Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Racing rhymes & other verses online

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When you pick'd yourself up, stunn'd and shaken,

At the fence 'twixt the turf and the plough?"

In the jar of the panel rebounding !

In the crash of the splintering wood !
In the ears to the earth shock resounding !

In the eyes flashing fire and blood !
In the quarters above you revolving !

In the sods underneath heaving high !
There was little to aid you in solving

Such questions the how or the why.

Racing Rhymes

And Destiny, steadfast in trifles,

Is steadfast for better or worse
In great things, it crushes and stifles,

And swallows the hopes that we nurse.
Men wiser than we are may wonder,

When the future they cling to so fast,
To the roll of that Destiny's thunder,

Goes down with the wrecks of the past.

The past ! the dead past ! that has swallow'd

All the honey of life and the milk,
Brighter dreams than mere pastimes we "ve follow'd,

Better things than our scarlet or silk ;
Aye, and worse things that past is it really

Dead to us who again and again
Feel sharply, hear plainly, see clearly

Past days with their joy and their pain ?

Like corpses embalm'd and unburied

They lie, and in spite of our will,
Our souls, on the wings of thought carried,

Revisit their sepulchres still ;
Down the channels of mystery gliding,

They conjure strange tales, rarely read,
Of the priests of dead Pharaohs presiding

At mystical feasts of the dead.

The Race

Weird pictures arise, quaint devices,

Rude emblems, baked funeral meats,
Strong incense, rare wines, and rich spices,

The ashes, the shrouds, and the sheets ;
Does our thraldom fall short of completeness

For the magic of a charnel-house charm,
And the flavour of a poisonous sweetness,

And the odour of a poisonous balm ?

And the links of the past but, no matter,

For I 'm getting beyond you, I guess,
And you'll call me "as mad as a hatter"

If my thoughts I too freely express ;
I subjoin a quotation, pray learn it,

And with the aid of your lexicon tell us
The meaning thereof, " Res discernit

Sapiens, quas confundit asellus."

Already green hillocks are swelling,

And combing white locks on the bar,
Where a dull, droning murmur is telling

Of winds that have gather' d afar ;
Thus we know not the day, nor the morrow,

Nor yet what the night may bring forth,
Nor the storm, nor the sleep, nor the sorrow,

Nor the strife, nor the rest, nor the wrath.

Racing Rhymes

Yet the skies are still tranquil and starlit,

The sun 'twixt the wave and the west
Dies in purple, and crimson, and scarlet,

And gold ; let us hope for the best,
Since again from the earth his effulgence

The darkness and damp-dews shall wipe,
Kind reader, extend your indulgence

To this the last lay of " The Pipe."



The kills like giants at a hunting lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay.


YOU 'LL take my tale with a little salt,
But it needs none, nevertheless ;
I was foil'd completely, fairly at fault,

Dishearten'd, too, I confess.
At the splitters' tent I had seen the track

Of horse- hoofs fresh on the sward,
And though Darby Lynch and Donovan Jack

(Who could swear through a ten-inch board)
Solemnly swore he had not been there,

I was just as sure that they lied,

For to Darby all that is foul was fair,

And Jack for his life was tried.

We had run him for seven miles and more

As hard as our nags could split ;
At the start they were all too weary and sore,

And his was quite fresh and fit

Racing Rhymes

Young Marsden's pony had had enough

On the plain, where the chase was hot ;
We breasted the swell of the Bittern's Bluff,

And Mark could n't raise a trot ;
When the sea, like a splendid silver shield,

To the south-west suddenly lay ;
On the brow of the Beetle the chestnut reel'd,

And I bid good-bye to M'Crea
And I was alone when the mare fell lame,

With a pointed flint in her shoe,
On the Stony Flats : I had lost the game,

And what was a man to do ?

I turned away with no fixed intent

And headed for Hawthorndell ;
I could neither eat in the splitters' tent

Nor drink at the splitters' well ;
I knew that they gloried in my mishap,

And I cursed them between my teeth
A blood-red sunset through Brayton's Gap

Flung a lurid fire on the heath.

Could I reach the Dell ? I had little reck,
And with scarce a choice of my own

I threw the reins on Miladi's neck
I had freed her foot from the stone.

Wolf and Hound

That season most of the swamps were dry,

And after so hard a burst
In the sultry noon of so hot a sky

She was keen to appease her thirst
Or by instinct urged or impelled by fate

I care not to solve these things
Certain it is that she took me straight

To the Warrigal water springs.

I can shut my eyes and recall the ground

As though it were yesterday
With a shelf of the low, grey rocks girt round,

The springs in their basin lay ;
Woods to the east and wolds to the north

In the sundown sullenly bloom'd ;
Dead black on a curtain of crimson cloth

Large peaks to the westward loomed.
I led Miladi through weed and sedge,

She leisurely drank her fill ;
There was something close to the water's edge,

And my heart with one leap stood still,

For a horse's shoe and a rider's boot
Had left clean prints on- the clay ;

Some one had watered his beast on foot.
'T was he he had gone. Which way ?

Racing Rhymes

Then the mouth of the cavern faced me fair,
As I turned and fronted the rocks ;

So, at last, I had pressed the wolf to his lair,
I had run to his earth the fox.

I thought so. Perhaps he was resting. Perhaps

He was waiting, watching for me.
I examined all my revolver caps,

I hitched my mare to a tree
I had sworn to have him, alive or dead,

And to give him a chance was loth ;
He knew his life had been forfeited

He had even heard of my oath.
In my stocking'd soles to the shelf I crept,

I crawl'd safe into the cave
All silent if he was there he slept

Not there. All dark as the grave.

Through the crack I could hear the leaden hiss !

See the livid face through the flame !
How strange it seems that a man should miss

When his life depends on his aim !
There could n't have been a better light

For him, nor a worse for me.
We were coop'd up, caged like beasts for a fight,

And dumb as dumb beasts were we.

Wolf and Hound

Flash ! flash ! bang ! bang ! and we blazed away,

And the grey roof reddened and rang ;
Flash ! flash ! and I felt his bullet flay

The tip of my ear. Flash ! bang !
Bang ! flash ! and my pistol arm fell broke ;

I struck with my left hand then
Struck at a corpse through a cloud of smoke

I had shot him dead in his den !



HOLD hard, Ned ! Lift me down once more,
and lay me in the shade.
Old man, you Ve had your work cut out

to guide
Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I


All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.
The dawn at "Moorabinda" was a mist rack dull

and dense,

The sunrise was a sullen, sluggish lamp ;
I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's bound'ry


I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply
through the haze,

And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth ;
To southward lay " Katawa," with the sandpeaks all


And the flush'd fields of Glen Lomond lay to


The Sick Stockrider

Now westward winds the bridle path that leads to


And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are

clear and calm,

You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to

the place
Where the big tree spans the roadway like an

arch ;
'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us

such a chase
Eight years ago or was it nine ? last March.

'T was merry in the glowing morn, among the gleam-
ing grass,

To wander as we Ve wandered many a mile,
And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the

white wreaths pass,

Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
'T was merry 'mid the black woods, when we spied

the station roofs,

To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
With a running fire of stockwhips and a fiery run of

hoofs ;

Oh ! the hardest day was never then too hard !

Racing Rhymes

Aye ! we had a glorious gallop after " Starlight " and

his gang,

When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat ;
How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the

flint- strewn ranges rang

To the strokes of " Mountaineer " and " Acrobat."
Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across

the heath,
Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we

dash'd ;
And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled

underneath !
And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash'd !

We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut

and the grey,

And the troopers were three hundred yards behind,
While we emptied our six-shooters on the bush-
rangers at bay,

In the creek with stunted box-tree for a blind !
There you grappled with the leader, man to man

and horse to horse,

And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd ;
He blazed away and missed you in that shallow

A narrow shave his powder singed your beard !


The Sick Stockrider

In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days

when life was young
Come back to us ; how clearly I recall
Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs

Jem Roper sung ;

And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall ?
Aye ! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial


Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone ;
Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as

a rule,
It seems that you and I are left alone.

There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that

business with the cards,
It matters little what became of him ;
But a steer ripp'd up MacPherson in the Cooraminta


And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim ;
And Mostyn poor Frank Mostyn died at last a

fearful wreck,

In " the horrors," at the Upper Wandinong,
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke

his neck,

Faith ! the wonder was he saved his neck so
long !


Racing Rhymes

Ah ! those days and nights we squandered at the

Logans' in the glen

The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie

And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.

I 've had my share of pastime, and I Ve done my

share of toil,

And life is short the longest life a span ;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
Or for the wine that maketh glad the heart of

For good undone and gifts misspent and resolutions


Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know
I should live the same life over, if I had to live

again ;
And the chances are I go where most men go.

The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green

trees grow dim,

The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall ;
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sun-
light swim,

And on the very sun's face weave their pall.

The Sick Stockrider

Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle

blossoms wave,

With never stone or rail to fence my bed ;
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush

flowers on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.



OF chases and courses dogs dream, so do
Last night I was dozing and dreaming,
The crowd and the bustle were there, and the rustle
Of the silk in the autumn sky gleaming.

The stand throng'd with faces, the broadcloth and

The booths, and the tents, and the cars,
The bookmakers' jargon, for odds making bargain,

The nasty stale smell of cigars.

We formed into line, 'neath the merry sunshine,

Near the logs at the end of the railing ;
" Are you ready, boys ? Go ! " cried the starter,

and low

Sank the flag, and away we went sailing.

Banker's Dream

In the van of the battle we heard the stones rattle,
Some slogging was done, but no slaughter,

A shout from the stand, and the whole of our band
Skimm'd merrily over the water.

Two fences we clear'd, and the roadway we


When three of our troop came to trouble ;
Like a bird on the wing, or a stone from a sling,
Flew Cadger, first over the double.

Racing Rhymes

And Western was there, head and tail in the air,
And Pondon was there, too what noodle

Could so name a horse ? I should feel some remorse
If I gave such a name to a poodle.

In and out of the lane, to the racecourse again,

Craig's pony was first, I was third,
And Ingleside lit in my tracks, with the bit

In his teeth, and came up " like a bird."

In the van of the battle we heard the rails rattle,
Says he, " Though I don't care for shunning

My share of the raps, I shall look out for gaps,
When the light weight's away with the running."

At the fence just ahead, the outsider still led,
The chestnut play'd follow my leader,

Oh ! the devil a gap, he went into it slap,
And he and his jock took a header.

Says Ingleside, "Mate, should the pony go straight.

You Ve no time to stop or turn restive ; "
Says I, "Who means to stop? I shall go till I

drop ; "

Says he, " Go it, old cuss, gay and festive."

Banker's Dream

The fence stiff and tall, just beyond the log wall,
We cross'd, and the walls, and the water,

I took off too near, a small made fence to clear,
And just touch'd the grass with my snorter.

At the next post and rail up went Western's bang

And down (by the very same token)

To earth went his nose, for the panel he chose
Stood firm and refused to be broken.

I dreamt some one said that the bay would have made
The race safe, if he 'd stood a while longer ;

^he had, but, like if, there the panel stands stiff
He stood, but the panel stood stronger.

Racing Rhymes

In and out of the road, with a clear lead still show'd

The violet fluted with amber ;
Says Johnson, " Old man, catch him now if you can,

'T is the second time round, you '11 remember."

At the road once again, pulling hard on the rein,
Craig's pony popp'd in and popp'd out ;

I followed like smoke, and the pace was no joke,
For his friends were beginning to shout.

And Ingleside came to my side, strong and game,
And once he appear'd to outstrip me,

But I felt the steel gore, and I shot to the fore,
Only Cadger seem'd likely to whip me.

In the van of the battle I heard the logs rattle,
His stroke never seem'd to diminish,

And thrice I drew near him, and thrice he drew clear,
For the weight served him well at the finish.

Banker's Dream

Ha ! Cadger goes down, see, he stands on his crown
Those rails take a power of clouting

A long sliding blunder he 's up well, I wonder
If now it 's all over but shouting.

All loosely he 's striding, the amateur 's riding

All loosely, some reverie lock'd in
Of a " vision in smoke," or a " wayfaring bloke,"

His poetical rubbish concocting.

Now comes from afar the faint cry, " Here they are,"

" The violet winning with ease,"
" Fred goes up like a shot," " Does he catch him or

" Level money, I '11 take the cerise."

To his haunches I spring, and my muzzle I bring
To his flank, to his girth, to his shoulder ;

Through the shouting and yelling I hear my name

The hearts of my backers grow bolder.

Neck and neck ! head and head ! staring eye ! nos-
tril spread !

Girth and stifle laid close to the ground !
Stride for stride ! stroke for stroke ! through one

hurdle we Ve broke !

On the splinters we Ve lit with one bound.

Racing Rhymes

And " Banker for choice " is the cry, and one voice
Screams, " Six to four once upon Banker ; "

"Banker wins," "Banker's beat," "Cadger wins,"

"A dead heat"
" Ah ! there goes Fred's whalebone a flanker."

Springs the whip with a crack ! nine stone ten on
his back,

Fit and light he can race like the devil ;
I draw past him 't is vain ; he draws past me again,

Springs the whip ! and again we are level.

Steel and cord do their worst, now my head struggles


That tug my last spurt has expended
Nose to nose ! lip to lip ! from the sound of the

He strains to the utmost extended.

How they swim through the air, as we roll to the


Stand, faces, and railings flit past ;
Now I spring . . .

from my lair, with a snort and a stare,
Rous'd by Fred with my supper at last.



ON the fields of Col'raine there '11 be labour
in vain
Before the Great Western is ended,
The nags will have toil'd, and the silks will be soiFd,
And the rails will require to be mended.

For the gullies are deep, and the uplands are steep,
And the mud will of purls be the token,

And the tough stringey-bark, that invites us to lark,
With impunity may not be broken.

Though Ballarat 's fast, and they say he can last,

And that may be granted hereafter,
Yet the judge 's decision to the Border division

Will bring neither shouting nor laughter.

And Blueskin, I 've heard that he goes like a bird,
And I 'm told that to back him would pay me ;

He 's a good bit of stuff, but not quite good enough,
" Non licuit credere fama."

Racing Rhymes

Alfred ought to be there, we all of us swear
By the blood of King Alfred, his sire ;

He 's not the real jam, by the blood of his dam,
So I sha'n't put him down as a flyer.

Now, Hynam, my boy, I wish you great joy,
I know that when fresh you can jump, sir ;

But you '11 scarce be in clover when you 're ridden

all over,
And punish'd from shoulder to rump, sir.

Archer goes like a shot, they can put on their pot,

And boil it to cover expenses ;
Their pot will boil over, the run of his Dover

He '11 never earn over big fences.

There 's a horse in the race, with a blaze on his face,
And we know he can gallop a docker ;

He 's proved himself stout, of his speed there 's no

And his jumping 's according to Cocker.

When Hynam 's outstripp'd, and when Alfred is


To keep him in sight of the leaders,
While Blueskin runs true, but his backers looked

For his rider 's at work with the bleeders ;


The Fields of Coleraine

When his carcass of beef brings "the bullock" to


And the rush of the tartan is ended ;
When Archer 's in trouble who 's that pulling

And taking his leaps unextended?

He wins all the way, and the rest sweet, they say,

Is the smell of the newly-turn'd plough, friend ;
But you smell it too close when it stops eyes and


And you can't tell your horse from your cow,


HERE 'S a health to every sportsman, be he
stableman or lord,
If his heart be true, I care not what his

pocket may afford ;
And may he ever pleasantly each gallant sport

If he takes his liquor fairly, and his fences fairly, too.

He cares not for the bubbles of Fortune's fickle tide,
Who like Bendigo can battle, and like Olliver can


A Hunting Song

He laughs at those who caution, at those who chide

he '11 frown,
As he clears a five-foot paling, or he knocks a peeler


The dull, cold world may blame us, boys ! but what

care we the while,
If coral lips will cheer us, and bright eyes on us

smile ?

For beauty's fond caresses can most tenderly repay
The weariness and trouble of many an anxious day.

Then fill your glass, and drain it, too, with all your

heart and soul,
To the best of sports The Fox-hunt, The Fair

Ones, and The Bowl,
To a stout heart in adversity through every ill to

And when fortune smiles a score of friends like

those around us here.



" They have saddled a hundred milk-white steeds,
They have bridled a hundred black."

" He turned in his saddle, now follow who dare.

I ride for my country, quoth. . . ."


I REMEMBER the lowering wintry morn,
And the mist on the Cotswold hills,
Where I once heard the blast of the hunts-
man's horn,

Not far from the seven rills.
Jack Esdale was there, and Hugh St. Clair,

Bob Chapman, and Andrew Kerr,
And big George Griffiths on Devil- May-Care,

And black Tom Oliver.
And one who rode on a dark brown steed,

Clean jointed, sinewy, spare,
With the lean game head of the Blacklock breed,

By Flood and Field

And the resolute eye that loves the lead,
And the quarters massive and square

A tower of strength, with a promise of speed
(There was Celtic blood in the pair).

I remember how merry a start we got,

When the red fox broke from the gorse,
In a country so deep, with a scent so hot,

That the hound could outpace the horse ;
I remember how few in the front rank show'd,

How endless appeared the tail,
On the brown hill side, where we cross'd the road,

And headed for the vale.

Racing Rhymes

The dark brown steed on the left was there,

On the right was a dappled grey,
And between the pair, on a chestnut mare,

The duffer who writes this lay.
What business had " this child " there to ride?

But little or none at all ;
Yet I held my own for a while in " the pride

That goeth before a fall."
Though rashness can hope for but one result,

We are heedless when fate draws nigh us,
And the maxim holds good, " Quern perdere vult

Deus, dementat prius"

The right hand man to the left hand said,

As down in the vale we went,
" Harden your heart like a millstone, Ned,

And set your face as flint ;
Solid and tall is the rasping wall

That stretches before us yonder ;
You must have it at speed or not at all,

T were better to halt than to ponder,
For the stream runs wide on the take-off side,

And washes the clay bank under ;
Here goes for a pull, 't is a madman's ride,

And a broken neck if you blunder."

By Flood and Field

No word in reply his comrade spoke,

Nor waver'd, nor once looked round,
But I saw him shorten his horse's stroke

As we splash'd through the marshy ground ;
I remember the laugh that all the while

On his quiet features play'd :
So he rode to his death, with that careless smile,

In the van of the " Light Brigade ; "

So stricken by Russian grape, the cheer

Rang out, while he toppled back,
From the shattered lungs as merry and clear

As it did when it roused the pack.
Let never a tear his memory stain,

Give his ashes never a sigh,
One of many who perished, NOT IN VAIN,


I remember one thrust he gave to his hat,

And two to the flanks of the brown,
And still as a statue of old he sat,

And he shot to the front, hands down ;
I remember the snort and the stag-like bound

Of the steed six lengths to the fore,
And the laugh of the rider, while landing sound,
He turned in his saddle and glanced around ;

I remember but little more,

Racing Rhymes

Save a bird's-eye gleam of the dashing stream,

A jarring thud on the wall,
A shock and the blank of a nightmare's dream

I was down with a stunning fall.



" Then hey for boot and horse, lad !

And round the world away !
Young- blood will have its course, lad !
And every dog his day ! "


THERE 'S a formula which the west coun-
try clowns
Once used, ere their blows fell thick,
At the fairs on the Devon and Cornwall downs,

In their bouts with the single- stick.
You may read a moral, not far amiss,

If you care to moralise,
In the crossing guard, where the ash-plants kiss,

To the words " God spare our eyes."
No game was ever yet worth a rap

For a rational man to play,
Into which no accident, no mishap,
Could possibly find its way.

If you hold the willow, a shooter from Wills

May transform you into a hopper,
And the football meadow is rife with spills,

If you feel disposed for a cropper ;

Racing Rhymes

In a rattling gallop with hound and horse

You may chance to reverse the medal
On the sward, with the saddle your loins

And your hunter's loins on the saddle ;
In the stubbles you '11 find it hard to frame

A remonstrance firm, yet civil,
When oft as " our mutual friend " takes aim,
Long odds may be laid on the rising game,

And against your gaiters level ;
There 's danger even where fish are caught

To those who a wetting fear ;
For what 's worth having must aye be bought,
And sport 's like life and life 's like sport

" It ain't all skittles and beer."

The honey bag lies close to the sting,

The rose is fenced by the thorn,
Shall we leave to others their gathering,
And turn from clustering fruits that cling

To the garden wall in scorn?
Albeit those purple grapes hang high,

Like the fox in the ancient tale,
Let us pause and try, ere we pass them by,

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Online LibraryAdam Lindsay GordonRacing rhymes & other verses → online text (page 2 of 5)