Lament of the Old Horse’s Ghost

Lament of the Old Horse’s Ghost

Ye horses all, who may pass by
This spot where rest my bones,
Behold my head, which once was high,
Now bleaching ‘mongst these stones.
I was a horse of note and fame
Some thirty years ago,
Before the king of terrors came
And laid me thus full lows

My portion was, when bat a foal,
To be a farmer’s pet,
My skin as sleek as any mole
My limbs well form’d and set:

My colour of the chestnut hue,
With milk-white mane and tail,
Made me the favourite as I grew
Of all the neighbouring vale.

When I grew up to be a horse,
And fit to take the yoke,
I scornfully my tail would toss,
And snorted to be broke

Into the low-life plodding way
Of dragging plough or cart;
But my young master to convey
To country fair or mart

Was an employment to my will
And worthy of my merit,
And such I did for years fulfil
With well-earn’d fame and credit.

Oft at Michaehnas fair, at eve,
When lads were fresh and mellow,
Throughout the north the race t’ achieve
There was not found my fellow.

When coming homewards, late at night,
From Douglas-fair, or Peel’s,
My master trusted to my flight
And mettle of my heels.

Whene’er we met a fairy crowd
In glens upon our way,
I snorted as he sang aloud
To keep the elves at bay;

And often, ere I sought my bed
Amongst the dewy grass,
He’d throw the bridle o’er my head
To bear him to his lass.

Not that I wish myself to praise, –
Oft my nocturnal race
Might well be term’d, to use the phrase,
A minor steeple chase;

No hedges, ditches, gates, or stiles,
Could my fleet course resist,
To bear him there, some fifteen miles,
And homeward when he list:

But he was aye a master kind
To me up from my youth,
Such as I could not elsewhere find,
For time unfolds that truth.

But woe to me, my master fail’d,
With sad misfortunes rife,
Which ever after I bewail’d
As long as I had life.

His little farm and all his gear,
And I amongst the rest,
His famed pet-horse for many a year,
Came under the arrest;

A price was laid upon my head,
Or rather on my back,
And I was sold to “Jem the Red,”
To be a carrier’s hack,

To drag his cart, o’er bill and dale,
From town to town each day,
Which made me my sad fate bewail,
And chide grim death’s delay;

For life was but a grievous load
To me in such a state,
To be so hack’d upon the road
At morning, noon, and late.

Oft when in Douglas, late at night,
In winter’s piercing blast,
While Jemmy quaff’d his heart’s delight,
And was to start the last,

I’ve stood at the Black Lion door,
Whilst he would drink and rail,
And heartily wish’d that Mrs. Moore
Would cease to draw her ale;

For when he got with drunken sots
Hours like moments flew,
So long as mother Moore the pots
On future prospects drew.

When at his will I’d take the road,
Shivering with the cold,
The galling whip my back would goad, –
My limbs both stiff and old.

O judge, ye horses in whose breast
A spark of pity glows,
How I, who was in youth caress’d,
Could thus put up with blows,

And kicks, and cuffs, and usuage hard
In my declining day,
While scantily I often fared
On grains and mouldy hay.

O what would not I then have given
E’en for the wisps of straw,
Which round the old farm-yard were driven,
To fill my craving maw!

My stable too was cold and damp,
From openings in the roof,
Which made me oft my legs to stamp,
And rub them with my hoof

To warm my old stagnated blood
Chill’d by each watery track,
Which gather’d round me as I stood
Before an empty rack.

But Death at last, my only friend,
Relieved me from my woe,
And put a welcome final end
To all my wrongs below.

Now I am past the reach of man,
No more his hand shall gripe
My mouth with iron bit, nor can
He give me now a stripe.—

Ye horses all, who may pass by
This spot where rest my bones,
Behold my head, which once was high,
Now bleaching ‘mongst these stones.


(source: Mona’s Isle & Other Poems by Wm. Harrison (1844); photo unknown)

 

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.


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