’Twixt the Wings of the Yard

Barcroft Boake

HEAR the loud swell of it, mighty pell mell of it,
    Thousands of voices all blent into one:
See “hell for leather” now trooping together, now
    Down the long slope of the range at a run,
Dust in the wake of ’em: see the wild break of ’em,
    Spear-horned and curly, red, spotted and starred:
See the lads bringing ’em, blocking ’em, ringing ’em.
    Fetching ’em up to the wings of the yard.

Mark that red leader now: what a fine bleeder now,
    Twelve hundred at least if he weighs half a pound,
None go ahead of him. Mark the proud tread of him,
     See how he bellows and paws at the ground.
Watch the mad rush of ’em, raging and crush of ’em.
    See when they struck how the corner post jarred.
What a mad chasing and wheeling and racing and
    Turbulent talk ’twixt the wings of the yard.

Harry and Teddy, there! let them go steady there!
    Some of you youngsters will surely get pinned.
What am I saying? I’ve had my last day in
    The saddle: I might as well talk to the wind.
Why should I grieve at all? soon I must leave it all—
    Leave it for ever; and yet it seems hard
That I should be lingering here ’stead of fingering
    Handle of whip ’twixt the wings of the yard.

Hear the loud crack of the whips on the back of the
    Obstinate weaners who will not go in—
Sharp fusilade of it till, half afraid of it,
    Echo herself shuts her ears at the din.
They’ll say when it’s over now that I’m in clover now—
    Happy old pensioner, yet it seems hard,
E’en on the brink of the grave, when I think of the
    Times out of mind that I rode to that yard.

Hark to the row at the rails, there’s a cow at the
    Charge: how she laughs all their lashes to scorn.
Mark how she ran ag’in little Tom Flannagan.
    Lucky for him that it wasn’t her horn:
He’d make no joke of it had he a poke of it.
    There she comes back! but he’s put on his guard,
Greenhide descending now, sharp reports blending now,
    Flogging her back up the wings of the yard.

The breeze brings their bellowing, soft’ning it, mellowing,
    Till it sounds like a spent giant in pain—
Steals up the valley on, sounding a rally on
    Sonorous hills that return it again.
Useless my whining now, useless repining now,
    ’Twon’t make me any less battered and scarred;
Though I’ve grown grey at it— oh, for a day at it,
    Oh, for an hour ’twixt the wings of the yard.

Oh, how I yearn for those times, how I burn for those
    Days when my weapons, the whip and the spur,
The double reigned bridle, were not hanging idle,
    But I’m old, and as useless as Stupmy— that cur;
No good for heeling now, he has a feeling now
    Not unlike mine— that it’s woefully hard
We should be lying here, groaning and sighing here
    Watching the cattle come up to the yard.

Life has no salt in it. See how I halt in it—
    I, who once rode with the first of the flight—
Watching and waiting now, feebly debating now
    Whether the close will bring darkness or light;
Half my time pondering, back through life wandering,
    Groaning to see how life has been marred—
Seeing the blots in it, all the bad spots in it,
    Mustering, bringing past sins to the yard.

.     .     .     .     .

Shall I be able to show a clean waybill to
    God, when he rounds up and drafts off his own—
When, at the mustering, millions of clustering
    Souls come to judgement before the white throne?
Is the Lord’s hand on me? Have I his brand on me?
    When I go up will the passage be barred?
Am I a chosen one? must the gates close on me?
    Shall I be left ’twixt the wings of the yard?


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