»  Mark Hanbury Beaufoy's "A Father's Advice"


A Father's Advice

by Mark Hanbury Beaufoy, 1854-1922


•  Background

These lines were written in 1902, when the author was 47 or 48. The Wikipedia page sufficiently explains the background.

"A Father's Advice," which I first heard of from my colleague James Fulford, appeals to me from two sides. On the one side, I am the father of a boy whom I have taken pheasant shooting. On the other, I am a great fan of the movie actor James Mason, and particularly of his last movie, The Shooting Party, in which Edward Fox fails to heed the warning in the poem's penultimate stanza.

•  Notes

"Stops and beaters" — explained here, the paragraph headed "Pheasant Shooting." Britain actually has a National Organisation of Beaters and Pickers Up, which I am sure admits stops too …


•  Play the reading


•  Text of the poem

If a sportsman true you'd be
Listen carefully to me …

Never, never let your gun
Pointed be at anyone.
That it may unloaded be
Matters not the least to me.

When a hedge or fence you cross
Though of time it cause a loss
From your gun the cartridge take
For the greater safety's sake.

If 'twixt you and neighbouring gun
Bird shall fly or beast may run
Let this maxim ere be thine:
"Follow not across the line."

Stops and beaters oft unseen
Lurk behind some leafy screen.
Calm and steady always be:
"Never shoot where you can't see."

You may kill or you may miss
But at all times think this:
"All the pheasants ever bred
Won't repay for one man dead."