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The furious barb snorts fire and foam, And, with a fearful bound,
LXV. Half seen by fits, by fits half heard,
Pale spectres, flit along,
And howl the funeral song; •
LXVI."E'en when the heart's with anguish cleft, Revere the doom of Heaven. Her soul is from her body reft;Her spirit be forgiven!"
THE WILD HUNTSMAN.
This is a translation, or rather an imitation, of the Wilder Jiiger of the German poet Burger. The tradition upon which it is founded bears, that formerly a Wildgrave, or keeper of a royal forest, named Faulkenburg, was so much addicted to the pleasures of the chase, and otherwise so extremely profligate and cruel, that he not only followed this unhallowed amusement on the Sabbath, and other days consecrated to religious duty, but accompanied it with the most unheard-of oppression upon the poor peasants, who were under his vassalage. When this second Nimrod died, the people adopted a superstition, founded probably on the many various uncouth sounds heard in the depth of a German forest, during the silence of the night. They conceived they still heard the cry of the Wildgrave's hounds ; and the well-known cheer of the deceased hunter, the sounds of his horses' feet, and the rustling of the branches before the game, the pack, and the sportsmen, are also distinctly discriminated; but the phantoms are rarely, if ever, visible. Once, as a benighted Chasseur heard this infernal chase pass by him, at the sound of the halloo, with which the Spectre Huntsman cheered his hounds, he could not refrain from crying, Gluck zu, Falkenburgh!" [Good sport to ye, Falkenburgh!] "Dost thou wish me good sport?" answered a hoarse voice; "thou shalt share the game ;" and there was thrown at him what seemed to be a huge piece of foul carrion. The daring Chasseur lost two of his best horses soon after, and never perfectly recovered the personal effects of this ghostly greeting. This tale, though told with some variations, is universally believed all over Germany.
The French had a similar tradition concerning an aerial hunter, who infested the forest of Fountainbleau. He was sometimes visible; when he appeared as a huntsman, surrounded with dogs, a tall grisly figure. Some account of him may be found in "Sulley's Memoirs," who says he was called Le Grand Veneur. At one time he chose to hunt so near the palace, that the attendants, and, if I mistake not, Sulley himself, came out into the court, supposing it was the sound of the king returning from the chase. This phantom is elsewhere called Saint Hubert.
The superstition seems to have been very general, as appears from the following fine poetical description of this phantom chase, as it was heard in the wilds of Ross-shire.
"Ere since, of old, the haughty thanes of Ross,— So to the simple swain tradition tells,— Were wont with clans, and ready vassals throng'd, To wake the bounding stag, or guilty wolf, There oft is heard, at midnight, or at noon, Beginning faint, but rising still more loud, And nearer, voice of hunters, and of hounds, And horns, hoarse winded, blowing far and keen:— Forthwith the hubbub multiplies; the gale Labours with wilder shrieks, and rifer din Of hot pursuit; the broken cry of deer Mangled by throttling dogs; the shouts of men, And hoofs, thick beating on the hollow hill. Sudden the grazing heifer in the vale Starts at the noise, and both the herdsman's ears Tingle with inward dread. Aghast, he eyes The mountain's height, and all the ridges round, Yet not one trace of living wight discerns, Nor knows, o'erawed, and trembling as he stands, To what, or whom, he owes his idle fear, To ghost, to witch, to fairy, or to fiend;But wonders, and no end of wondering finds."
Albania—reprinted in Scottish Descriptive Poems, pp. 167, 168.
A posthumous miracle of Father Lesley, a Scottish capuchin, related to his being buried on a hill haunted by these unearthly cries of hounds and huntsmen. After his sainted relics had been deposited there, the noise was never heard more. The reader will find this, and other miracles, recorded in the life of Father Bonaventura, which is written in the choicest Italian. f
THE WILD HUNTSMAN.
The Wildgrave winds his bugle-horn, To horse, to horse! halloo, halloo!His fiery courser snuffs the morn,
And thronging serfs their lord pursue.
The eager pack, from couples freed,
Dash through the bush, the brier, the brake;
While answering hound, and horn, and steed,
The beams of God's own hallow'd day
And, calling sinful man to pray,
Loud, long, and deep the bell had toll'd:
But still the Wildgrave onward rides;
Halloo, halloo! and, hark again! When, spurring from opposing sides,
Two Stranger Horsemen join the train.
i [Published (1796) with William and Helen, and entitled "the Chace."]