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Part IV: Banker’s Dream

OF chases and courses dogs dream, so do horses—

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 laces,

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.

 

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 near'd,

When three of our troop came to troublen ;

Like a bird on the wing, or a stone from a sling,

Flew Cadger, first over the double.

 

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.'

 

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 tail,

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 someone said that the bay would have made

The race safe if he'd stood a while longer ;

If he had,—but, like if, there the panel stands stiff—

He stood, but the panel stood stronger.

 

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,

'Tis the second time round, you'll 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.

 

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 locked 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 not ?'

Level money, I'll 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 swelling,

The hearts of my backers grow bolder.

 

Neck and neck ! head and head ! staring eye ! nostrils 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.

 

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—'tis vain ; he draws past me again,

Springs the whip ! and again we are level.

 

Steel and cord do their worst, now my head struggles first !

That tug my last spurt has expended—

Nose to nose ! lip to lip ! from the sound of the whip

He strains to the utmost extended.

 

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

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.

 

Published in 'Sea Spray and Smoke Drift' (1867).