Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Extract from The Doncaster St. Leger
By Sir Francis Hastings Doyle (1810–1888)
 
A HUNDRED yards have glided by,
  And they settle to the race,
More keen becomes each straining eye,
  More terrible the pace.
Unbroken yet o’er the gravel road        5
Like maddening waves the troop has flowed,
  But the speed begins to tell;
And Yorkshire sees, with eye of fear,
The Southron stealing from the rear.
  Ay! mark his action well!        10
Behind he is, but what repose!
How steadily and clean he goes!
What latent speed his limbs disclose!
What power in every stride he shows!
They see, they feel, from man to man        15
The shivering thrill of terror ran,
And every soul instinctive knew
It lay between the mighty two.
The world without, the sky above,
  Have glided from their straining eyes—        20
Future and past, and hate and love,
  The life that wanes, the friend that dies,
E’en grim remorse, who sits behind
Each thought and motion of the mind,
These now are nothing, Time and Space        25
Lie in the rushing of the race;
As with keen shouts of hope and fear
They watch it in its wild career.
Still far ahead of the glittering throng
Dashes the eager mare along,        30
And round the turn, and past the hill,
Slides up the Derby winner still.
The twenty-five that lay between
Are blotted from the stirring scene,
And the wild cries which rang so loud,        35
Sink by degrees throughout the crowd,
To one deep humming, like the tremulous roar
Of seas remote along a northern shore.
 
In distance dwindling to the eye
Right opposite the stand they lie,        40
  And scarcely seem to stir;
Though an Arab scheich his wives would give
For a single steed, that with them could live
  Three hundred yards, without the spur.
But though so indistinct and small,        45
You hardly see them move at all,
There are not wanting signs, which show
Defeat is busy as they go.
Look how the mass, which rushed away
As full of spirit as the day,        50
So close compacted for a while,
Is lengthening into single file.
Now inch by inch it breaks, and wide
And spreading gaps the line divide.
As forward still, and far away        55
Undulates on the tired array,
Gay colours, momently less bright,
Fade flickering on the gazer’s sight,
Till keenest eyes can scarcely trace
The homeward ripple of the race.        60
Care sits on every lip and brow.
“Who leads? who fails? how goes it now?”
One shooting spark of life intense,
One throb of refluent suspense,
And a far rainbow-coloured light        65
Trembles again upon the sight.
Look to yon turn! Already there
Gleams the pink and black of the fiery mare,
And through that, which was but now a gap,
Creeps on the terrible white cap.        70
Half-strangled in each throat, a shout
Wrung from their fevered spirits out,
Booms through the crowd like muffled drums,
“His jockey moves on him. He comes!”
Then momently like gusts, you heard,        75
“He ’s sixth—he ’s fifth—he ’s fourth—he ’s third”;
And on, like some glancing meteor-flame,
The stride of the Derby winner came.
 
And during all that anxious time,
(Sneer as it suits you at my rhyme)        80
The earnestness became sublime;
Common and trite as is the scene,
At once so thrilling, and so mean,
To him who strives his heart to scan,
And feels the brotherhood of man,        85
That needs must be a mighty minute,
When a crowd has but one soul within it.
As some bright ship, with every sail
Obedient to the urging gale,
Darts by vext hulls, which side by side,        90
Dismasted on the raging tide,
Are struggling onward, wild and wide,
Thus, through the reeling field he flew,
And near, and yet more near he drew;
Each leap seems longer than the last,        95
Now—now—the second horse is past,
And the keen rider of the mare,
With haggard looks of feverish care,
Hangs forward on the speechless air,
By steady stillness nursing in        100
The remnant of her speed to win.
One other bound—one more—’tis done;
Right up to her the horse has run,
And head to head, and stride for stride,
New market’s hope, and Yorkshire’s pride,        105
Like horses harnessed side by side,
  Are struggling to the goal.
Ride! gallant son of Ebor, ride!
For the dear honour of the north,
Stretch every bursting sinew forth,        110
  Put out thy inmost soul,—
And with knee, and thigh, and tightened rein,
Lift in the mare by might and main.
 
 
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