George J Whyte Melville

The Place Where the Old Horse Died

In the hollow, by the pollard, where the crop is tall and rank
Of the dock-leaf and the nettle growing free,
Where the bramble and the brushwood straggle blindly o'er the bank,
And the pyat jerks and chatters on the tree,
There's a fence I never pass
In the sedges and the grass,
But for very shame I turn my head aside,
While the tears come thick and hot,
And my curse is on the spot -
'Tis the place where the old horse died.
There's his hoof upon the chimney, there's his hide upon the chair,
A better never bent him to the rein;
Now, for all my love and care, I've an empty stall and bare;
I shall never ride my gallant horse again!
How he laid him out at speed,
How he loved to have a lead,
How he snorted in his mettle and his pride!
Not a flyer of the Hunt
Was beside him in the front,
At the place where the old horse died!
Was he blown? I hardly think it. Did he slip? I cannot tell.
We had run for forty minutes in the vale,
He was reaching at his bridle; he was going strong and well,
And he never seemed to falter or to fail;
Though I some times fancy, too,
That his daring spirit knew
The task beyond the compass of his stride,
Yet he faced it true and brave,
And dropped into his grave
At the place where the old horse died!
I was up in half a minute, but he never seemed to stir,
Though I scored him with my rowels in the fall;
In his life he had not felt before the insult of the spur;
And I knew that it was over once for all.
When motionless he lay
In his cheerless bed of clay,
Huddled up without an effort on his side –
'Twas a hard and bitter stroke,
For his honest back was broke,
At the place where the old horse died.
With a neigh so faint and feeble that it touched me like a groan,
"Farewell," he seemed to murmur, "ere I die";
Then set his teeth and stretched his limbs, and so I stood alone,
While the merry chase went heedless sweeping by.
Am I womanly and weak
If the tear was on my cheek
For a brotherhood that death could thus divide?
If sickened and amazed
Through a woeful mist I gazed
On the place where the old horse died?
There are men both good and wise who hold that in a future state
Dumb creatures we have cherished here below
Shall give us joyous greeting when we pass the golden gate;
Is it folly that I hope it may be so?
For never man had friend
More enduring to the end,
Truer mate in every turn of time and tide.
Could I think we'd meet again
It would lighten half my pain
At the place where the old horse died.

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George J Whyte Melville