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Verses Inspired by 'My Old Black Pipe'

AYE !  Many a sport old Homer names.

By Achilles held ' at his little games ',

On the banks of the swift Scamander ;

And Pindar sings the Olympian deeds

Of the ivory car and the milk-white steeds

Of Catullus or Lysander.

 

How clouds of dust aloft were spurn'd

By wheels that grazed the goals as they turn'd

Till the bright sparks flicker'd redly ;

How the strains of mingled mirth and fury,

That swell'd in the chant of ' Morituri ',

Proclaimed when the sports were deadly.

 

Ah ! little we cared for classic lore,

When Greek was a task and Latin a bore,

In school-days that are deemed of yore ;

And who will venture to chide us,

If better we loved the play-field green,

And the black-thorn hedge that served as a screen

In the mills that settled our boyish spleen,

From the tutor's eyes to hide us ?

 

Who envies the bygone days of old ?

They never were half so good as we're told ;

Their loss is not worth bewailing.

We have seen young Camel's slashing stride,

And Archer's rush, and Mormon's pride ;

And the deer-like bound of Ingleside,

At ' five-foot-three ' of a paling.

 

We've seen how the side of Falcon bled,

And the hopes of Arinna's backers fled

When the Rose of Denmark shot ahead,

And never again they caught her.

How false were the shouts of ' Barwon's first ! '

When she came 'from the distance home' with a burst,

And the favourite's friends devoutly cursed

Old Premier's gamest daughter.

 

What cheers for King Alfred's white-faced son

Were heard when the Western chase was done,

And the judge's verdict given ;

While Vandyke fell in the beaten ranks,

And the red spots showed on the mare's great flanks

How vainly the steel was driven.

 

And with anxious longing we wait the day,

When the prads must strip for the coming fray,

To be criticized in rotation ;

But to spot the winner we well not try,

For a mist obscures our mental eye,

And we have not the power of prophecy,

Nor the spirit of divination.

 

Yet in fancy's glass we may scan the course,

And hear the bookmaker's challenge hoarse,

The odds incessantly dunning ;

We may watch the starter's signal fall,

And the nags may picture, one and all,

For a Cup in a cluster running.

 

And mark, as they sweep before the stand

How Ebor is going well in hand,

And Banker is pulling double ;

How longer each moment grows the tail,

As one by one the outsiders fail,

To get into grief and trouble.

 

How Trainor pulls out of Waldock's track,

And Morrison steadies the Caulfield crack,

While up on the right comes the rose and black

Like an eagle that scents the plunder ;

How round the turn they jostle and crush,

And Simpson clears his whip for a rush,

And then on the crowd comes a lull and a hush

And then a roar like thunder.

 

And when Beaufort collars the Western pet,

Then Greek meets Greek, unconquered yet,

And the tug of war commences ;

As stride for stride, with the stoke of one,

Like greyhounds running with couples on

Together they fly their fences.

 

There ' Vates ' and ' Rhyming Richard ' too,

Can tell much better than I or you

What nags are likely the trick to do,

Nor will I their judgement sneer at ;

If the gift of second sight were mine,

I'd make a fortune, and then ' I'd shine ',

But I haven't got it, and so I'll sign

' Qui Meruit Palmam Ferat '.

A. LINDSAY GORDON.