“Now, welcome, welcome, masters mine,
Thrice welcome to the noble chase,
Nor earthly sport, nor sport divine,
Can take such honourable place.”
- Ballad of the Wild Huntsman. (Free Translation.)
I remember some words my father said,
When I was an urchin vain;
God rest his soul, in his narrow bed
These ten long years he hath lain.
When I think one drop of the blood he bore
This faint heart surely must hold,
It may be my fancy and nothing more,
But the faint heart seemeth bold.
He said that as from the blood of grape,
Or from juice distilled from the grain,
False vigour, soon to evaporate,
Is lent to nerve and brain,
So the coward will dare on the gallant horse
What he never would dare alone,
Because he exults in a borrowed force,
And a hardihood not his own.
And it may be so, yet this difference lies
’Twixt the vine and the saddle-tree,
The spurious courage that drink supplies
Sets our baser passions free;
But the stimulant which the horseman feels
When he gallops fast and straight,
To his better nature most appeals,
And charity conquers hate.
As the kindly sunshine thaws the snow,
E’en malice and spite will yield,
We could almost welcome our mortal foe
In the saddle by flood and field;
And chivalry dawns in the merry tale
That “Market Harborough” writes,
And the yarns of “Nimrod” and “Martingale”
Seem legends of loyal knights.
Now tell me for once, old horse of mine,
Grazing round me loose and free,
Does your ancient equine heart repine
For a burst in such companie,
Where “the powers that be” in the front rank ride,
To hold your own with the throng,
Or to plunge at “Faugh-a-Ballagh’s” side
In the rapids of Dandenong.
Don’t tread on my toes, you’re no foolish weight,
So I found to my cost, as under
Your carcase I lay, when you rose too late,
Yet I blame you not for the blunder.
What! sulky old man, your under-lip falls!
You think I, too, ready to rail am
At your kinship remote to that duffer at walls,
The talkative roadster of Balaam.