Vae Victis!

By ‘One of the Legion of the Lost’


THERE was revel on Flemington Course,

Clamour of tongues and clatter of feet,

Rider to rider and horse to horse,

‘ ‘Twas a China orange to Lombard Street.’


There were bookmakers, trainers, touts,

Heavy swells and their jockeys light,

The man that drinks and the man that shouts,

Carrier pigeon and carrion kite.


Wheresoever the carcass lies,

There will the eagles gather together,

And the shambles swarm with the summer flies

That buzz and drone in the summer weather.


‘ Vae Victis ! Woe to the conquered !

Gone our luck is, lick’d we are ;

I warrant my friend "Mr. Peter Prankerd"

Would have made an investment safer far.’


For the partisans of Falcon quailed,

And the backers of Barwon felt a chill,

And the stride of Lady Heron failed,

And Cowra stopped, and Mozart stood still.


In the Stand the faces of many paled,

And the pulses of many stayed on the hill,

When through his horses the Exile sailed,

And raised the hopes he couldn’t fulfil.


Tell it not in the city of gold,

In Dowling Forest publish it not,

How he flagged and tired, the four-year-old,

Long or ever a place he got.


He was a black as the raven’s wing,

Black and yellow his rider’s garb,

And I heard the ‘cabbage-tree’ chorus sing

A paean loud to the conquering Barb.


‘ Vae Victis ! Woe to the conquered !

Shall we confess it, sooth to say,

‘Twas after another colt we hankered,

But he couldn’t pull it off that day.’


Who knows whether he might have won ;

He was beaten, every one knows.

What does it matter ? the race is run,

P’r’aps he was taken bad with the slows.


Health and credit to Mister Tait,

Honour and glory to New South Wales :

We hope against hope, we fight against fate,

Those Sydney scrubbers will show their tails.


And some must sow for others to reap,

And some must frown for others to grin,

And some must watch that others may sleep,

And some must lose that others may win.


Days of sorrow and days of mirth,

Their pain and pleasure they mingle must ;

What does it matter, boys ?—earth to earth,

Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.


The vessel freighted with our hopes, split

On a rock, and the reed we leaned on broke—

Ex nihilo nihil fit—

And the dream of the Smoker ends in smoke.


‘Nil desperandum !’ Luck to the conquered,

Better, it may be, another time.

Comrades all, here’s luck in a tankard,

Sift the reason out of this rhyme.