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Part V: Ex Fumo Dare Lucem

['Twixt the Cup and the Lip]
 
Prologue
 
Calm and clear ! the bright day is declining,
The crystal expanse of the bay,
Like a shield of pure metal, lies shining
'Twixt headlands of purple and grey,
While the little waves leap in the sunset,
And strike with a miniature shock,
In sportive and infantine onset,
The base of the iron-stone rock.
 
Calm and clear ! the sea-breezes are laden
With a fragrance, a freshness, a power,
With a song like the song of a maiden,
With a scent like the scent of a flower ;
And a whisper, half-weird, half-prophetic,
Comes home with the sigh of the surf ;—
But I pause, for your fancies poetic
Never rise from the level of 'Turf.'
 
Fellow-bungler of mine, fellow-sinner,
In public performances past,
In trials whence touts take their winner,
In rumours that circulate fast,
In strains from Prunella or Priam,
Staying stayers, or goers that go,
You're much better posted than I am,
'Tis little I care, less I know.
 
Alas ! neither poet nor prophet
Am I, though a jingler of rhymes—
'Tis a hobby of mine, and I'm off it
At times, and I'm on it at times ;
And whether I'm off it or on it,
Your readers my counsels will shun,
Since I scarce know Van Tromp from Blue Bonnet,
Though I might know Cigar from The Nun.
 
With 'visions' you ought to be sated
And sicken'd by this time ; I swear
That mine are all myths self-created,
Air visions that vanish in air ;
If I had some loose coins I might chuck one,
To settle this question and say,
Here goes ! 'this is tails for the black one,
And heads for my fav'rite, the bay.'
 
And must I rob Paul to pay Peter,
Or Peter defraud to pay Paul ?
My rhymes, are they stale ? if my metre
Is varied, one chime rings through all ;
One chime—though I sing more or sing less,
I have but one string to my lute,
And it might have been better if, stringless
And songless, the same had been mute.
 
Yet not as a seer of visions,
Nor yet as a dreamer of dreams,
I send you these partial decisions
On hackney'd, impoverish'd themes ;
But with song out of tune, sung to pass time,
Flung heedless to friends or to foes,
Where the false notes that ring for the last time
May blend with some real ones, who knows ?
 
THE RACE
 
On the hill they are crowding together,
In the stand they are crushing for room,
Like midge-flies they swarm on the heather,
They gather like bees on the broom ;
They flutter like moths round a candle—
Stale similes, granted, what then ?
I've got a stale subject to handle,
A very stale stump of a pen.
 
Hark ! the shuffle of feet that are many,
Of voices the many-tongued clang—
'Has he had a bad night ?' 'Has he any
Friends left ?'—How I hate your turf slang ;
'Tis stale to begin with, not witty,
But dull, and inclined to be coarse,
But bad men can't use (more's the pity)
Good words when they slate a good horse.
 
Heu ! heu ! quantus equis (that's Latin
For 'bellows to mend' with the weeds),
They're off ! lights and shades ! silk and satin !
A rainbow of riders and steeds !
And one shows in front, and another
Goes up and is seen in his place,
Sic transit (more Latin)—Oh ! bother,
Let's get to the end of the race.
 
. . . . . . .
 
See, they come round the last turn careering,
Already Tait's colours are struck,
And the green in the vanguard is steering,
And the red's in the rear of the ruck !
Are the stripes in the shade doom'd to lie long ?
Do the blue stars on white skies wax dim ?
Is it Tamworth or Smuggler ? 'Tis Bylong
That wins—either Bylong or Tim.
 
As the shell through the breach that is riven
And sapp'd by the springing of mines,
As the bolt from the thunder-cloud driven,
That levels the larches and pines
Through yon mass parti-colour'd that dashes
Goal-turn'd, clad in many-hued garb,
From rear to van, surges and flashes
The yellow and black of The Barb.
 
Past The Fly, falling back on the right, and
The Gull, giving way on the left,
Past Tamworth, who feels the whip smite, and
Whose sides by the rowels are cleft ;
Where Tim and the chestnut together
Still bear of the battle the brunt,
As if eight stone twelve were a feather,
He comes with a rush to the front.
 
Tim Whiffler may yet prove a Tartar,
And Bylong's the horse that can stay,
But Kean is in trouble—and Carter
Is hard on the satin-skinn'd bay ;
And The Barb comes away unextended,
Hard held, like a second Eclipse,
While behind, the hoof-thund
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:04 min read
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Adam Lindsay Gordon

Adam Lindsay Gordon was an Australian poet, jockey and politician. more…

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