The Dartmoor Fox.
Come jump in your saddles, boys, and never doubt the morn;
The hounds are off to Skerraton, and Crocker winds his horn;
No cover under heaven’s arch a better fox can show;
So forwards to the forest boys, together let us go.
Now, cease your idle gossip. pray, for yonder lies the brake;
And if the fox is kennelled there, I’ll warrant he’s awake:
A moment, – and the spiny gorse is waving to and fro,
A whimper, and a crash are heard; and then, a Tally-ho!
Away he goes, a gallant fox, his distant point to gain;
Nor wilder is the wind that sweeps across the moorland plain:
Oh ! listen to the frantic cheer that marks his winged flight,
While echoes in the vale below are bursting with delight.
To Holne’s broad heath he whirls along, before the din of war,
Not tarries till he stands upon the rugged Banshie Tor;
Far in the rear the bristling pack is dashing on amain,
And horsemen too, like autumn leaves, are scattered o’er the plain.
But see! the dark and stormy skies a perfect deluge pour,
And every hound has dropped its nose upon the cold grey moor:
‘Now pick along,’ Trelawny said, but said it with a sigh;
As if he wished his hounds had wings, and longed to see them fly.
But, as a spider to his line, the patient huntsman clings,
Till suddenly, at Banshie Tor, again the welkin rings;
No refuge now in Whitewood rocks; the pack is dashing on;
For, madly to the banks of the Dart the flying fox is gone.
And, on to catch the burning scent, as every foxhound flings,
The Squire now begins to think the pack has found its wings;
As plovers o’er the moorland speed, or wild-fowl o’er the sea;
The steed that stays along with them a right good steed must be.
Alas! of all that gallant field, full sixty men or more,
Seven alone are seen alive upon the Dart’s rough shore:
With one accord the seven plunge up to the saddle bow;
The angry flood may cool their blood, but cannot stop them now.
Then upwards to the heights of Yar the deadly struggle turns,
And every hound that heads the pack immortal glory earns;
The horses sob – the hounds are mute, – and men are heard to cry –
‘Oh, for a steed, of Coxwell’s breed, to view them as they fly!’
Again for Dart he bends his course; again he seeks the flood;
And fiercely on his track the hounds are running hard for blood;
He rolls along, and gallops high, and dodges in the rocks;
But all his wiles are vain to save this famous Dartmoor fox.
Who-hoop! who-hoop! the huntsman shouts; and seven men are near,
To view the hound that bowled him o’er, the gallant ‘Windermere;’
And when Trelawny rides to moor, over his wild countrie,
Oh! may he never fail to find as good as fox as he.
These actual lines were written about a fox that was actually found and killed on the 22nd of November 1864, the very mention of Trelawny indicates that the fox hounds were those of the Lyneham pack. Charles Trelawny, widely known on Dartmoor as ‘The Squire’ was the Master of Foxhounds and led what was describes as being a small field of followers that consisted of, ‘as staunch and thorough-going fox-hunters as live. Such was Trelwany’s fame that today his name can be seen carved on the ‘Hunter’s Stone‘ which is located near Shipley Bridge.
It would seem that this particular chase began at Skerraton and then went over Holne Moor, across the River Dart and up to Bench Tor (once known as Benjie Tor not Banshie Tor as noted in the verse), then on to Yar Tor and back to the Dart where it was caught and killed. Whitewood is on the western bank of the River Dart opposite Mel Tor so I would presume that Whitewood Rocks are here.