How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix
The Poetical Works, VI (London: Smith and Elder, 1888-94): 9-12.
1I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
2I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
3"Good speed!" cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
4"Speed!" echoed the wall to us galloping through;
5Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
6And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
7Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
8Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
9I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
10Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
11Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
12Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
13'T was moonset at starting; but while we drew near
14Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
15At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
16At Düffeld, 't was morning as plain as could be;
17And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
18So, Joris broke silence with, "Yet there is time!"
19At Aershot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
20And against him the cattle stood black every one,
21To stare thro' the mist at us galloping past,
22And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
23With resolute shoulders, each butting away
24The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray:
25And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
26For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
27And one eye's black intelligence,---ever that glance
28O'er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
29And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
30His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.
31By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, "Stay spur!
32"Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault's not in her,
33"We'll remember at Aix"---for one heard the quick wheeze
34Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
35And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
36As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
37So, we were left galloping, Joris and I,
38Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
39The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
40'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
41Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
42And "Gallop," gasped Joris, "for Aix is in sight!"
43"How they'll greet us!"---and all in a moment his roan
44Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
45And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
46Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
47With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
48And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.
49Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
50Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
51Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
52Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
53Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
54Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
55And all I remember is---friends flocking round
56As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground;
57And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
58As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
59Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
60Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.
RPO poem Editors: