out on the tops
out on the tops
Deer culler, with windswept hair, and rifle,
Out in the clear, clear air with its very
Cold coldness, out on the tops amid
Shale, snowgrass tussock, and snow.
Hill after hill, looking down across
The valleys and further slopes shot
With fountains of tussock splashing
Up out of the thin, rocky,
Moss and bracken-covered soil as if
The whole of this rolling country were
An ocean under naval bombardment.
At last, at long, long last,
A stand, After a two days' drive, a
Mob of twenty-seven deer in a rock-rimmed
Basin high in the hard, hard ranges of the Billows.
The careful culler laying out his ammo in
Glittering heaps, eyes picking out
The oldest grey hind, the leader of the mob.
Then the first shot. The old grey leader leaping,
Bounding off, staggering, and plunging
To earth, Resting deer coming up,
Now on their knees, half-risen, hindquarters in the air,
Heads turned to watch the still leader,
The culler muttering "Stand, stand, will you."
And the mob does not break.
Then the slow, deliberate work,
The smash of the rifle in his ears,
The pungent smell of cordite and the
Tinkling of shells on rock.
Ah, the very black rocks and the very white
Snow and the very bright red of the blood in the snow.
All around, dead and dying deer,
A huge stag staggering up to roar blood,
Hot and red, into the cold, white snow
Then collapse, his body spilling beneath his skin.
And an old grey hind on her knees in the snow
With iron in her chest;
And a little red fawn on his side in the snow
With a hole in his belly you could put a clock in.
And a tiny breeze ruffling the down of the little
Fawn's belly that is soft with a softness soft as
The softest flesh-softness.
In the hot heat of mid-day; And
Over all, filling the air, the rain-smell
Of rain and distant dog-warning growl of thunder.
And high on the ridge around the basin, in
A shower of spent brass shells, the man:
Spraddle-legged, spitting lustily skywards,
And thinking that at-least-twenty-five times fifteen bob
Is nearly twenty quid, and also—
Because these things require justification—
A saving of much feed and foliage due to
The death of these noxious animals.