Disgusted with fox-hunting, the poet declares his intention to hunt the hare: "Sweet pow'r of Thistlewhipping, hail! | Whom in a solitary vale | To prone-ey'd Dulness long of yore | The moping nymph Tantarra bore; | He half awake one misty morn | Tickled her scut beneath a thorn." Squire Mundy was an Oxford-educated friend of Anna Seward and Erasmus Darwin who lived the retired life of a country gentleman in the west of England. The ode was "written in 1765."
John Hawkesworth: "These poems are in the class of which least can be said; some better, and many worse, are continually published; but though their fault is rather negative than positive, rather general want of excellence than particular defect, there are among passages which fail to please, some that give offence" Monthly Review 40 (April 1769) 306-07.
F. N. C. Mundy was so disappointed with his reviews (presumably Hawkesworth's comments in the Monthly Review) that he afterwards had his Needwood Forest privately printed, much to the distress of his many admirers.
Lo I, who erst at break of day
To Nelston Wiggs betook my way,
Alarming all the country round
With barb'rous shout, and babbling hound;
And many a fox in vain pursu'd
To Bardon Hill or Button Wood;
And oft return'd in evening dark
With empty hands from Horsely Park;
And thought myself a clever lad,
While all the neighbours deem'd me mad;
Now condescend with nicest care
To look the hedge-row for a hare.
—Hence FOXHUNTING! thou fiend forlorn,
Of uproar wild, and tumult born:
No more expect me on the hill,
Obedient to thy summons shrill,
Where late with joy I saw thee stand,
The whip new-chorded in thine hand,
In boots thy legs intrenched strong,
Thy heels well arm'd with rowels long,
The cap close-fitted to thy head,
The blue-plush coat, the waistcoat red;
Thy person trim, succinct, and light,
Breeches'd high, in in buckskin tight;
Mounted on a courser fleet,
With ardent eyes, and pawing feet.
Hence with thy tall tail-curling hound,
Of tongue so shrill, and ears so round.
No more I listen to the noise
Of "wind him rogues," and "to him boys,"
The 'touch,' the 'drag,' and "Tallihoe,"
And "gone away," and "there they go;"
And how we earth'd him at Crich Chace,
Or lost him at some cursed place;
From all such ills that did attend us
Henceforth good Jupiter defend us!
—But come thou Genius of "Loo Whore,"
Sober, stedfeast, and demure,
Clad in a coat of clumsy size,
Of double drab, or knotted frize,
O'er which is drawn the warm surtout
With flourish'd girdle bound about,
Thy vacant forehead broad and fat
Shadow'd beneath the round cropp'd hat.
Sweet pow'r of Thistlewhipping, hail!
Whom in a solitary vale
To prone-ey'd Dulness long of yore
The moping nymph Tantarra bore;
He half awake one misty morn
Tickled her scut beneath a thorn.
—Come, but keep your wonted state
On a horse of sluggish gait,
Your looks commercing with the ground
Where the close-couching hare is found:
And as across the lands you creep
Forget yourself, and fall asleep:
Till the dull steed shall break your nap,
Stumbling through th' accustom'd gap.
And first the waddling beagle bring
That looks as just escap'd the string,
With sneaking tail and heavy head
Such as by neighbour Dash are bred,
And join sharp Cold, and Ache severe,
And Patience, that can bear to hear
The pack with melancholy tone
Around the scented hillock moan,
And with such discord as they keep
Tempt pitying travellers to weep.
Me, Genius, shalt thou often find
On some hill side beneath the wind,
On fallows rough, or stubbles dry,
Where the lone Leveret loves to lie,
While such mean merriment invites,
Doing thy sadly pleasing rites.
Oft' on a plat of rising ground
I see the fat pack puzzling round
Where the game went long before,
Sounding sad with sullen roar;
With slow-pac'd heed and tedous cunning
Through all her artful mazes running,
Untwisting every knotty wile
Both of the double and the soil,
In notes with many a winding bout
Of drowsy murm'rings long drawn out,
Bewailing their dull master's folly,
Most pitiful, most melancholy.
—But chiefly let the Southern's tongue
Drag its deep dismal tone along,
In bellowings loud, and utterance hoarse,
Such as mournful way may force
Through all my Hearing's cavities,
And bring the tears into my eyes.
But let my due sight never fail,
Where beaten paths divide the vale,
With anxious skill and cunning care
To prick the footsteps of the hare,
While I cheer the beagles toil,
With "hoo the way," and "hark the soil."
And when at last old age and gout
Prevent my longer going out,
O may I from my easy chair
The wonders of my youth declare,
Extol at large myself and steed,
And talk of hounds of my old breed;
'Till I become through neigh'bring shires
The oracle of Country 'Squires.
—These pleasures, Harehunting, impart,
And I am thine with all my heart.