Arnold Rode Behind

Roderic Quinn 1867 (Surry Hills, New South Wales) – 1949 (Darlinghurst, New South Wales)

WE galloped down the sodden track
Close buttoned 'gainst the wind;
I took the lead with whip and spur,
And Arnold rode behind.

The skies were wild; a rending gale
Ran roaring through the trees;
It sounded now like shouting hosts,
And now like angry seas.

'Spur on! Spur on!' I turned and cried,
'The fatal moments fly!'
I cursed him then-his trembling hand-
I cursed his bloodshot eye.

I cursed him for the lust of drink
That held his will a slave;
For skill to tend and mend was his
To succour and to save.

I thought of her, the golden girl,
My life, my love, nigh spent,
Nigh death, with fever clutching her,
And what his coming meant.

Through driving rain and tossing trees
I saw her pale with pain ;
And if my eyes grew wet, perchance
'Twas not the wet of rain.

I turned on Arnold, and I vowed
To pay with coin of hate
His ten-mile ride, his boasted skill,
If he should prove too late;

I mixed my words with searing scorn,
And turned and told him plain,
Of how I found him stupid, drugged,
With dull and sluggish brain.

And how the wasted hours went by-
I waiting by his side-
Till he should wake, and be himself,
And mount his horse and ride.

And 'Arnold, if she die'-I said-
'Be yours the lot accurst-
In life to thirst, to thirst in death,
In Hell to thirst and thirst.'

And so with black and bitter words,
Close-buttoned 'gainst the wind,
With whip and spur I galloped on,
And Arnold rode behind.

No word he said, no answer gave,
No bitter curse flung back,
But, sagging in the saddle, sank
A shamed thing in my track.

The skies were lead, and leaden rain-
A screen of sullen lead.
A wind-blown screen, a blinding screen-
Fell down from overhead.

Though cattle die, and pastures fade,
With drought on hill and plain,
'Fore God, I pray I may not see
The like of that blind rain!

The torn leaves swirled about my head;
The gum-trees tall and stout
Waved limbs and tossed tormented crests
As in a forest rout.

The wind was now like hounds a-hunt,
And now like hounds that whined.
Yet ever on and on I rode,
And Arnold rode behind.

And soon there rose a mighty noise;
Above the wind it roared;
And. bursting through the screen of rain,
We came to Kelvin's Ford.

I reined my horse in mute amaze,
A stunned and stricken man;
For 'twixt me and my heart's own love
A thwarting river ran.

I looked upon its maddened waste;
I drew a broken breath;
I said, ' Tis hopeless-ended all-
To dare the Ford were death.'

The wind was like a pack of hounds
Upon a forest-hunt- . . .
And then I heard a splash of hoofs-
And Arnold rode in front,

His face was lit-I vow 'twas lit
Like glorious evening skies;
And, as he turned and smiled, flashed out
The manhood from his eyes.

And then I knew that through his soul
A dauntless purpose ran
As, shaking shame and sin aside,
He rose once more a Man.

He fought the river inch by inch,
Set will against its might,
Gave way with it, and came again,
And conquered in the fight.

And saved Her . . . conquered Death as well.
0 Heart-so dull, so blind!-
Oft-times, denied his chance in life,
The hero rides behind.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:54 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme abcB xdxd efxf xgxg xhch dixi xjxj xixi fexe kblx xbxB gaxa ikxk xixi kmxm nbxB xoio xpxp xlxl xnxn xqmq xpep xrxr xbxb
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 2,954
Words 582
Stanzas 24
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Roderic Quinn

Roderic Joseph Quinn was an Australian poet. more…

All Roderic Quinn poems | Roderic Quinn Books

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