The Devil's Race-Horse

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Devil's Race-Horse seems to me
Strangest thing I ever saw:
Up in our old maple-tree
They're at home; stand rearingly,
Lean of neck and long of claw.
Strangest thing I ever saw.

"Always praying, "father says,
"For some bug it may devour;
Insect that it grabs and slays,
Fly or moth that comes its ways,
Journeying from flower to flower:
Insect that it may devour."

And my nurse says:" I suppose
Little imps that devil sleep,
Tickle children on the nose,
Pull their hair and pinch their toes,
Ride these things around a heap:
Little imps that devil sleep.

"They're their fly-by-nights, their steeds,
Door-knob eyed and weird of wing,
That they stable in the weeds
Of the garden, where it feeds,
Tiger-like, on everything:
Door-knob eyed and weird of wing.

"You can see the saddle there
Ready on its ugly back:
Or sometimes the imps ride bare,
Like the wind, with hair aflare,
Through the midnight deep and black,
Straddle of its ugly back.

"And they fly where little boys
Lie asleep within their beds:
Boys, who all day make a noise,
Eat a lot, and break their toys,
Fight and stand upon their heads;
Urchins safe now in their beds.

"And they come to little girls
Who lie sleeping in their cribs;
Who all day have tossed their curls,
Nibbled like a lot of squirrels,
Torn their frocks and soiled their bibs;
Romps now safe within their cribs.

"And these imps just flutter round
On their Devil's Horses there;
And though you are sleeping sound,
You will hear them, I'll be bound,
And soon feel them at your hair,
On their Devil's Horses there.

"Sometimes on your face they light,
And you feel their long claws rake
Right across your nose; or right
On your lip they prance and bite,
And you writhe and scream and wake,
When you feel their long claws rake.

"And your parents wake up, too;
Turn the light on; come and say,
'What's the matter now with you?
Dreaming? Had the nightmare? Knew
That you ate too much to-day.'

That's what both your parents say."...
Then I tell my nurse that I
Wish I was an imp, and those
Were my horses: how I'd fly!
Yes, right to her bed, oh my!
And whizz round her head and nose!
Wish I was an imp like those!

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