Kingsborough [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem, about a horse race, by Henry Kendall was published in Songs from the Mountains (1880).]


A waving of hats and of hands,
The voices of thousands in one,
A shout from the Ring and the Stands,
And a glitter of heads in the sun!
They are off — they are off,” is the roar,
As the cracks settle down to the race,
With the “yellow and black” to the fore,
And the Panic blood forcing the pace.

At the back of the course, and away
Where the running ground home again wheels,
Grubb travels in front on the “bay”
With a feather-weight hard at his heels.
But Yeomans, you see, is “about,”
And the wily New Zealander waits,
Though the high-blooded flyer is out,
Whose rider and colours are Tait’s.

Look! Ashworth comes on with a run
To the head of the Levity colt;
And the fleet — the magnificent son
Of Panic is “shooting his bolt.”
Hurrah for the Weatherbit strain!
A Fireworks is first in the straight;
And “a Kelpie will win it again,”
Is the roar from the ring to the gate.

The leader must have it — but no!
For see, full of running, behind
A beautiful wonderful foe
With the speed of the thunder and wind!
A flashing of whips, and a cry,
And Ashworth “sits down” on his horse,
With Kingsborough’s head at his thigh
And the “field” scattered over the course!

In a clamour of calls and acclaim,
The pair race away from the “ruck:”
The horse to the last of it game —
A marvel of muscle and pluck!
But the foot of the Sappho is there,
And Kingston’s invincible strength;
And the numbers go up in the air —
The colt is the first by a length!

The first, and the favourite too!
The terror that came from his stall,
With the spirit of fire and of dew,
To show the road home to them all!
From the back of the field to the straight,
He has “come,” as is ever his wont,
And carried his welter-like weight,
Like a tradesman, right through to the front

Nor wonder at cheering a whit,
For this is the popular horse
That never was beaten when “fit”
By any four hoofs on the course!
To starter for Leger or Cup,
Has he ever shown feather of fear
When saddle and rider were up
And the case to be argued was clear?

No! rather the questionless pluck
Of the blood unaccustomed to yield
Preferred to “spread-eagle” the ruck,
And make a long tail of the “field.”
Bear witness, ye lovers of sport,
To races of which he can boast,
When flyer by flyer was caught
And beaten by lengths on the post!

Lo! this is the beautiful bay —
Of many, the marvellous one
Who showed us last season the way
That a Leger should always be won.
There was something to look at and learn,
Ye shrewd irreproachable “touts,”
When the Panic colt tired at the turn,
And the thing was all over — but shouts!

Ay, that was the “spin” when the twain
Came locked by the bend of the course,
The Zetlander pulling his rein,
And the veteran hard on his horse!
When Ashworth was “riding” ’twas late
For his friends to applaud on the Stands
And the Sappho colt entered the straight
With the race of the year in his hands

Just look at his withers — his thighs!
And the way that he carries his head!
Has Richmond more wonderful eyes,
Or Melbourne that spring in his tread?
The grand — the intelligent glance
From a spirit that fathoms and feels,
Makes the heart of a horse-lover dance
Till the warmblooded life in him reels

What care have I ever to know
His owner by sight or by name?
The horse that I glory in so
Is still the magnificent same!
I own I am proud of the pluck
Of the sportsman that never was bought;
But the nag that “spread-eagled the ruck”
Is bound to be first in my thought.

For who that has masculine flame,
Or who that is thorough at all,
Can help feeling joy in the fame
Of this king of the kings of the stall?
What odds if assumption has sealed
His soulless hereafter abode,
So long as he shows to his “field”
The gleam of his hoofs, and the road?

Henry Kendall, Songs from the Mountains, Sydney: William Maddock, 1880, pages 13-19

Editor’s notes:
The line “And the thing was all over — but shouts!” is a variation of the more common phrase “All over bar the shouting”.

ay = (commonly spelt “aye”) yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

bay = a reddish-brown colour; particularly used to refer to a reddish-brown horse (especially with a black mane and black tail); a reddish-brown animal

crack = expert

nag = horse

own = confess; admit or affirm that something is true

twain = (archaic) two (from the Old English word “twegen”, meaning “two”); especially known for the phrase “never the twain shall meet” (from the line “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”, as used by the poet Rudyard Kipling, at the start of the poem “The Ballad of East and West”, which was included in Barrack-room Ballads and Other Verses, 1892)

wont = custom, habit, practice; accustomed; apt, inclined

Old spelling in the original text:
ye (you)

[Editor: Changed “or by name!” to “or by name?”; added a question mark after “and the road”.]

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