Who's Riding Old Harlequin Now?

Harry 'Breaker' Harbord Morant 1864 (Bridgwater, Somerset) – 1902 (Pretoria)

They are mustering cattle on Brigalow Vale
  Where the stock-horses whinny and stamp,
And where long Andy Ferguson, you may go bail,
  Is yet boss on a cutting-out camp.
Half the duffers I met would not know a fat steer
  From a blessed old Alderney cow.
Whilst they're mustering there I am wondering here -
  Who is riding brown Harlequin now?

Are the pikers as wild and the scrubs just as dense
  In the brigalow country as when
There was never a homestead and never a fence
  Between Brigalow Vale and The Glen?
Do they yard the big micks 'neath the light of the moon?
  Do the yard-wings re-echo the row
Of stockwhips and hoof-beats?  And what sort of coon
  Is there riding old Harlequin now?

There was buckjumping blood in the brown gelding's veins,
  But, lean-headed, with iron-like pins,
Of Pyrrhus and Panic he'd plentiful strains,
  All their virtues, and some of their sins.
'Twas the pity, some said, that so shapely a colt
  Fate should with such temper endow;
He would kick and would strike, he would buck and would bolt -
  Ah! who's riding brown Harlequin now?

A demon to handle! a devil to ride!
  Small wonder the surcingle burst;
You'd have thought that he'd buck himself out of his hide
  On the morning we saddled him first.
I can mind how he cow-kicked the spur on my boot,
  And though that's long ago, still I vow
If they're wheeling a piker no new-chum galoot
  Is a-riding old Harlequin now!

I remember the boss - how he chuckled and laughed
  When they yarded the brown colt for me:
"He'll be steady enough when we finish the graft
  And have cleaned up the scrubs of Glen Leigh!'
I am wondering today if the brown horse yet live,
  For the fellow who broke him, I trow,
A long lease of soul-ease would willingly give
  To be riding brown Harlequin now!

'Do you think you can hold him?' old Ferguson said -
  He was mounted on Homet, the grey;
I think Harlequin heard him - he shook his lean head,
  And he needed no holding that day.
Not a prick from a spur, nor a sting from a whip
  As he raced among deadwood and bough
While I sat fairly quiet and just let him rip -
  But who's riding old Harlequin now?

I could hear 'em a-crashing the gidgee in front
  As the Bryan colt streaked to the lead
Whilst the boss and the niggers were out of the hunt.
  For their horses lacked Harlequin's speed;
The pikers were yarded and skies growing dim
  When old Fergie was fain to allow:
'The colt's track through the scrub was a knocker' to him -
  But who's riding brown Harlequin now?

From starlight to starlight - all day in between
  The foam-flakes might fly from his bit,
But whatever the pace of the day's work had been,
  The brown gelding was eager and fit.
On the packhorse's back they are fixing a load
  Where the path climbs the hill's gloomy brow;
They are mustering bullocks to send on the road,
  But - who's riding old Harlequin now?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 27, 2023

2:43 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 2,815
Words 530
Stanzas 8
Stanza Lengths 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8

Harry 'Breaker' Harbord Morant

Harry "Breaker" Harbord Morant (born Edwin Henry Murrant, 9 December 1864 – 27 February 1902) was an Anglo-Australian drover, horseman, bush poet and military officer, who was convicted and executed for murder during the Second Anglo-Boer War. While serving with the Bushveldt Carbineers during the Second Anglo-Boer War, Lieutenant Morant was arrested and court-martialed for war crimes—one of the first such prosecutions in British military history. According to military prosecutors, Morant retaliated for the death in combat of his commanding officer with a series of revenge killings against both Boer POWs and many civilian residents of the Northern Transvaal. more…

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