Pity a helpless prisoner’s woe,
Trembling in pain from head to toe!
Kill me outright—’twere better so
Than, cramped this cruel cage within,
Half starved and soaking to the skin!
Would I had fallen to the gun,
And never to the bolt-net run!
Would the fierce creature that I fled
Had sucked my life and left me dead,
So from my happy woodland home
I ne’er unto this hell had come!
For as they bore me yesterday
From that old burrow far away,
A rough hand dangled me in play
Before the dogs.  One leapt up high
And from its socket tore mine eye;
Half blind, wet, wounded, hear my cry,
Have mercy on me—let me die!

For I was once as free as air
To linger in mine earthen lair,
Or through the blue-bell copse to creep
When all the birds were still asleep.
I knew each hedgerow’s leafy door
Between the wood and open moor;
By bud and bramble I could trace
The way to the accustomed place
Where food and frolic and delight
Went forward through the summer night;
Could sit on haunches, and look over
The fragrant lines of blossoming clover,
And if there stirred a breath of fear
I saw the great hare drop an ear—br /
I heard the clanging of the jay—
Then smote the ground and slipped away,
And caught, as home to earth I ran,
The bark of dog, the cry of man.

Ah me! men slumber half their time:
I lived my life from late to prime;
The glories of the level light
From east, from west, were mine of right.
Oft ere the spider dared begin
To shoot a line, a web to spin—
Before the lark was well awake—
The meadow-way I loved to take,
There, where the gorgeous pheasant crew,
I washed my face in morning dew,
And lingered on, as loth to leave<
The fairy rings at purple eve.
The singing lawns I used to know,
The shimmering miles of silent snow;
The shadow-dance beneath the moon
Was mine, and mine sweet rest at noon.
How glad it was when corn was green
To creep the fresh young shoots between!
Starved now and cold, I can remember
The golden days of soft September,
What joyaunce was it then to eat,
Safe-hidden in secure retreat,
The whiles the reapers cut the wheat!
And with what dalliance, with what stopping
To hear the heavy acorn dropping,
I stole through fern and yellowing leaves
To revel mid the oaten sheaves!

A prisoner now with bitter wound,
A wall of murder stretches round;
I hear the angry yap of hound,
The yelp of men who laugh in scorn
To see live limb from live limb torn,
And curse the mangled corpse that lies
Dead all too soon before their eyes.
There goes mine own child to its death!
I see the dogs with cruel breath
Leap at the prison-bars with cry.
Look at the terror in its eye!
See the poor wild-wood thing in swound
Crouch all bewildered on the ground,
Nor know which way for help to fly!

Oh, hearts! and can ye never feel?
Some giant bully lifts a heel,
That iron kick a dog would slay!
Half-stunned the creature starts away,
But ere ten paces feels the grip
Of Savage teeth in back and hip,
Then from the hound with anguish torn—
While all the murderers mock in scorn,
And none will pity the forlorn—
With entrails trailed upon the ground
The creature strains from man and hound,
And with a last sharp wail of pain<
Feels the fierce agony again.

Pity a poor dumb prisoner’s woe,
Kill me outright, ’twere better so!
Half blind, wet, wounded, hear my cry,
Have mercy on me—let me die!

Oh, hearts by river, lawn, and lea,
Whose love shall set our England free
    From cowardice and crime,
Think of the gentleness and grace
That came from Heaven to bless the race
    At merry Christmas-time!
And hear the wild-wood creatures say
That who for cruel sport would slay,
Doth feed the devil in the blood,
But starves his God, puts off the day
When man by care of beast shall prove
The bond of brotherhood is Love.

(Cornhill Magazine, 18 (May 1892), 541-3)