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Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

How Salvator Won

The gate was thrown open, I rode out alone,
More proud than a monarch who sits on a throne.
I am but a jockey, yet shout upon shout
Went up from the people who watched me ride out;
And the cheers that rang forth from that warm-hearted crowd,
Were as earnest as those to which monarch e'er bowed.

My heart thrilled with pleasure so keen it was pain
As I patted my Salvator's soft silken mane;
And a sweet shiver shot from his hide to my hand
As we passed by the multitude down to the stand.

The great waves of cheering came billowing back,
As the hoofs of brave Tenny rang swift down the track;
And he stood there beside us, all bone and all muscle,
Our noble opponent, well trained for the tussle
That waited us there on the smooth, shining course.
My Salvator, fair to the lovers of horse,
As a beautiful woman is fair to man's sight--
Pure type of the thoroughbred, clean-limbed and bright,--
Stood taking the plaudits as only his due,
And nothing at all unexpected or new.

And then, there before us the bright flag is spread,
There's a roar from the grand stand, and Tenny's ahead;
At the sound of the voices that shouted "a go!"
He sprang like an arrow shot straight from the bow.
I tighten the reins on Prince Charlie's great son--
He is off like a rocket, the race is begun.
Half-way down the furlong, their heads are together,
Scarce room 'twixt their noses to wedge in a feather;
Past grand stand, and judges, in neck-to-neck strife,
Ah, Salvator, boy! 'tis the race of your life.
I press my knees closer, I coax him, I urge,
I feel him go out with a leap and a surge;
I see him creep on, inch by inch, stride by stride,
While backward, still backward, falls Tenny beside.
We are nearing the turn, the first quarter is past--
'Twixt leader and chaser the daylight is cast.
The distance elongates, still Tenny sweeps on,
As graceful and free-limbed and swift as a fawn;
His awkwardness vanished, his muscles all strained--
A noble opponent, well born and well trained.

I glanced o'er my shoulder, ha! Tenny, the cost
Of that one second's flagging, will be--the race lost.
One second's weak yielding of courage and strength,
And the daylight between us has doubled its length.

The first mile is covered, the race is mine--no!
For the blue blood of Tenny responds to a blow.
He shoots through the air like a ball from a gun,
And the two lengths between us are shortened to one.
My heart is contracted, my throat feels a lump,
For Tenny's long neck is at Salvator's rump;
And now with new courage, grown bolder and bolder,
I see him once more running shoulder to shoulder.
With knees, hands and body I press my grand steed;
I urge him, I coax him, I pray him to heed!
Oh, Salvator! Salvator! list to my calls,
For the blow of my whip will hurt both if it falls.
There's a roar from the crowd like the ocean in storm,
As close to my saddle leaps Tenny's great form,
One more mighty plunge, and with knee, limb and hand,
I lift my horse first by a nose past the stand.
We are under the string now--the great race is done,
And Salvator, Salvator, Salvator won!

Cheer, hoar-headed patriarchs; cheer loud, I say
'Tis the race of a century witnessed to-day!
Though ye live twice the space that's allotted to men
Ye never will see such a grand race again.
Let the shouts of the populace roar like the surf
For Salvator, Salvator, king of the turf!
He has broken the record of thirteen long years;
He has won the first place in a vast line of peers.
'Twas a neck-to-neck contest, a grand, honest race,
And even his enemies grant him his place.
Down into the dust let old records be hurled,
And hang out 2.05 in the gaze of the world. 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox's other poems:
  1. The Bed
  2. Be Not Attached
  3. At Forty-Eight
  4. Our Lives
  5. Babyland

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