Off the Grass [poem by Will Ogilvie]

[Editor: This poem by Will Ogilvie was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

Off the Grass.

They were boasting on the Greenhide of their nags of fancy breed,
And stuffing them with bran and oats to run in Gumleaf Town ;
But we had n’t got a racehorse that was worth a dish of feed,
So did n’t have a Buckley’s show to take the boasters down.

For old Midnight was in Sydney, and we couldn’t get him up
In time for Gumleaf Races if it had been worth our while ;
The Chorus colt was far too light to win the Gumleaf Cup,
And we did n’t own a hackney that could finish out the mile.

But we could n’t watch them win it while we never had a say,
So we mustered up the horses, and we caught old Myall King ;
He ’s as brave as ever galloped, but he ’s twelve if he ’s a day,
And we could n’t help but chuckle at the humour of the thing.

But, though shaky in the shoulders, he ’s the daddy of them all ;
He ’s the gamest bit of horseflesh from the Snowy to the Bree ;
One of those that ’s never beaten, coming every time you call :
One of those you sometimes read about but very seldom see.

He ’s the don at every muster and the king of every camp ;
He’s the lad to stop the pikers when they take you on the rush ;
And he loves the merry rattle of the stockwhip, and the tramp
Of the cock-horned mulga scrubbers when they’re breaking in the brush.

He can foot the Greenhide brumbies if they take a mile of start,
And if they get him winded in a gallop on the plain
He ’s as game as any lion, and he carries such a heart
You can never say he ’s beaten, for he ’ll always come again !

So we put up Jack the Stockman with his ten pounds overweight,
And he lengthened out the leathers half-a-foot and gave a smile :
“I don’t suppose you ’ll see us when they ’re fairly in the straight,
But we ’ll make the beggars travel, take my oath ! for half-a-mile.”

And they started, and the old horse jumped away a length in front,
And every post they came to gave the brown a longer lead,
Till it seemed that there was nothing else but Myall in the hunt,
With his load of station honour and his weight of mulga feed !

Then the bay mare, Bogan Lily, started out to cut him down ;
She had travelled out five hundred miles to win the Gumleaf Cup,
And she could n’t well get beaten by a hack in Gumleaf Town
When she had to pay expenses for her owner’s journey up.

So she started out to catch the old brown camp-horse from the Bush,
And a furlong from the finish she could nose his rider’s knee.
Then you should have heard the shouting of the Bogan Lily push.
And the flinging of their hats up was a sight for you to see !

But old Myall King had often been as nearly beat before,
And he steadied off a little, while the mare shot out ahead ;
Then he shook his ears and gripped the bit — you should have heard us roar
As he came at Bogan Lily with his flanks a streak of red !

And the little bay mare, beaten, gave him best and threw it up,
And we heard her rider murmur, as he saw the brown horse pass
And Jack the Stockman drop his hands and win the Gumleaf Cup —
“Beat by a hungry cripple of a camp-horse, off the grass !”

Then we led him in a winner, and they cheered him from the stand,
With the black sweat running channels from his fore-arm to his foot,
And the white foam on his shoulder till you could n’t see the brand,
And the crimson bloodstains scattered over spur and flank and boot.

So we carried off the honours of the meeting — and the notes ;
And the men on Greenhide River, when they see our fellows pass,
Will tell you this in whispers, “You can train your nags on oats ;
But be careful when you ’re racing those dashed scrubbers off the grass !”

Will H. Ogilvie.

A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 7-11

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