The Rebel [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 Rebel.

Down the Mitchell Kylie bred him, where the rustling reedbeds shiver;
Kylie swore the devil fed him with ungodly wind and flame;
He was wild as mountain torrent, running riot to the river —
Never stockyard fence would hold him, never fear of man would tame.

So he roamed a royal rebel, while the Springtime brought the wattle,
And the Autumn came with wild geese and the whirring wing of quails;
And the reedbeds rippled laughter, or they moaned like drums of battle,
Still he snorted his defiance of the tackle and the rails.

Rising six and never handled — all the local boys contended
That the chestnut was a waster with a curse upon his head,
That he wasn’t worth the trouble of the fences to be mended,
And the chump that went to break him might be broken in his stead.

That the outlaw colt would beat him, ten to one they betted Kylie,
As he drank his “Jimmy Woodser”; but he spluttered like a squid.
He’d a “stocking” planted somewhere and they loved to twit him slyly;
“Think oim grane, do yez,” he grumbled, “to be partin’ up a quid?”

But, jogging gently homeward, putting two and two together,
“By the hokey!” muttered Kylie, “but oi’ve got thim in me hand;
Charlie Ferguson ’ll roide him if th’ baste ’ll carry leather:
An’ to yard him German Joey an’ the Flynns ’ll give a hand.”

“New Year’s Day we’ll run the yearlin’s from the paddick down the river,
An’ the chestnut sure ’ll lead them till we come forninst the lane,
Then he’ll break an’ wheel an’ gallop — faith we’ll nab him thin or niver,
He’ll be tame as anny donkey whin we bring him out again!”

Then Kylie raised discussion and the wildest speculation —
“Touch of sunstroke!” was the verdict when he took them ten to one.
But the joke was past the wisdom of the wily combination,
So they settled down to waiting for the New Year’s bill of fun.

Rolled the sunfire o’er the ridges, till the dead-gold ears o’ barley
Shimmered back a sullen challenge to the lances of the day.
By the stockyard gate they mustered — German Joe, the Flynns, and Charlie:
And Kylie looked as doleful as a bishop at a play.

Then they made their calculations for the riding of The Rebel;
Paddy Kylie and the German, with the yearlings for a bait,
Would stampede them up the river, straight as sling can throw a pebble,
And the others would outflank them in the scrub at Murphy’s gate.

Up the river-flat like lightning to their hoofstrokes’ muffled thunder
Ran the yearlings, with the chestnut half a chain or so in front;
At the scrub, he wheeled and snorted, Charlie’s pony slipped — a blunder:
And The Rebel raced for freedom — then McLaughlin joined the hunt.

Up the flat again they brought them, Joe and Kylie hard behind them,
And McLaughlin on the offside on his bay Monaro mare;
With a rush upon the gateway and a crack of whips to blind them,
And — The Rebel missed his moment by the turning of a hair!

“Aisy! Aisy!” shouted Kylie. “’Tis a two-chain road, remimber:
An’ th’ finces, if he thried thim, sure they wouldn’t stop a cow;
Up by Mac’s we’ll separate thim, where th’ rails is stiffer timber —
’Tis th’ stockyard fince ’ll hould him very shortly annyhow!”

Up by Mac’s they blocked the yearlings — just a moment stood The Rebel:
Just a moment, like a statue — scorn in every flashing curve;
Then full tilt upon the four-rail — but the rushing cords sang treble,
And they scarred him with their stockwhips as they baulked him in his swerve.

Close, and closer still, they pressed him, where the stockyard gaped to hold him,
And Kylie’s voice was broken and it rose in little squeals,
“By the hokey! Take him aisy! Do you think the fince ’ll hould him?
Holy Moses! But the divil’s moighty handy wid his heels!”

“Yarded!” — Just the hush, unbroken by a twitter or a rustle,
’Twixt the lightning’s livid terror and the peal that shakes the ground;
Then a play of whipcord sinews and a launching heave of muscle,
And a crash of splintered top-rail, as he landed, safe and sound.

Kylie wept and swore together; Dan McLaughlin shouted, “Stop him!”
And the others yelled like demons as they held the lane below;
“Four-rail fences capped with wattle,” laughed the German, “dot will wop him,
Mit dose wombat holes, to jump her he vould grazy be!” said Joe.

Four-rail fences capped with wattle, and like tunnels, dark and hollow,
Crumbled take-off side and landing, ran the wombat holes beneath.
For a breathing space he poised him then he flew, as flies the swallow:
There was gripping hard of bridles, there was gritting hard of teeth.

For we knew before he struck it, ere his terror-neigh had sunken
To a pitiful low moaning, and the big sobs took his breath,
Hot with fever-fire of conquest, with the lust of capture drunken,
He had weighed it in the balance — he was leaping to his death.

Kylie cursed the broken, bright thing lying huddled in the hollow,
And the German said: “We beat him!” But we knew the beggar lied,
For The Rebel raced for freedom by a track we dared not follow
To the reedbeds and the rivers ’way beyond the Big Divide.

Marie E. J. Pitt, The Horses of the Hills and Other Verses, Melbourne: Specialty Press, 1911, pages 62-67

Editor’s notes:
Jimmy Woodser = someone who drinks alone, or a drink taken alone; the phrase dates from at least 1881, and was notably used in the 1892 poem “Jimmy Wood”, by Barcroft Boake, about a man who did not join in the custom of “shouting” (buying drinks for friends), and which ended with the line, “Who drinks alone — drinks toast to Jimmy Wood, sir”

Mitchell = the Mitchell River (Victoria), named after the explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell

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