[Editor: This poem by Agnes L. Storrie was published in Poems, 1909.]
He stands all day by the paddock rail,
With downcast head, and drooping tail,
And he looks across to the stable door,
And waits for a step that will come no more.
The clover blossoms, so faint and sweet,
Lift wooing faces about his feet,
And the tall grass sways in the gentle breeze,
But I do not think he even sees,
And the cloudless blue of the summer skies
Finds only shadow within his eyes.
When the sun has climbed to his sapphire dome,
And pauses, turning his face towards home,
You will see this lonely watcher turn,
With lifted ears and eyes that burn,
You will see him toss an impatient mane,
And quiver with eager hope again,
You will hear in his sudden deep-toned neigh,
“Surely, ah! surely he’ll come to-day!”
But the hours drag by, and the shadows fall,
And nobody ever comes at all.
The browsing cattle, fat and sleek,
Find luscious pasture beside the creek,
They neither understand nor share
This exile’s longing and despair.
Perhaps, on some sunny windless noon
He will bear far off the thrilling tune
Of baying hounds, that lightly floats
Across the upland in ringing notes,
And his eyes will flash, and his muscles strain
As he lives it over in dreams again,
And the blood leaps up with a sudden fire,
As he takes in his stride the wood-capped wire,
He feels live currents of wild delight,
Sympathies born of their headlong flight
Thrill from the slender sunburnt hands
That hold his reins, like electric bands.
He has given his strength and his matchless speed
To his rider, who has inspired his steed
With his human courage, his dauntless soul,
And so they are merged into one grand whole,
Triumphantly filled with the power to dare
Anything, everything, whatsoe’er,
A magic that turns the air to wine,
The turf to elastic, and fills with a fine
Free flood of quicksilver every vein,
That hurries the pulses and fevers the brain.
’Tis only a dream! and the eager fire,
The sparkle that tells of his famous sire
Dies from his eyes, and a strange dumb smart
Falls like a shadow across his heart.
He remembers, and yes, though he’s only a horse,
Remembers it all with a dull remorse —
That last wild run on the afternoon
Of the blue and white of a golden June,
When he would be first in the eager crush,
When he would not steady his reckless rush,
Remembers the glorious thunder of feet
On the level plain, where the hedges meet,
Remembers how proudly he led the field
With a passionate daring that would not yield,
The lust of conquest was in his brain,
And he would not answer the guiding rein,
But seized the bit in his teeth, and flew
Like a soul possessed, and never knew
The fence was there, till with a crash
He struck and fell, and in a flash
The sky was hurtling overhead,
A hideous vision, black and red.
He heard one groan, one quivering breath,
And then, the eloquent hush of death.
Ah! even now as he stands alone,
He seems to hear that one deep groan,
And see a form ’mid the flowering furze
With blood-stained pink and shattered spurs,
And a young face turned to the cloudless skies,
Can it be thus that his master lies?
Eddy, his master, so young and gay,
Whose mother, kissing him just that day,
And watching him mount at the big white gate,
Had said ‘‘Now, Eddy, you won’t be late!”
All this he sees in a hazy way,
As he stands in the sunshine day by day.
And it sometimes flashes across his brain
That Eddy will never come back again.
Yet he waits and waits by the paddock rail
With a patience that does not flag or fail,
For his heart is true, tho’ his reason’s dim,
And it’s all rather misty and dark to him.
And the clover blossoms so faint and sweet,
May cluster softly about his feet,
But his eyes are fixed on the stable door,
And he waits for a step that will come no more.
Agnes L. Storrie. Poems, J. W. Kettlewell, Sydney, 1909, pages 163-166
furze = any of several thorny evergreen shrubs of the genus Ulex, with rudimentary leaves and yellow flowers; commonly known as “gorse”
whatsoe’er = a contraction of “whatsoever”
Les Brown says
I have only recently come to this work after a lifetime of most Australian poets and and balladists and I am absolutely overwhelmed by its originality, its pitch, is humanity, and in fact just about everything about it.