The Horses of the Hills [poem by Marie E. J. Pitt]

[Editor: This poem by Marie E. J. Pitt was published in The Horses of the Hills and Other Verses (1911).]

The Horses of the Hills.

When cohorts of September
Are marching down amain,
We waken and remember
Our fathers’ fields again.
Old Winter’s ice-bonds slacken,
His voice is waning low,
And sunward peeps the bracken
From winding sheets of snow.

The dumb earth wakes and shivers,
Young winds our heralds are,
And mortals call us rivers
Who know not what we are.
Ere mastodon or urus
Might dare the steamy rift,
From Java to Honduras
Our hoofs had scarred the drift.

Honduras east to Java
Our hieroglyphs were beat
On prehistoric lava
By old silurian sleet.
And seaward still our course is
When Spring’s glad fanfare thrills
And wakes the wild white horses,
The horses of the hills.

Our dams came south and nor’ward,
Our dams came east and west,
Hard driven is from shoreward,
And laid them down to rest.
With whips of storm behind them
They wheeled and whirled and broke,
And fled by roads assigned them,
Ere we in wonder woke.

In Winter’s cave we slumbered,
Like sluggards in our chains,
For days and nights unnumbered,
Nor dreamed of our domains:
But cohorts of September
Are marching down amain;
We waken and remember
Our father’s fields again.

Off cape and fretted foreland
Ten thousand hoofs a-drum,
Our sires who hold the shoreland,
The white sea stallions come.
O’er drift and weed and spinney
Inshore their leaders stamp
And wheel and snort and whinny
To call us to their camp.

’Neath dawn or noontide splendour
Inborne on winds of dream,
In vibrant tone and tender
We hear the call supreme;
High o’er the locked land forces
A clarion call it shrills —
“Come home! come home, white horses!
White horses of the hills!”

O! vain on back and shoulder
His harness Winter bound,
And fenced with brake and boulder
His mountain stockyard round;
Disdaining bond or shackle,
With plunge and swerve and shy,
We break from bar and tackle
And thunder in reply.

Down thro’ the gorge’s shadows
Our rolling squadrons burst,
Forth from the white snow meadows
Wherein our strength was nursed.
By hut and homestead swinging
Full speed and flanks afoam,
We hear the land wind singing
“Come home! white steeds, come home!”

No rider sits astride us;
No fences bid us stay;
And none so bold as ride us
Cross country to the bay.
Who track our trampled courses
Bear witness to our wills,
We are the wild white horses,
The horses of the hills.

Marie E. J. Pitt, The Horses of the Hills and Other Verses, Melbourne: Specialty Press, 1911, pages 7-9

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