Fly for thy life, fleet, frightened crature, fly!
Fly for thy life, or thou art doomed to die!
Swift in thy track, the hounds, thy hoof-prints scent,
Faster and faster, on their prey intent.
O, pause not in the grassy dingle now,
Nor think to rest upon the mountain's brow;
For life and liberty, thy speed increase!
Broken is now the forest's slumbrous peace,
As bounding onward, swift as a gazelle,
Through manzanita brush and chaparral;
With panting sides, but fleet, unfailing limbs,
O'er fallen trees, down gorges, grand and grim.
The startled rabbit, swift before him flies;
Quick! to his hole, the frightened ground-squirrel hies.
The quail flocks, feeding, in the forest's shade,
With whirring wings, desert the weedy glade.
Nearer and nearer, come the fearless hounds
But far and swift, the frightened creature bounds,
Through tangled thickets, reedy marshes through;
Until his graceful form is lost to view.
With hopeless zeal, the fierce hounds follow on;
They turn, they pause, the fleet-limbed prey is gone.
They snuff the mountain air, but all in vain,
They try to scent the missing track again;
At last they stop--give up the useless chase--
The fleet-limbed deer has won the breathless race.
* * *
Away beyond the ridge's pine-fringed crest
The panting creature stops at last to rest,
Sad-eyed and beautiful, but trembling still,
He scans with anxious gaze the distant hill;
Fear not, proud, gentle creature, still for thee
All Nature spreads her table, thou art free,
Free, to quaff nectar from the spring's fair face,
To view in glassy pools, thy mirrored grace;
Free, to roam leisurely the grassy hills,
Or browse the tender herbage by the rills;
Free, to wade knee-deep in the reed-fringed pond
Or rest, at noon-tide, in the shade beyond.
Thy late pursuers, baffled, cease their chase,
No foe will harm thee, in thy resting-place;
Soon, with thy faithful, boon companions near,
Forgotten all thy terror, danger, fear,
Thy fearless feet shall roam thy native sward
Unstained, unsullied by thy warm life blood.
The hunter's tiresome search is all in vain,
Lost is the splendid prize he hoped to gain;
Yet I can but rejoice that thou art free,
Fleet, gentle creature, born to liberty.