In winter, when the snows lie deep
In shapeless hillock, drifted heap,
When thick the hollow vales they fill,
And woods are trackless on the hill,
The wild wolves, famished, grim and gaunt,
Forsake their rocky mountain-haunt,
When frozen Nature’s hand denies
The food in summer it supplies.
Forced from their coverts, far they prowl
With gnashing teeth and dismal howl,
And, hid all day in darksome den,
At night roam round the haunts of men.
By cattle-fold or sheltered shed
Where bleating sheep are housed and fed,
When all farmer’s household sleeps,
And watchdog to the fireside creeps,
These fierce marauders gather round;
They scent the air, they sniff the ground,
Then with a famished onset break
Threw wattle hedge and sheepfold stake,
Rending with the demoniac crew
The fleecy dam, the bleating ewe.
The farmer at the break of day
Looks on the ravage with dismay,
The precious flock, complete no more;
The snowy sheep-yard, red with gore!
From farm to farm-house spreads the tale,
From upland hut to peoples vale;
All arm, the “wolf-drive” to prepare,
A hunt that all leagues must share.
Some from the dusty rafters take
Their rusty guns of ancient make;
And some, late soldiers of the war,
The rifles that have slain so far;
The small boys birding pieces wield,
Impatient for the hunting field.
Forth then exultingly they pour
For circuit of ten leagues or more;
Their captains on their coursers borne,
Armed with the trumpet and horn;
All wading o’er the snow-heaped ground,
All to some common center bound.
Marching with blast of horns and shout,
To drive the hunted wolves in tout.
Unharmed the red deer boundeth by;
Scathless the wild-cats from bough
Gaze on the rushing crowd below;
The coon from hollow of the tree
Looks down, amazed the coil to see.
‘Tis known in tangled-hazel swamp
The wolves have made their winter camp;
And here vociferous and loud,
Concentrates the avenging crowd,
Engirdling as with iron ring
The wolves that to their covert cling.
At summons of the leader press
Thro’ Briery, vine strung wilderness,
A chosen band, with horn and cry
To fright the victims till they fly;
Who, mad with terror, seek to gain
Some outlet of escape in vein;
For everywhere a foeman stands
To slaughter them with bloody hands;
And soon is soaked the spotless snow
With crimson blood from wounds that flow.
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