The School Bag

Song to the Foxes

Duncan Ban Macintyre

      Ho hù o hó the cunning dogs,
          Not often that we find them!
      Ho hù o hó the cunning dogs.

My blessing on the foxes,
     for their hunting of sheep.
           Ho hù o hó the cunning dogs. etc.

How could these sheep of brindled head
     set on the world’s contention;

to make our land a wilderness
     and yet its rent increasing?

No farmer has a place here,
    the profit’s ever shrinking;

No other course but exile
     from the homeland of his people.

The townships and the shielings                              settlements
     where once dwelt warmth and kindness —

no houses but the tumbled stones,
     no ploughing of the meadows.

The customs that were followed,
     they have perished now in Gaeldom,

have come to be unnatural
     in hospitable places.

No filly’s found or brood mare
     with foal at heel beside her.

There are no two-year heifers
      who will suckle their own calves now.

There is no need for milkmaids,
     when all milking-folds are scattered.

No lad can earn his keep there
     but the minder of the sheep-flocks.

The treasured goats are gone now;
     though a king gave them their freedom.

The small doe of the greenwood
     will not be waked with calling.

No deer comes to the spring there
     now the gentry have lost liking.

They have turned off every stalker,
     without reward of labor.

I’m angered by the fellow
     who speaks ill of the foxes.

Who sets a hound to hunt them
     or scatters them with lead-shot.

May all the foxcubs prosper
     that live within an earth there.

Could they get my earnest wishes,
     they’d thrive there never fearing.

Young foxes would breed youngsters,
     and they’d live till old age killed them. 

18th century - Scots Gaelic - translated by William Neil