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The Last Leap

ALL is over ! fleet career,

Dash of greyhound slipping thongs,

Flight of falcon, bound of deer,

Mad hoof-thunder in our rear,

Cold air rushing up our lungs,

Din of many tongues.

 

Once again, one struggle good,

One vain effort ;—he must dwell

Near the shifted post, that stood

Where the splinters of the wood,

Lying in the torn tracks, tell

How he struck and fell.

 

Crest where cold drops beaded cling,

Small ear drooping, nostril full,

Glazing to a scarlet ring,

Flanks and haunches quivering,

Sinews stiff'ning, void and null,

Dumb eyes sorrowful.

 

Satin coat that seems to shine

Duller now, black braided tress,

That a softer hand than mine

Far away was wont to twine,

That in meadows far from this

Softer lips might kiss.

 

All is over ! this is death,

And I stand to watch thee die,

Brave old horse ! with 'bated breath

Hardly drawn through tight-clenched teeth,

Lip indented deep, but eye

Only dull and dry.

 

Musing on the husk and chaff

Gather'd where life's tares are sown,

Thus I speak, and force a laugh

That is half a sneer and half

An involuntary groan,

In a stifled tone—

 

'Rest, old friend ! thy day, though rife

With its toil, hath ended soon ;

We have had our share of strife,

Tumblers in the mask of life,

In the pantomime of noon

Clown and pantaloon.

 

'With the flash that ends thy pain

Respite and oblivion blest

Come to greet thee. I in vain

Fall : I rise to fall again :

Thou hast fallen to thy rest—

And thy fall is best !'

 

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