four lean hounds crouched low and smiling the merry deer ran before.
And now the poem pans out to include the other main characters on the scene: four hunting dogs and a herd of deer.
Hmm. It turns out that the lady out riding isn't just out for morning exercise. She's hunting. Hounds chasing deer? Sounds like a good old English hunt to us. But not quite like a true-to-life hunt. Everything in it seems… cheerful. "Smiling" hounds and "merry" deer? Sounds more like a Disney adventure than a race to the death. Why is everything so cheerful? Let's read on, friends...
Before we do, though, check out the way that the poem's rhythm slips into a regular pace: the first line contains fairly consistent metricalfeet—an accented syllable followed by an unaccented one. Check it out:
Four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
But what about the next line? It's only got… (carry the one…) six syllables. It's almost as if the line separates out into two different speeds, which creates the sense of rocking (or running) at a different pace than the dogs run. (For more on this stuff, check out "Form and Meter.")