with Horse and Hound

Autumn Morn: Ode to a Huntsman

michael powerHuntsman Michael Power / Douglas Lees photoAlthough this poem was written in tribute to a huntsman in his prime, it is especially poignant because it seems to prophesy his tragic end.

Fay Bohlayer, a member of the Shakerag Hounds (GA), wrote the poem in 1981 for huntsman Michael Power on the occasion of his move from Shakerag to the Warrenton Hunt (VA). Ten years later, Bolayer’s poem was read at Power’s memorial service after he suffered a fatal accident in the hunting field. It could as well have been written for that sad occasion.

Power was a keen, hardworking, talented huntsman, and he showed exceptional sport at Warrenton. I watched one day as he had someone throw a coat over a barbed wire fence, which he then jumped to stay with hounds.

Once Bohlayer asked him which he thought was more fun: hunting or racing. Power replied, “Whichever I happen to be doing at the time.” She recalls one day behind Power when hounds were running, and to stay with them Power galloped without pause straight toward an iron gate, which he jumped. Bohlayer chose not to follow Power’s line, and after the run she came up and apologized for going around. “Not at all,” he piped in his Irish tenor. “It’s your sport, but it’s my living. I must go.”

Here’s Fay Bohlayer’s tribute to Michael Power:

Autumn Morn
Here’s to the dawn of an autumn morn!
    The cry of the hounds and the sound of the horn…

Down in the river bottom mist
    Before the rising sun has kissed
Away the dew on the pasture rise,
    There, before our very eyes:
The halt! the wait—a flick of his brush
    And the russet prey departs, as the rush
Of hunting hounds with clamorous voice
    Finds the scent and ends the choice:
To amble home or sit in the sun.
    Discovered, now he has to run!

Now out of the woods and along the banks
    of the river, gathering, closing ranks
The hounds stream on; their chorus swells.
    A whip beyond, in his irons, tells
With his cap aloft what the lead hounds say:
    “Tally Ho!” and “Gone Away!”

Then over the coop, horn in hand,
    The scarlet figure of a man
Born to hunt and born to ride,
    (Gathering speed with every stride)
Urging his hounds to hunt ’im hard,
    His horse at a gallop with no regard
For fence or ditch or trappy ground,
    His horn supports the flying hounds.
A gleam in his eye and a rebel yell!
    As he passes even I can tell
It’s a good first day of this hunting year,
    And Michael’s grinning ear to ear!

Yes, here’s to the dawn of a hunting morn!
    The cry of the hounds and the sound of the horn!

The woods and fields are silent now.
    It makes you wonder if, and how
You’ll hunt again with hounds and horn
    On some other autumn morn…
        But one thing for sure I know
        Before there is a hint of snow
        Hounds will run and horn will blow…
For they are running…north of here…
    And Michael’s grinning, ear to ear…

Posted July 12, 2014

michael power2Michael Power and the foxhounds of the Warrenton Hunt / Douglas Lees photo