The Good Grey Mare

George J Whyte Melville

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Oh! once I believed in a woman's kiss,
I had faith in a flattering tongue,
For lip to lip was a promise of bliss,
When lips were smooth and young.
But now the beard is grey on my cheek,
And the top of my head gets bare,
So little I speak, like an Arab sheikh,
But put my trust in my mare.
For loving looks grow hard and cold,
Fair heads are turned away,
When the fruit has been gathered - the talk been told,
And the dog has had his day;
But chance and change 'tis folly to rue,
And say I, the devil may care!
Nor grey nor blue are so bonny and true,
As the bright brown eye of my mare!
It is good for a heart that is chilled and sad
With the death of a vain desire,
To borrow a glow that shall make it glad
From the warmth of a kindred fire.
And I leap to the saddle, a man indeed
For all I can do and dare,
In the power and speed that are mine at need,
While I sit on the back of my mare!
With the fair wide heaven above outspread
The fair wide plain to meet,
With the lark and his carol high over my head,
And the bustling pack at my feet, -
I feel no fetter, I know no bounds,
I am free as a bird in the air;
While the covert resounds, in a chorus of hounds,
Right under the nose of the mare.
We are in for a gallop - away! away!
I told them my beauty could fly;
And we'll lead them a dance ere they catch us today,
For we mean it, my lass and I!
She skims the fences, she scours the plain,
Like a creature winged, I swear,
With snort and strain, on the yielding rein;
For I'm bound to humour the mare.
They have pleached it strong, they have dug it wide,
They have turned the baulk with the plough;
A horse that can cover the whole in its stride
Is cheap at a thousand, I vow;
So I draw her together, and over we sail,
With a yard and a half to spare -
Bank, bullfinch, and rail - 'tis the Curse of the vale,
But I leave it all to the mare!
Away! away! they've been running to kill,
With never a check from the find;
Away, away! we are close to them still,
And the field are furlongs behind!
They can hardly deny they were out of the game,
Lost half "the fun of the fair",
Though the envious blame and the jealous exclaim,
"How that old fool buckets his mare!"
Who-whoop! they have him - they're round him; how
They worry and tear when he's down!
'Twas a stout hill-fox when they found him, now
'Tis a hundred tatters of brown!
And the riders arriving as best they can,
In panting plight, declare,
That "First in the van was the old grey man,
Who stands by his old grey mare".
I have lived my life -I am nearly done –
I have played the game all round;
But I freely admit that the best of my fun
I owe it to horse and hound.
With a hopeful heart and a conscience clear,
I can laugh in your face, Black Care;
Though you're hovering near, there's not room for you here,
On the back of my good grey mare.

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