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Jack, the Regular by Thomas Dunn English

In the Bergen winter night, when the hickory fire is roaring,

Flickering streams of ruddy light on the folk before it pouring—

When the apples pass around, and the cider follows after,

And the well-worn jest is crowned by the hearers' hearty laughter—

When the cat is purring there, and the dog beside her dozing,

And within his easy-chair sits the grandsire old, reposing,—

Then they tell the story true to the children, hushed and eager,

How the two Van Valens slew, on a time, the Tory leaguer,

Jack, the Regular.

Near a hundred years ago, when the maddest of the Georges

Sent his troops to scatter woe on our hills and in our gorges,

Less we hated, less we feared, those he sent here to invade us

Than the neighbors with us reared who opposed us or betrayed us;

And amid those loyal knaves who rejoiced in our disasters,

As became the willing slaves of the worst of royal masters,

Stood John Berry, and he said that a regular commission

Set him at his comrades' head; so we called him, in derision,

"Jack, the Regular."

When he heard it—"Let them fling! Let the traitors make them merry

With the fact my gracious king deigns to make me Captain Berry.

I will scourge them for the sneer, for the venom that they carry;

I will shake their hearts with fear as the land around I harry:

They shall find the midnight raid waking them from fitful slumbers;

They shall find the ball and blade daily thinning out their numbers:

Barn in ashes, cattle slain, hearth on which there glows no ember,

Neatless plough and horseless wain; thus the rebels shall remember

Jack, the Regular!"

Well he kept his promise then with a fierce, relentless daring,

Fire to rooftrees, death to men, through the Bergen valleys bearing:

In the midnight deep and dark came his vengeance darker, deeper—

At the watch-dog's sudden bark woke in terror every sleeper;

Till at length the farmers brown, wasting time no more on tillage,

Swore those ruffians of the Crown, fiends of murder, fire and pillage,

Should be chased by every path to the dens where they had banded,

And no prayers should soften wrath when they caught the bloody-handed

Jack, the Regular.

One by one they slew his men: still the chief their chase evaded.

He had vanished from their ken, by the Fiend or Fortune aided—

Either fled to Powles Hoek, where the Briton yet commanded,

Or his stamping-ground forsook, waiting till the hunt disbanded;

So they checked pursuit at length, and returned to toil securely:

It was useless wasting strength on a purpose baffled surely.

But the two Van Valens swore, in a patriotic rapture,

_They_ would never give it o'er till they'd either kill or capture

Jack, the Regular.

Long they hunted through the wood, long they slept upon the hillside;

In the forest sought their food, drank when thirsty at the rill-side;

No exposure counted hard—theirs was hunting border-fashion:

They grew bearded like the pard, and their chase became a passion:

Even friends esteemed them mad, said their minds were out of balance,

Mourned the cruel fate and sad fallen on the poor Van Valens;

But they answered to it all, "Only wait our loud view-holloa

When the prey shall to us fall, for to death we mean to follow

Jack, the Regular."

Hunted they from Tenavlieon to where the Hudson presses

To the base of traprocks high; through Moonachie's damp recesses;

Down as far as Bergen Hill; by the Ramapo and Drochy,

Overproek and Pellum Kill—meadows flat and hilltops rocky—

Till at last the brothers stood where the road from New Barbadoes,

At the English Neighborhood, slants toward the Palisadoes;

Still to find the prey they sought left no sign for hunter eager:

Followed steady, not yet caught, was the skulking, fox-like leaguer

Jack, the Regular.

Who are they that yonder creep by those bleak rocks in the distance,

Like the figures born in sleep, called by slumber to existence?—

Tories doubtless from below, from the Hoek, sent out for spying.

"No! the foremost is our foe—he so long before us flying!

Now he spies us! see him start! wave his kerchief like a banner!

Lay his left hand on his heart in a proud, insulting manner.

Well he knows that distant spot's past our ball, his low scorn flinging.

If you cannot feel the shot, you shall hear the firelock's ringing,

Jack, the Regular!"

Ha! he falls! An ambuscade? 'Twas impossible to strike him!

Are there Tories in the glade? Such a trick is very like him.

See! his comrade by him kneels, turning him in terror over,

Then takes nimbly to his heels. Have they really slain the rover?

It is worth some risk to know; so, with firelocks poised and ready,

Up the sloping hills they go, with a quick lookout and steady.

Dead! The random shot had struck, to the heart had pierced the Tory—

Vengeance seconded by luck! Lies there, cold and stiff and gory,

Jack, the Regular.

"Jack, the Regular, is dead! Honor to the man who slew him!"

So the Bergen farmers said as they crowded round to view him;

For the wretch that lay there slain had with wickedness unbending

To their roofs brought fiery rain, to their kinsfolk woeful ending.

Not a mother but had prest, in a sudden pang of fearing,

Sobbing darlings to her breast when his name had smote her hearing;

Not a wife that did not feel terror when the words were uttered;

Not a man but chilled to steel when the hated sounds he muttered—

Jack, the Regular.

Bloody in his work was he, in his purpose iron-hearted—

Gentle pity could not be when the pitiless had parted.

So, the corse in wagon thrown, with no decent cover o'er it—

Jeers its funeral rites alone—into Hackensack they bore it,

'Mid the clanging of the bells in the old Brick Church's steeple,

And the hooting and the yells of the gladdened, maddened people.

Some they rode and some they ran by the wagon where it rumbled,

Scoffing at the lifeless man, all elate that death had humbled

Jack, the Regular.

Thus within the winter night, when the hickory fire is roaring,

Flickering streams of ruddy light on the folk before it pouring—

When the apples pass around, and the cider follows after,

And the well-worn jest is crowned by the hearers' hearty laughter—

When the cat is purring there, and the dog beside her dozing,

And within his easy-chair sits the grandsire old, reposing,—

Then they tell the story true to the children, hushed and eager,

the two Van Valens slew, on a time, the Tory leaguer,

Jack, the Regular.