4
Or when there's been a spell of summer droughtO
Lying awake and listening to the rainN4
I'd like to be the simpleton I wasP3
In the old days when I was whipping inN2
To a little harrier pack in WorcestershireU
And loved a dairymaid but never knew itV3
Until she'd wed another So I've lovedO4
My life and when the good years are gone downH4
Discover what I've lostD4
I never brokeA2
Out of my blundering self into the worldP4
But let it all go past me like a manL2
Half asleep in a land that's full of warsP3
What a grand thing 'twould be if I could goU3
Back to the kennels now and take my houndsP3
For summer exercise be riding outO
With forty couple when the quiet skiesP3
Are streaked with sunrise and the silly birdsP3
Grown hoarse with singing cobwebs on the furzeP3
Up on the hill and all the country strangeQ4
With no one stirring and the horses freshR4
Sniffing the air I'll never breathe againS4
You've brought the lamp then Martha I've no mindA
For newspaper to night nor bread and cheeseP3
Give me the candle and I'll get to bedX

Siegfried Sassoon


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