‘How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’ Not a word to each other: we kept the great pace ‘Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near At Aerschot up leaped of a sudden the sun, And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back By Hasselt Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, ‘Stay spur! So we were left galloping, Joris and I, ‘How they’ll greet us!’–and all in a moment his roan Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall, And all I remember is friends flocking round,
Robert Browning, 1812-1883
by Robert Browning
from Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845)
I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
‘Good speed!’ cried the watch as the gate-bolts undrew;
‘Speed’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom a great yellow star came out to see;
At Düffeld ’twas morning as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with ‘Yet there is time!’
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare thro’ the mist at us galloping past;
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray:
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye’s black intelligence,–ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes, which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upward in galloping on.
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault’s not in her;
We’ll remember at Aix’–for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck, and the staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
‘Neath our feet broke the brittle, bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And ‘Gallop’ gasped Joris, ‘for Aix is in sight!’
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With her nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets’ rim.
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stoop up in the stirrups, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sung, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
As I sate with his head ‘twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.
‘How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’
Not a word to each other: we kept the great pace
‘Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near
At Aerschot up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
By Hasselt Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, ‘Stay spur!
So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
‘How they’ll greet us!’–and all in a moment his roan
Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
And all I remember is friends flocking round,