With this in mind the BBC broadcast adaptations in January 1950, June 1952 and July 1952. The poem works especially well in performance. Masefield himself recorded an adaptation released on a single long-playing record in 1960 and Ronald Pickup broadcast a two part reading on BBC radio in May 1984 (unfortunately not preserved in the BBC archives). The actor, writing recently of the poem and his broadcast, noted:
In so many anthologies for school consumption in the 40s and 50s the famous and vivid chase sequence always had a place and I remember at about age 13 showing off in class and reading it out loud with great exuberance, a relish and excitement that the much neglected Masefield arouses. Many years later I felt the same but more so. Reading the whole poem is quite wonderful and what remains with me is the feeling I had of being an amazing film camera, capturing a whole community in all its detail and colour, relentlessly and inevitably focussing on the event of the hunt. Aside from his sheer breathless and breathtaking technique it is such a multicoloured and multifaceted evocation of a whole era…20
The following year the Young Vic produced a studio production in London based on the poem. More recently, in October 2006, as a feat of memory and performance a former bookseller, Richard Field, committed the entire work to memory and gave a thrilling recital in Letchworth. Mr Field particularly noted that Masefield’s jog-trot rhythms dissolved in performance and became flexible lines revealing skilful use of ordinary (or nearly ordinary) English speech patterns.
Reynard the Fox has been unavailable for many years in a singlevolume publication. For the present edition I have taken the opportunity to examine the original manuscript and also to provide a number of additional texts as appendices. These appendices include Masefield’s essay ‘Fox-Hunting’ of which Muriel Spark writes ‘it is so much a part of the poem that the two should, perhaps, always be printed together; the prose is, moreover, so well written that it could not but adorn the book.’21 Also present is the text of Masefield’s own shortened adaptation of the poem, transcribed from the 1960 recording.22 The additional texts help provide a context for Masefield’s own feelings on fox-hunting.
Ultimately, despite his exhilaration with the hunt, the author remains true to his lifelong sympathy for the underdog. L.A.G. Strong gave an eyewitness account of Masefield telling of the poem’s conception: