The flushing dawn had scarcely tipt
The morning clouds with flecks of gold,
Flush'd the dusk waters of the stream
That thro' the broad savannas roll'd,
When from a wide plantation near
A hunter with his ranging pack
Went forth the wildcat or the deer
To follow in the forest-track.
Thro' orange-groves of spic'd perfume,
Thro' canebrakes dense and cypress woods,
That darken'd each remote lagoon,
Or bayou hid in solitudes,
Known only to the woodland game,
Wild animals that rang'd the waste,
The hunter with the lash and spur
Press'd forward in impetuous haste.
Far-ranging in their circuits wide,
Now struggling thro' a hedge of thorn,
Now scouring o'er some plashy marsh,
Snuffing the scent on breezes borne,
The pack with bayings load the gale;
At length, hot-footed on the trail,
Soon in some forest-gloom the hound
Proclaims some noble game is found.
A panther of vast size and strength
Is up--for deafening is their howl,
Frighting from lair the mottled deer
And all the fluttering forest-fowl.
With hair erect and eyeballs strain'd,
With well-strung nerves and flying foot,
They madden on the fresh scent gain'd,
All clamoring in the hot pursuit.
Their yelp thro' swamp and forest rings
Re-echoing thro' the sombre shade,
Then o'er the lake its music flings,
Fainting and failing down the glade.
Soon a chang'd clangor, shrill and sharp,
Tells that the game is brought to bay,
And the keen hunter joyously
Rides in to mingle in the fray;
Quick tethering to a branch the steed,
He mounts a fall'n tree's mouldering heap,
Looks to his rifle, then aloft
O'er all the woods his glances sweep.
He sees his prey, a panther huge,
Perch'd on a chestnut's soaring spire,
Lashing his sides with swinging tail,
His eyeballs blazing, fierce with fire.
One instant--and the hissing ball
Tumbles the beast in fatal fall.
With snapping jaws and gory fangs,
Like fiends the mad packs tear and rend,
They crush the bone, they clutch the throat,
And soon the bloody contest ends.