|The original manuscript of The Fox's Prophecy was given to William Gordon
Canning about 1889, when he was master of The Ledbury Hounds.
The author has shown himself to be a remarkable prophet. Many
of the views uttered by the old Berkley Fox have become curiously
and prophetically true.
THE FOX'S PROPHECY
D.W. Nash (1871)
Submitted by David Villiers-Child
Tom Hill was in the saddle
One bright November morn,
The echoing glades of Guiting Wood
Were ringing with his horn.
The varies tints of autumn,
Still lingered in the wood,
And on the leaves the morning sun
Poured out a golden flood.
Soft, fleecy clouds were sailing
Across the vault of blue;
A fairer hunting morning
No huntsman ever knew.
All nature seemed rejoicing
That glorious morn to see;
All seemed to breathe a fresher life-
Beast, insect, bird and tree.
But sound and sight of beauty
Fell dull on eye and ear;
The huntsman's heart was heavy,
His brow oppressed with care.
High in the stirrups raised he stood,
And long he gazed around;
And breathlessly and anxiously
He listened for a sound.
No voice of hound, no sound of horn;
The woods around were mute,
As though the earth had swallowed up
His comrades-man and brute.
He thought, I must essay to find
My hounds at any cost;
A huntsman who has lost his hounds
Is but a huntsman lost.
Then round he turned his horse's head,
And shook his bridle free,
When he was struck by an aged fox
That sat beneath a tree.
He raised his eyes in glad surprise,
That huntsman keen and bold;
But there was in that fox's look
That made his blood run cold.
He raised his hand to touch his horn,
And shout a "Tally-ho!"
But, mastered by that fox's eye,
His lips refused to blow.
For he was grim and gaunt of limb,
With age all silvered o'er;
He might have been an Arctic Fox
Escaped from Greenland's shore.
But age his vigour had not tamed,
Nor dimm'd his sparkling eye,
Which shone with an unearthly fire-
A fire could never die.
And thus the huntsman he addressed,
In tones distinct and clear,
Who heard as they who in a dream
The fairies' music hear.
"Huntsman" he said-a sudden thrill
Through all the listener ran,
To hear a creature of the wood
Speak like a Christian man-
"Last of my race, to me tis given
The future to unfold,
To speak the words which never yet
Spake fox of mortal mould.
"Then print my words upon your heart,
And stamp them on your brain,
That you and others may impart
My prophecy again.
"Strong life is yours in manhood's prime,
Your cheek with heat is red;
Time has not laid a finger yet
In earnest on your head.
"But ere your limbs are bent with age,
And ere your locks are grey,
The sport that you have loved so well
Shall long have passed away.
"Yet think not, huntsman, I rejoice
To see the end so near;
Nor think the sound of horn and hound
To me a sound of fear.
"In my strong youth, which numbers now
Full many a winter back,
How scornfully I shook my brush
Before the Berkley Pack.
"Then think not that I speak in fear,
Or prophesy in hate;
Too well I know the doom reserved
For all my tribe by fate.
"Too well I know by wisdom taught,
The existence of my race
O'er all wide England's green domain
Is bound up with the chase.
"Better in early youth and strength
The race for life to run,
Than poisoned like a noxious rat,
Or slain by fellon gun.
"For not upon these hills alone
The doom of sport shall fall;
O'er the broad face of England creeps
The shadow of the wall.
"The years roll on: old manors change,
Old customs lost their sway;
The manly blood of England
In weaker veins shall run.
"The furzy down, the moorland heath,
The Steam plough shall invade;
Nor park nor manor shall escape-
Common, not forest glade.
"Degenerate sons of manlier sires
To lower joys shall fall;
The faithless lore of Germany,
The gilded voice of Gaul.
"The sports of their forefathers
To baser tastes shall yield;
The vices of the town displace
The pleasures of the field.
"For swiftly o'er the level shore
The waves of progress ride;
The ancient landmarks one by one
Shall sink beneath the tide.
"Time-honoured creeds and ancient faith,
The Altar and the Crown,
Lordships hereditary right,
Before that tide go down.
"Base churls shall mock the mighty names
Writ on the roll of time;
Religion shall be held a jest,
And loyalty a crime.
"No word of prayer, no hymn of praise
Sound in the village school;
The peoples education
"The peasants to their daily tasks
In surly silence fall;
No kindly hospitalities
In farmhouse or in hall.
"No harvest feast nor Christmastide
Shall farm or manor hold;
Science alone can plenty give,
The only God is gold.
"The homes where love and peace should dwell,
Fierce politics shall vex,
And unsexed woman strive to prove
Herself the coarser sex.
"Mechanics in their workshops
Affairs of state decide;
Honour and truth-old fashioned words-
The noisy mob deride.
"The statesmen that should rule the realm
Coarse demagogues displace;
The glory of a thousand years
Shall end in foul disgrace.
"The honour of old England,
Cotton shall buy and sell,
And hardware manufacturers
Cry, 'Peace!-lo! All is well'.
"Trade shall be held the only God
And gain the sole device;
The statesman's aim shall be peace,
And peace at any price.
"Her army and her navy
Britain shall cast aside;
Soldiers and ships are costly things,
Defence an empty pride.
"The Germans and the Muscovite
Shall rule the narrow seas;
Old England's flag shall cease to float
In triumph in the breeze.
"Taught wisdom by disaster
England shall learn to know
That trade is not the only gain
Heaven gives to man below.
"The greed for gold departed,
The golden calf cast down,
Old England's sons again shall raise
The Altar and the Crown.
"Rejoicing seas shall welcome
Their mistress once again;
Again the banner of St. George
Shall rule upon the main.
"Again in hall and homestead
Shall joy and peace be seen,
And smiling children raise again
The maypole on the green.
"Again the hospitable board
Shall groan with Christmas cheer,
And mutual service bond again
The peasant and the peer.
"Again the smiling hedgerow
Shall field from field divide;
Again among the woodlands
The scarlet troop shall ride."
Again it seemed that aged fox
More prophecies would say
When sudden came upon the wind,
"Hark forrard! Gone away!"
The listener started from his trance-
He sat there all alone;
That well known cry had burst the spell,
The aged fox was gone.
The huntsman turned, he spurred his steed,
And to the cry he sped;
And, when he thought upon that fox,
Said naught but shook his head.
from the archives of Rt Hon.the Lord Weatherill D.L Former
Master Tailor, Member of Parliament, Speaker of The House of Commons.