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- Right Royal - 1/11 -




The persons, horses and events described in this poem are imaginary. No reference is made to any living person or horse.




An hour before the race they talked together A pair of lovers in the mild March weather, Charles Cothill and the golden lady, Em.

Beautiful England's hands had fashioned them.

He was from Sleins, that manor up the Lithe; Riding the Downs had made his body blithe; Stalwart he was, and springy, hardened, swift, Able for perfect speed with perfect thrift, Man to the core yet moving like a lad. Dark honest eyes with merry gaze he had, A fine firm mouth, and wind-tan on his skin. He was to ride and ready to begin. He was to ride Right Royal, his own horse, In the English Chaser's Cup on Compton Course.

Under the pale coat reaching to his spurs One saw his colours, which were also hers, Narrow alternate bars of blue and white Blue as the speedwell's eye and silver bright.

What with hard work and waiting for the race, Trouble and strain were marked upon his face; Men would have said that something worried him.

She was a golden lady, dainty, trim, As like the love time as laburnum blossom. Mirth, truth and goodness harboured in her bosom.

Pure colour and pure contour and pure grace Made the sweet marvel of her singing face; She was the very may-time that comes in When hawthorns bud and nightingales begin. To see her tread the red-tippt daisies white In the green fields all golden with delight, Was to believe Queen Venus come again, She was as dear as sunshine after rain; Such loveliness this golden lady had.

All lovely things and pure things made her glad, But most she loved the things her lover loved, The windy Downlands where the kestrels roved, The sea of grasses that the wind runs over Where blundering beetles drunken from the clover Stumble about the startled passer-by. There on the great grass underneath the sky She loved to ride with him for hours on hours, Smelling the seasoned grass and those small flowers, Milkworts and thymes, that grow upon the Downs. There from a chalk edge they would see the towns: Smoke above trees, by day, or spires of churches Gleaming with swinging wind-cocks on their perches. Or windows flashing in the light, or trains Burrowing below white smoke across the plains. By night, the darkness of the valley set With scattered lights to where the ridges met And three great glares making the heaven dun, Oxford and Wallingford and Abingdon.

"Dear, in an hour," said Charles, "the race begins. Before I start I must confess my sins. For I have sinned, and now it troubles me."

"I saw that you were sad," said Emily.

"Before I speak," said Charles, "I must premise. You were not here to help me to be wise, And something happened, difficult to tell. Even if I sinned, I feel I acted well, From inspiration, mad as that may seem. Just at the grey of dawn I had a dream.

It was the strangest dream I ever had. It was the dream that drove me to be mad.

I dreamed I stood upon the race-course here, Watching a blinding rainstorm blowing clear, And as it blew away I said aloud, 'That rain will make soft going on the ploughed.' And instantly I saw the whole great course, The grass, the brooks, the fences toppt with gorse, Gleam in the sun; and all the ploughland shone Blue, like a marsh, though now the rain had gone. And in my dream I said, 'That plough will be Terrible work for some, but not for me. Not for Right Royal.' And a voice said, 'No Not for Right Royal.' And I looked, and lo There was Right Royal, speaking, at my side. The horse's very self, and yet his hide Was like, what shall I say? like pearl on fire, A white soft glow of burning that did twire Like soft white-heat with every breath he drew. A glow, with utter brightness running through; Most splendid, though I cannot make you see.

His great crest glittered as he looked at me Criniered with spitting sparks; he stamped the ground All cock and fire, trembling like a hound, And glad of me, and eager to declare His horse's mind.

And I was made aware That, being a horse, his mind could only say Few things to me. He said, 'It is my day, My day, to-day; I shall not have another.'

And as he spoke he seemed a younger brother Most near, and yet a horse, and then he grinned And tossed his crest and crinier to the wind And looked down to the Water with an eye All fire of soul to gallop dreadfully.

All this was strange, but then a stranger thing Came afterwards. I woke all shivering With wonder and excitement, yet with dread Lest the dream meant that Royal should be dead, Lest he had died and come to tell me so. I hurried out; no need to hurry, though; There he was shining like a morning star. Now hark. You know how cold his manners are, Never a whinny for his dearest friend. To-day he heard me at the courtyard end, He left his breakfast with a shattering call, A View Halloo, and, swinging in his stall, Ran up to nuzzle me with signs of joy. It staggered Harding and the stable-boy. And Harding said, 'What's come to him to-day? He must have had a dream he beat the bay.'

Now that was strange; and, what was stranger, this. I know he tried to say those words of his, 'It is my day'; and Harding turned to me, 'It is his day to-day, that's plain to see.' Right Royal nuzzled at me as he spoke. That staggered me. I felt that I should choke. It came so pat upon my unsaid thought, I asked him what he meant. He answered 'Naught. It only came into my head to say. But there it is. To-day's Right Royal's day.'

That was the dream. I cannot put the glory With which it filled my being, in a story. No one can tell a dream. Now to confess. The dream made daily life a nothingness, Merely a mould which white-hot beauty fills, Pure from some source of passionate joys and skills. And being flooded with my vision thus, Certain of winning, puffed and glorious, Walking upon this earth-top like a king, My judgment went. I did a foolish thing, I backed myself to win with all I had.

Now that it's done I see that it was mad, But still, I had to do it, feeling so. That is the full confession; now you know."

SHE The thing is done, and being done, must be. You cannot hedge. Would you had talked with me Before you plunged. But there, the thing is done.

HE Do not exaggerate the risks I run. Right Royal was a bad horse in the past, A rogue, a cur, but he is cured at last; For I was right, his former owner wrong, He is a game good chaser going strong. He and my lucky star may pull me through.


Right Royal - 1/11

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