Badgers are possibly the most loved wild animals in Britain and it is unsurprising that there are a number of poems about them. I’ve collected a couple 19th century poems here. The first is by Edward Thomas, who was killed in the Battle of Arras in 1917. The badger, “that most ancient Briton of English beasts” is gone from the sett, killed by baiters. The second poem is by John Clare (1793-1864) who was famous for his representations of the English countryside and wildlife. He describes a sesseion of badger baiting in the early 1800s. In it the old animal bravley defends himself until the very end. More Poems about Badgers here. Sketch above by (1765-1822) from ArtWorld
The Combe by Edward Thomas
The Combe was ever dark, ancient and dark.
Its mouth is stopped with brambles, thorn, and briar;
And no one scrambles over the sliding chalk
By beech and yew and perishing juniper
Down the half precipices of its sides, with roots
And rabbit holes for steps. The sun of Winter,
The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds
Except the missel-thrush that loves juniper,
Are quite shut out. But far more ancient and dark
The Combe looks since they killed the badger there,
Dug him out and gave him to the hounds,
That most ancient Briton of English beasts.
Badger by John Clare
When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole, and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by.
He comes an hears – they let the strongest loose.
The old fox gears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forked stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.
He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where’er they go;
When badgers fight, then everyone’s a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray’
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold,
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through – the drunkard swears and reels
The frighted women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, and awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and crackles, groans, and dies.