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Though we, like the fox, may fail.

In Utrumque Paratus

All hurry is worse than useless ; think

On the adage, " 'T is pace that kills ; "
Shun bad tobacco, avoid strong drink,

Abstain from Holloway's Pills ;
Wear woollen socks, they "re the best you '11
find ;

Beware how you leave off flannel ;
And, whatever you do, don't change your

When once you have picked your panel ;
With a bank of cloud in the south south-east,

Stand ready to shorten sail ;
Fight shy of a corporation feast ;

Don't trust to a martingale ;
Keep your powder dry, and shut one eye,

Not both, when you touch your trigger ;
Don't stop with your head too frequently

(This advice ain't meant for a nigger) ;
Look before you leap, if you like, but if

You mean leaping, don't look long,
Or the weakest place will soon grow stiff,

And the strongest doubly strong ;
As far as you can, to every man,

Let your aid be freely given,
And hit out straight, 't is your shortest plan,

When against the ropes you 're driven.

Racing Rhymes

Mere pluck, though not in the least sublime,

Is wiser than blank dismay,
Since " No sparrow can fall before its time,"

And we 're valued higher than they ;
So hope for the best and leave the rest

In charge of a stronger hand,
Like the honest boors in the far-off west,

With the formula terse and grand.

They were men for the most part rough and rude,

Dull and illiterate,
But they nursed no quarrel, they cherished no feud,

They were strangers to spite and hate ;
In a kindly spirit they took theijr stand,

That brothers and sons might learn
How a man should uphold the sports of his land,
And strike his best with a strong right hand;

And take his strokes in return.
" 'Twas a barbarous practice," the Quaker cries,

" 'Tis a thing of the past, thank Heaven "
Keep your thanks till the combative instinct dies

With the taint of the olden leaven !
Yes, the times are changed, for better or worse,

The prayer that no harm befall,
Has given its place to a drunken curse,

And the manly game to a brawl.

In Utrumque Paratus

Our burdens are heavy, our natures weak,

Some pastime devoid of harm
May we look for? " Puritan elder, speak ! "
" Yea, friend, peradventure thou mayest seek

Recreation singing a psalm."
If I did, your visage so grim and stern

Would relax in a ghastly smile,
For of music I never one note could learn,
And my feeble minstrelsy would turn

Your chant to discord vile.

Tho' the Philistine's mail could naught avail,

Nor the spear like a weaver's beam,
There are episodes yet in the Psalmist's tale,
To obliterate which his poems fail,

Which his exploits fail to redeem.
Can the Hittite's wrongs forgotten be ?
Does HE warble " Non nobis Domine"
With his monarch in blissful concert, free

From all malice to flesh inherent ;
Zeruiah's offspring, who served so well,

Yet between the horns of the altar fell
Does HIS voice the " Quid gloriaris " swell,

Or the " Quare fremuerunt ? "
It may well be thus where DAVID sings,

Racing Rhymes

And Uriah joins in the chorus,
But while earth to earthy matters clings,
Neither you nor the bravest of Judah's kings

As a pattern can stand before us.




TO beasts of the field, and fowls of the air,
And fish of the sea alike,
Man's hand is ever slow to spare,
And ever ready to strike ;
With a license to kill, and to work our will,

In season by land or by water,
To our heart's content we may take our fill
Of the joys we derive from slaughter.

And few, I reckon, our rights gainsay

In this world of rapine and wrong,
Where the weak and the timid seem lawful prey

For the resolute and the strong ;
Fins, furs, and feathers, they are and were

For our use and pleasure created,
We can shoot, and hunt, and angle, and snare,

Unquestioned, if not unsated.
6 81

Racing Rhymes

I have neither the will nor the right to blame,

Yet to many (though not to all)
The sweets of destruction are somewhat tame,

When no personal risks befall ;

Our victims suffer but little, we trust

(Mere guess-work and blank enigma)
If they suffer at all, our field sports must

Of cruelty bear the stigma.
Shall we, hard-hearted to their fates, thus

Soft-hearted shrink from our own,
When the measure we mete is meted to us,

When we reap as we 've always sown ?

Lex Talionis

Shall we who for pastime have squandered life,
Who are styled " the Lords of Creation,"

Recoil from our chance of more equal strife,
And our risk of retaliation?

Though short is the dying pheasant's pain,

Scant pity you well may spare,
And the partridge slain is a triumph vain,

And a risk that a child may dare ;
You feel, when you lower the smoking gun,

Some ruth for yon slaughtered hare,
And hit or miss, in your selfish fun

The widgeon has little share.

But you Ve no remorseful qualms or pangs
When you kneel by the grizzly's lair,

On that conical bullet your sole chance hangs,
'T is the weak one's advantage fair,

And the shaggy giant's terrific fangs
Are ready to crush and tear ;

Racing Rhymes

Should you miss, one vision of home and friends,

Five words of unfinished prayer,
Three savage knife stabs, so your sport ends
In the worrying grapple that chokes and rends ;

Rare sport, at least, for the bear.

Short shrift ! sharp fate ! dark doom to dree !

Hard struggle, though quickly ending !
At home or abroad, by land or sea,
In peace or war, sore trials must be,
And worse may happen to you or to me,
For none are secure, and none can flee

From a destiny impending.

Ah ! friend, did you think when the London sank,
Timber by timber, plank by plank,

In a cauldron of boiling surf,
How alone at least, with never a flinch,
In a rally contested inch by inch,

You could fall on the trampled turf?
When a livid wall of the sea leaps high,
In the lurid light of a leaden sky,

And bursts on the quarter railing ;
While the howling storm-gust seems to vie
With the crash of splintered beams that fly,
Yet fails too oft to smother the cry

Of women and children wailing?

Lex Talionis

Then those who listen in sinking ships,

To despairing sobs from their lov'd one's lips,

Where the green wave thus slowly shatters,
May long for the crescent-claw that rips
The bison into ribbons and strips,

And tears the strong elk to tatters.
Oh ! sunderings short of body and breath !
Oh ! " battle and murder and sudden death ! "

Against which the Liturgy preaches ;
By the will of a just, yet a merciful Power,
Less bitter, perchance, in the mystic hour,
When the wings of the shadowy angel lower,

Than man in his blindness teaches !



" There 's something in this world amiss
Shall be unriddled by and by."


BOOT and saddle, see, the slanting
Rays begin to fall,
Flinging lights and colours flaunting
Through the shadows tall.
Onward ! onward ! must we travel?

When will come the goal?
Riddle I may not unravel,
Cease to vex my soul.

Harshly break those peals of laughter

From the jays aloft,
Can we guess what they cry after?

We have heard them oft ;
Perhaps some strain of rude thanksgiving

Mingles in their song,
Are they glad that they are living?

Are they right or wrong?

Finis Exoptatus

Right, 't is joy that makes them call so,

Why should they be sad?
Certes ! we are living also,

Shall not we be glad ?
Onward ! onward ! must we travel ?

Is the goal more near?
Riddle we may not unravel,

Why so dark and drear?

Yon small bird his hymn outpouring

On the branch close by,
Recks not for the kestrel soaring

In the nether sky,
Though the hawk with wings extended

Poises over head,
Motionless as though suspended

By a viewless thread.
See, he stoops, nay, shooting forward

With the arrow's flight,
Swift and straight away to nor'ward

Sails he out of sight.
Onward ! onward ! thus we travel,

Comes the goal more nigh?
Riddle we may not unravel,

Who shall make reply?

Racing Rhymes

Eastward ! in the pink horizon,

Fleecy hillocks shame
This dim range dull earth that lies on,

Tinged with rosy flame.
Westward ! as a stricken giant

Stoops his bloody crest,
And though vanquish'd, frowns defiant,

Sinks the sun to rest.
Distant, yet approaching quickly,

From the shades that lurk,
Like a black pall gathers thickly,

Night, when none may work.
Soon our restless occupation

Shall have ceas'd to be ;
Units ! in God's vast creation,

Ciphers ! what are we ?
Onward ! onward ! oh ! faint-hearted :

Nearer and more near
Has the goal drawn since we started ;

Be of better cheer.

Preacher ! all forbearance ask, for

All are worthless found,
Man must aye take man to task for

Faults while earth goes round.

Finis Exoptatus

On this dank soil thistles muster,

Thorns are broadcast sown ;
Seek not figs where thistles cluster,

Grapes where thorns have grown.

Sun and rain and dew from heaven,

Light and shade and air,
Heat and moisture freely given,

Thorns and thistles share.
Vegetation rank and rotten

Feels the cheering ray ;
Not uncared for, unforgotten,

We, too, have our day.

Unforgotten ! though we cumber

Earth, we work His will.
Shall we sleep through night's long slumber

Unforgotten still?
Onward ! onward ! toiling ever,

Weary steps and slow,
Doubting oft, despairing never,

To the goal we go !



OH ! wind that whistles o'er thorns and
Of this fruitful earth like a goblin elf ;
Why should he labour to help his neighbour

Who feels too reckless to help himself?
The wail of the breeze in the bending trees

Is something between a laugh and a groan ;
And the hollow roar of the surf on the shore

Is a dull, discordant monotone ;
I wish I could guess what sense they express,

There 's a meaning, doubtless, in every sound,
Yet no one can tell, and it may be as well

Whom would it profit ? The world goes round !

On this earth so rough, we know quite enough,

And, I sometimes fancy, a little too much ;
The sage may be wiser than clown or than kaiser,

Is he more to be envied for being such?
Neither more nor less, in his idleness

The sage is doom'd to vexation sure ;
The kaiser may rule, but the slippery stool,

That he calls his throne, is no sinecure ;

Cui Bono

And as for the clown, you may give him a crown,
Maybe he '11 thank you, and maybe not,

And before you can wink, he may spend it in

To whom does it profit ? We ripe and rot !

Yet under the sun much work is done

By clown and kaiser, by serf and sage ;
All sow and some reap, and few gather the heap

Of the garner'd grain of a by-gone age.
By sea or by soil man is bound to toil,

And the dreamer, waiting for time and tide,
For awhile may shirk his share of the work,

But he grows with his dream dissatisfied ;
He may climb to the edge of the beetling ledge,

Where the loose crag topples and well-nigh reels
'Neath the lashing gale, but the tonic will fail

What does it profit ? Wheels within wheels !

Aye ! work we must, or with idlers rust,

And eat we must our bodies to nurse ;
Some folk grow fatter what does it matter ?

1 'm blest if I do quite the reverse ;
"T is a weary round to which we are bound,

The same thing over and over again ;
Much toil and trouble, and a glittering bubble,

That rises and bursts, is the best we gain ;
9 1

Racing Rhymes

And we murmur, and yet 't is certain we get

What good we deserve can we hope for

more ?
They are roaring, those waves, in their echoing

To whom do they profit ? Let them roar !



THE troubles of life are many,
The pleasures of life are few ;
When we sat in the sunlight, Annie,
I dreamt that the skies were blue
When we sat in the sunlight, Annie,

I dreamt that the earth was green ;
There is little colour, if any,

'Neath the sunlight now to be seen.

Then the rays of the sunset glinted

Through the blackwood's emerald bough
On an emerald sward, rose- tinted,

And spangled, and gemm'd ; and now
The rays of the sunset redden

With a sullen and lurid frown,
From the skies that are dark and leaden,

To earth that is dusk and brown.

Racing Rhymes
To right and to left extended,

The uplands are blank and drear,
And their neutral tints are blended

With the dead leaves sombre and sere ;
The cold, gray mist from the still side

Of the lake creeps sluggish and sure,
Bare and bleak is the hill-side,

Barren and bleak the moor.

Bright hues and shapes intertwisted,

Fair forms and rich colours ; now
They have flown if e'er they existed

It matters not why or how.
It matters not where or when, dear,

They have flown, the blue and the green ;
I thought on what might be then, dear,

Now I think on what might have been.

What might have been ! words of folly ;

What might be ! speech for a fool ;
With mistletoe round me, and holly,

Scarlet and green, at Yule.
With the elm in the place of the wattle,

And in lieu of the gum, the oak,
Years back I believed a little,

And as I believed I spoke.

Wormwood and Nightshade

Have I done with those childish fancies?

They suited the days gone by,
When I pulled the poppies and pansies,

When I hunted the butterfly,
With one who has long been sleeping,

A stranger to doubts and cares,
And to sowing that ends in reaping

Thistles, and thorns, and tares.

What might be ! the dreams were scatter'd,

As chaff is toss'd by the wind,
The faith has been rudely shattered,

That listen' d with credence blind ;
Things were to have been, and therefore

They were, and they are to be,
And will be ; we must prepare for

The doom we are bound to dree.

Ah, me ! we believe in evil,

Where once we believed in good,
The world, the flesh, and the devil

Are easily understood ;
The world, the flesh, and the devil,

Their traces on earth are plain ;
Must they always riot and revel

While footprints of man remain ?

Racing Rhymes

Talk about better and wiser,

Wiser and worse are one,
The sophist is the despiser

Of all things under the sun ;
Is nothing real but confusion ?

Is nothing certain but death?
Is nothing fair save illusion ?

Is nothing good that has breath?

Some sprite, malignant and elfish,

Seems present, whispering close,
" All motives of life are selfish,

All instincts of life are gross ;
And the song that the poet fashions,

And the love-bird's musical strain,
Are jumbles of animal passions,

Refined by animal pain."

The restless throbbings and burnings

That hope unsatisfied brings,
The weary longings and yearnings

For the mystical better things,
Are the sands on which is reflected

The pitiless moving lake,
Where the wanderer falls dejected

By a thirst he never can slake.

Wormwood and Nightshade

A child blows bubbles that glitter,

He snatches them, they disperse ;
Yet childhood's folly is better,

And manhood's folly is worse ;
Gilt baubles we grasp at blindly

Would turn in our hands to dross ;
'T is a fate less cruel than kindly

Denies the gain and the loss.

And as one who pursues a shadow,

As one who hunts in a dream,
As the child who crosses the meadow

Enticed by the rainbow's gleam,
I knowing the course was foolish,

And guessing the goal was pain,
Stupid, and stubborn, and mulish

Followed and follow again.

The sun over Gideon halted,

Holding aloof the night,
When Joshua's arm was exalted,

Yet never retraced his flight ;
Nor will he turn back, nor can he,

He chases the future fast ;
The future is blank oh, Annie !

I fain would recall the past.

7 97

Racing Rhymes

There are others toiling and straining

'Neath burdens graver than mine
They are weary, yet uncomplaining

I know it, yet I repine ;
I know it, how time will ravage,

How time will level, and yet
I long with a longing savage,

I regret with a fierce regret.

You are no false ideal,

Something is left of you,
Present, perceptible, real,

Palpable, tangible, true ;
One shred of your broken necklace,

One tress of your pale, gold hair
And a heart so utterly reckless,

That the worst it would gladly dare.

There is little pleasure, if any,

In waking the past anew ;
My days and nights have been many,

Lost chances many I rue
My days and nights have been many ;

Now I pray that they be few,
When I think on the hill-side, Annie,

Where I dreamt that the skies were blue.



OUR hopes are wild imaginings,
Our schemes are airy castles,
Yet these, on earth, are lords and kings,

And we their slaves and vassals ;
You dream, forsooth, of buoyant youth,

Most ready to deceive is,
But age will own the bitter truth,
" Ars longa, vita brevis"


ON skies still and starlit
White lustres take hold,
And gray flushes scarlet,
And red flashes gold.
And sun-glories cover
The rose, shed above her,
Like lover and lover
They flame and unfold.


" ~WT ~W~ AVE my ears been closed to the prayer

I 1 of the poor,

A JL Or deaf to the cry of distress?
Have I given little, and taken more ?
Have I brought a curse to the widow's door?

Have I wrong'd the fatherless?
Have I steep'd my fingers in guiltless gore,
That I must perforce confess? "

" Have thy steps been guided by purity
Through the paths with wickedness rife?

Hast thou never smitten thine enemy?

Hast thou yielded naught to the lust of the eye,
And naught to the pride of life ?

Hast thou pass'd all snares of pleasures by?
Hast thou shunn'd all wrath and strife?"

" Nay, certes ; a sinful life I Ve led,
Yet I 've suffered, and lived in hope ;

I may suffer still, but my hope has fled

I Ve nothing now to hope or to dread,
And with fate I can fairly cope ;

Were the waters closing over my head,
I should scarcely catch at a rope."


" Dost suffer ? thy pain may be fraught with grace,

Since never by works alone
We are saved ; the penitent thief may trace
The wealth of love in the Saviour's face,

To the Pharisee rarely shown ;
And the Magdalene's arms may yet embrace

The foot of the jasper throne."



TWO years ago I was thinking
On the changes that years bring forth ;
Now I stand where I then stood drinking

The gust and the salt sea froth ;
And the shuddering wave strikes, linking
With the wave subsiding and sinking,
And clots the coast herbage, shrinking,
With a hue of the white cere-cloth.

Is there aught worth losing or keeping?

The bitters or sweets men quaff?
The sowing or the doubtful reaping?

The harvest of grain or chaff?
Or squandering days or heaping,
Or waking seasons or sleeping,
The laughter that dries the weeping,

Or the weeping that drowns the laugh ?

Quare Fatigasti

For joys wax dim and woes deaden,

We forget the sorrowful biers,
And the garlands glad that have fled in

The merciful march of years ;
And the sunny skies, and the leaden,
And the faces that pale or redden,
And the smiles that lovers are wed in
Who are born and buried in tears.

And the myrtle bloom turns hoary,
And the blush of the rose decays,
And sodden with sweat and gory

Are the hard won laurels and bays ;
We are neither joyous nor sorry
When time has ended our story,
And blotted out grief and glory,
And pain, and pleasure, and praise.

Weigh justly, throw good and bad in

The scales, will the balance veer
With the joys or the sorrows had in

The sum of a life's career ?
In the end, spite of dreams that sadden
The sad, or the sanguine madden,
There is nothing to grieve or gladden,
There is nothing to hope or fear.

Racing Rhymes

" Thou hast gone astray," quoth the preacher,

" In the gall of thy bitterness,"
Thou hast taught me in vain, oh, teacher !

I neither blame thee nor bless ;
If bitter is sure and sweet sure,
These vanish with form and feature
Can the creature fathom the creature

Whose Creator is fathomless?

Is this dry land sure ? Is the sea sure ?

Is there aught that shall long remain,
Pain, or peril, or pleasure,

Pleasure, or peril, or pain?
Shall we labour or take our leisure,
And who shall inherit treasure,
If the measure with which we measure

Is meted to us again?

I am slow in learning, and swift in

Forgetting, and I have grown
So weary with long sand sifting ;

T'wards the mist where the breakers moan
The rudderless bark is drifting,
Through the shoals and the quicksands shifting
In the end shall the night-rack lifting,

Discover the shores unknown?


A LITTLE season of love and laughter,
Of light and life, and pleasure and pain,
And a horror of outer darkness after,
And dust returneth to dust again.
Then the lesser life shall be as the greater,
And the lover of life shall join the hater,
And the one thing cometh sooner or later,
And no one knoweth the loss or gain.


A stone upon her heart and head,
But no name written on that stone ;

Sweet neighbours whisper low instead,
This sinner was a loving one.


'f | ^ IS a nameless stone that stands at your


-M. The gusts in the gloomy gorges whirl
Brown leaves and red till they cover your bed
Now I trust that your sleep is a sound one, girl !

I said in my wrath, when his shadow cross'd
From your garden gate to your cottage door,

"What does it matter for one soul lost?
Millions of souls have been lost before."

Yet I warn'd you ah ! but my words came true
" Perhaps some day you will find him out."

He who was not worthy to loosen your shoe,

Does his conscience therefore prick him ? I doubt.
1 06

No Name

You laugh'd and were deaf to my warning voice
Blush' d and were blind to his cloven hoof

You have had your chance, you have taken your

How could I help you, standing aloof?

He has prosper'd well with the world he says
I am mad if so, and if he be sane,

I, at least, give God thanksgiving and praise
That there lies between us one difference plain.

You in your beauty above me bent

In the pause of a wild west country ball

Spoke to me touched me without intent
Made me your servant for once and all.

Light laughter rippled your rose-red lip,

And you swept my cheek with a shining curl,

That stray'd from your shoulder's snowy tip
Now I pray that your sleep is a sound one, girl !

From a long way off to look at your charms
Made my blood run redder in every vein,

And he he has held you long in his arms,
And has kiss'd you over and over again.

Racing Rhymes

Is it well that he keeps well out of my way ?

If we met, he and I we alone we two
Would I give him one moment's grace to pray?

Not I, for the sake of the soul he slew.

A life like a shuttlecock may be toss'd
With the hand of fate for a battledore ;

But it matters much for your sweet soul lost,
As much as a million souls and more.

And I know that if, here or there, alone,
I found him, fairly and face to face,

Having slain his body, I would slay my own,
That my soul to Satan his soul might chase.

He hardens his heart in the public way
Who am I? I am but a nameless churl ;

But God will put all things straight some day
Till then may your sleep be a sound one, girl !

1 08


TIS a wicked world we live in ;
Wrong in reason, wrong in rhyme ;
But no matter : we '11 not give in
While we still can come to time.

Strength 's a shadow ; Hope is madness ;

Love, delusion ; Friendship, sham ;
Pleasure fades away to sadness,

None of these are worth a d n.

There is naught on earth to please us ;

All things at the crisis fail.
Friends desert us, bailiffs tease us

(To such foes we give leg-bail).

But a stout heart still maintaining,

Quells the ills we all must meet,
And a spirit fear disdaining

Lays our troubles at our feet.

So we '11 ne'er surrender tamely

To the ills that throng us fast.
If we must die, let 's die gamely ;

Luck may take a turn at last.


THE sword slew one in deadly strife ;
One perished by the bowl ;
The third lies self-slain by the knife ;

For three the bells may toll
I loved her better than my life,
And better than my soul.

Aye, father ! hast thou come at last ?

'T is somewhat late to pray ;
Life 's crimson tides are ebbing fast,

They drain my soul away ;
Mine eyes with film are overcast,

The lights are waning grey.

This curl from her bright head I shore,

And this her hands gave mine ;
See, one is stained with purple gore,

And one with poison'd wine ;
Give these to her when all is o'er

How serpent-like they twine !

The Three Friends

We three were brethren in arms,

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Online LibraryAdam Lindsay GordonRacing rhymes & other verses → online text (page 3 of 5)