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Poem by Arthur Conan Doyle


«Songs of Action» (1898). 14. The Farnshire Cup


Christopher Davis was up upon Mavis
   	And Sammy MacGregor on Flo,
Jo Chauncy rode Spider, the rankest outsider,
   	But HE’D make a wooden horse go.
There was Robin and Leah and Boadicea,
   	And Chesterfield’s Son of the Sea;
And Irish Nuneaton, who never was beaten,
   	They backed her at seven to three.

The course was the devil!  A start on the level,
   	And then a stiff breather uphill;
A bank at the top with a four-foot drop,
   	And a bullfinch down by the mill.
A stretch of straight from the Whittlesea gate,
   	Then up and down and up;
And the mounts that stay through Farnshire clay
   	May bid for the Farnshire Cup.

The tipsters were touting, the bookies were shouting
   	‘Bar one, bar one, bar one!’
With a glint and a glimmer of silken shimmer
   	The field shone bright in the sun,
When Farmer Brown came riding down:
   	‘I hain’t much time to spare,
But I’ve entered her name, so I’ll play out the game,
   	On the back o’ my old gray mare.

‘You never would think ’er a thoroughbred clinker,
   	There’s never a judge that would;
Each leg be’ind ’as a splint, you’ll find,
   	And the fore are none too good.
She roars a bit, and she don’t look fit,
   	She’s moulted ’alf ’er ’air;
But –’  He smiled in a way that seemed to say,
   	That he knew that old gray mare.

And the bookies laughed and the bookies chaffed,
   	‘Who backs the mare?’ cried they.
‘A hundred to one!’  ‘It’s done – and done!’
   	‘We’ll take that price all day.’
‘What if the mare is shedding hair!
   	What if her eye is wild!
We read her worth and her pedigree birth
   	In the smile that her owner smiled.’

And the whisper grew and the whisper flew
   	That she came of Isonomy stock.
‘Fifty to one!’  ‘It’s done – and done!
   	Look at her haunch and hock!
Ill-groomed!  Why yes, but one may guess
   	That that is her owner’s guile.’
Ah, Farmer Brown, the sharps from town,
   	Have read your simple smile!

They’ve weighed him in.  ‘Now lose or win,
   	I’ve money at stake this day;
Gee-long, my sweet, and if we’re beat,
   	We’ll both do all we may!’
He joins the rest, they line abreast,
   	‘Back Leah!  Mavis up!’
The flag is dipped and the field is slipped,
   	Full split for the Farnshire Cup.

Christopher Davis is leading on Mavis,
   	Spider is waiting on Flo;
Boadicea is gaining on Leah,
   	Irish Nuneaton lies low;
Robin is tailing, his wind has been failing,
   	Son of the Sea’s going fast:
So crack on the pace for it’s anyone’s race,
   	And the winner’s the horse that can last.

Chestnut and bay, and sorrel and gray,
   	See how they glimmer and gleam!
Bending and straining, and losing and gaining,
   	Silk jackets flutter and stream;
They are over the grass as the cloud shadows pass,
   	They are up to the fence at the top;
It’s ‘hey then!’ and over, and into the clover,
   	There wasn’t one slip at the drop.

They are all going still; they are round by the mill,
   	They are down by the Whittlesea gate;
Leah’s complaining, and Mavis is gaining,
   	And Flo’s catching up in the straight.
Robin’s gone wrong, but the Spider runs strong,
   	He sticks to the leader like wax;
An utter outsider, but look at his rider –
   	Jo Chauncy, the pick of the cracks!

Robin was tailing and pecked at a paling,
   	Leah’s gone weak in her feet;
Boadicea came down at the railing,
   	Son of the Sea is dead beat.
Leather to leather, they’re pounding together,
   	Three of them all in a row;
And Irish Nuneaton, who never was beaten,
   	Is level with Spider and Flo.

It’s into the straight from the Whittlesea gate,
   	Clean galloping over the green,
But four foot high the hurdles lie
   	With a sunken ditch between.
’Tis a bit of a test for a beast at its best,
   	And the devil and all at its worst;
But it’s clear run in with the Cup to win
   	For the horse that is over it first.

So try it, my beauties, and fly it, my beauties,
   	Spider, Nuneaton, and Flo;
With a trip and a blunder there’s one of them under,
   	Hark to it crashing below!
Is it the brown or the sorrel that’s down?
   	The brown!  It is Flo who is in!
And Spider with Chauncy, the pick of the fancy,
   	Is going full split for a win.

‘Spider is winning!’  ‘Jo Chauncy is winning!’
   	‘He’s winning!  He’s winning!  Bravo!’
The bookies are raving, the ladies are waving,
   	The Stand is all shouting for Jo.
The horse is clean done, but the race may be won
  	By the Newmarket lad on his back;
For the fire of the rider may bring an outsider
   	Ahead of a thoroughbred crack.

‘Spider is winning!’  ‘Jo Chauncy is winning!’
   	It swells like the roar of the sea;
But Jo hears the drumming of somebody coming,
   	And sees a lean head by his knee.
‘Nuneaton!  Nuneaton!  The Spider is beaten!’
   	It is but a spurt at the most;
For lose it or win it, they have but a minute
   	Before they are up with the post.

Nuneaton is straining, Nuneaton is gaining,
   	Neither will falter nor flinch;
Whips they are plying and jackets are flying,
   	They’re fairly abreast to an inch.
‘Crack em up!  Let ’em go!  Well ridden!  Bravo!’
   	Gamer ones never were bred;
Jo Chauncy has done it!  He’s spurted!  He’s won it!’
   	The favourite’s beat by a head!

Don’t tell me of luck, for its judgment and pluck
   	And a courage that never will shirk;
To give your mind to it and know how to do it
   	And put all your heart in your work.
So here’s to the Spider, the winning outsider,
   	With little Jo Chauncy up;
May they stay life’s course, both jockey and horse,
   	As they stayed in the Farnshire Cup.

But it’s possible that you are wondering what
   	May have happened to Farmer Brown,
And the old gray crock of Isonomy stock
   	Who was backed by the sharps from town.
She blew and she sneezed, she coughed and she wheezed,
   	She ran till her knees gave way.
But never a grumble at trip or at stumble
   	Was heard from her jock that day.

For somebody laid AGAINST the gray,
   	And somebody made a pile;
And Brown says he can make farming pay,
   	And he smiles a simple smile.
‘Them sharps from town were riled,’ says Brown;
   	‘But I can’t see why – can you?
For I said quite fair as I knew that mare,
   	And I proved my words was true.’



Arthur Conan Doyle


Arthur Conan Doyle's other poems:
  1. «Songs of the Road» (1911). 8. The Outcasts
  2. «Songs of the Road» (1911). 17. Man's Limitation
  3. «Songs of the Road» (1911). 4. A Post-Impressionist
  4. «Songs of the Road» (1911). 27. Sexagenarius Loquitur
  5. «The Guards Came Through» (1919). 6. Ypres


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