Ful erly bifore the day the folk uprysen,
Gestes that go wolde hor gromez thay calden,
And thay busken up bilyve blonkkez to sadel,
Tyffen her takles, trussen her males,
Richen hem the rychest, to ryde alle arayde,
Lepen up lightly, lachen her brydeles,
Uche wyghe on his way ther hym wel lyked.
The leve lorde of the londe watz not the last
Arayed for the rydyng, with renkkes ful mony;
Ete a sop hastyly, when he hade herde masse,
With bugle to bent-felde he buskez bylyve.
By that any daylyght lemed upon erthe
He with his hatheles on hyghe horsses weren.
Thenne thise cacheres that couthe cowpled hor houndez,
Unclosed the kenel dore and calde hem theroute,
Blwe bygly in buglez thre bare mote;
Braches bayed therfore and breme noyse maked;
And thay chastysed and charred on chasyng that went,
A hundreth of hunteres, as I haf herde telle,
of the best.
To trystors vewters yod,
Couples huntes of kest;
Ther ros for blastez gode
Gret rurd in that forest.

At the fyrst quethe of the quest quaked the wylde;
Der drof in the dale, doted for drede,
Highed to the hyghe, bot heterly thay were
Restayed with the stablye, that stoutly ascryed.
Thay let the herttez haf the gate, with the hyghe hedes,
The breme bukkez also with hor brode paumez;
For the fre lorde hade defende in fermysoun tyme
That ther schulde no mon meve to the male dere.
The hindez were halden in with hay! and war!
The does dryven with gret dyn to the depe sladez.
Ther myght mon se, as thay slypte, slenting of arwes -
At uche wende under wande wapped a flone -
That bigly bote on the broun with ful brode hedez.
What! thay brayen and blenden, bi bonkkez thay deyen,
And ay rachches in a res radly hem folwes,
Hunterez wyth hyghe home hasted hem after
Wyth such a crakkande kry as klyffes haden brusten.
What wyIde: so atwaped wyghes that schotten
Watz al toraced and rent at the resayt,
Bi thay were tened at the hyghe and taysed to the wattres;
The ledez were so lerned at the lowe trysteres,
And the grehoundez so grete, that geten hem bylyve
And hem tofylched, as fast as frekez myght loke,
The lorde for blys abloy
Ful ofte con launce and lyght,
And drof that day wyth joy
Thus to the derk nyght.



Early, before daybreak, everyone was up.
The guests who were leaving summoned their servants
And they hurried to have the horses saddled,
Get their gear ready and their bags packed.
Dressed in high attire to ride in their finery,
They leap up lightly, take hold of their bridles,
Each heading off the way he wanted to go.
The belovèd lord of the land was not the last,
Dressed up for riding, many knights with him.
He eats something quickly when he has heard Mass.
With bugles blowing he hurries to the hunt.
By the time the daylight shone over the earth
He and his knights were on their tall horses.
The dog handlers skillfully leashed the hounds in pairs,
Unlocked the kennel door and called them out,
Blew loud on the bugles three bare notes
To start the hounds baying and raising a wild din,
And they whipped them in as they went off to the hunt,
A hundred hunters of the best, is the way
I have heard it.
Handlers went to their stations,
Unleashed the paired hounds.
The loud horns
Filled the forest with their sounds.

When they first heard the hunt the wild creatures quaked
. Deer dashed to the hollows, dazed with dread,
Raced up to the ridges, but all at once they were
Turned back by the beaters and their loud shouts.
They let the harts pass on, holding their heads high,
And the brave bucks too, with their broad antlers,
Because the noble lord had forbidden anyone
To shoot at the stags during the closed season.
The hinds were held back with "Hey!" and with "Ware!,"
The does driven with all the din into the deep valleys.
There might a man see the loosed arrows flying,
The shafts flashing through every break in the forest.
The broad heads bit deep into the brown hides.
Look! They cry and bleed, they die on the hillsides,
And always the hounds are racing at their heels
And hunters with loud horns following behind them,
Their shouts sounding as though the cliffs were cracking.
Whatever wild creatures escaped the archers
Were pulled down and torn apart at the dog stations.
They were harried from the high places and driven to the water.
The beaters were so skillful at the stations down there,
And the greyhounds so huge and hard upon them
They snatched them down more swiftly than a man's eye
could follow.
The lord, wild with joy,
Would race ahead, then alight,
Happy that whole day
And on to the dark night.


Click here 1 for another translation of this poem.

Transl. copyright © W.S.Merwin 2002, 2003 - publ. Bloodaxe Books this book
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