RED banners stream out from castle-wall,
The cavaliers gather in lordly hall;
They are gay with plumes and apparel bright,
With gilded baldrick, and doublet white,
Ever ready for tourney or border fray,
For falcon flight or stag at bay.
'Twas a grand old hall where pennoncelles wave
From oaken ceiling and crypt and nave;
Where ancient statues with lance and brand
In armor complete in niches stand.
Tripping lightly down from each spacious stair
Come matrons graceful and maidens fair,
Fair damsels—a rosy and sparkling band,
With gauntlet and jewell'd whip in hand,
In flowing riding-robes array'd
To fly the falcon in forest glade.
Sirloin and venison-haunch on the board
Are deftly carv'd and the red wine pour'd;
Beakers of claret, flagons of beer,
Are quaff'd in response to toast and cheer.
Then forth down the granite steps they pass
To the court-yard esplanade of grass.
Ostler and groom from manger and stall
Lead forth the thoroughbred charges tall.
The cavaliers quick to their saddles spring,
With jingle of spur and bridle-ring;
Fair maidens are rais'd with knightly care
To their palfreys, equipt in housings rare.
Then the rough gamekeeper and dainty page
Bring forth the falcons from perch and cage,
The strong-wing'd merlins to sweep the wood,
Equipt with jesses and bell and hood.
Then forth down the bowery vale they ride
To marshy mere, to river-side,
For there, amid sedges and tufted reed,
The long-limb'd herons secluded feed.
The buzzard, the goshawk, and the kite
Are but mean assassins in their flight;
But the shapely falcon of noble fame
Is the royal hunter of forest game.
On, on they ride; resound horn and hound,
While beaters explore the coverts round;
The falcons from hood and jesses are freed,
When partridge and quail spring up at speed;
But loud resound cheerings when herons rise
From oozy marsh to ascend the skies.
With frighten'd cry he expands his wings,
With outstretch'd neck from his ambush springs,—
Springs upward in soaring and steady flight
Until lost in the skies to human sight.
But frantic and cruel the falcon still
Pursues the fugitive, eager to kill.
He follows the prey, he soars on high,
Like an arrow he cleaves the upper sky,
Then swings with a downward swoop on his prey,
And the heron falls dead in the forest way.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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