Friday, August 24, 2012

Poem of the Week: How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix

This poem has been a favorite of mine for years.  It is one of those wonderful, stirring, heroic ballads.

How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix
Robert Browning

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.

Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girth 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.

'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
At Duffeld, 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!"

At Aershot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through 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:

And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
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.

By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, "Stay spur!
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 staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flanks,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.

So, we were left galloping, Joris and I,
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!"

"How they'll greet us!" -and all in a moment his roan
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 his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.

Then I cast loose my buff-coat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.

And all I remember is - friends flocking round
As I sat 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 voting by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought the good news from Ghent.

Miss Melody Muffin


  1. Hi Melody! Thank you so much for the great long comment that you left at my blog, Sunshine and Shadow! I'm so glad you enjoyed all my little tidbits! :-D

    Yes, I'm definitely a Trek fan, but only of TOS ... all the others are just too weird for me. :-} My favorite character is Bones, with Spock a tie on some days and a close second on others. Who is your favorite? And what job would you want in Star Fleet? :-D

    I'm very glad that the quote encouraged you, too! I agree, it's very hard sometimes to wait on God's will when we don't know what it is ... but thankfully, we know that He is completely trustworthy! :-D

    Thanks again for stopping by my blog, and feel free to come again anytime! :-D

    Love in Christ,

  2. I know why this has been your favorite for years! It's about horses! :) That is a really good poem. I had never read it before.

  3. I ADORE this poem! Memorized it in eighth grade and can still recite bits of it... although it always bugged me that I was never quite sure how to pronounce Aix. :P

  4. Vicki, I haven't seen as much TOS as I have TNG or VOY. I may have even seen more of DS9 than TOS! Dreadful, I know. I keep intending to go and watch all the TOS episodes and it just hasn't happened yet. Maybe this fall.... My favorite character is Kirk, with Spock a close second and Bones a close third. I LOVE all their banter!! If it was TOS era, I'd want the job of helmsman. (Sulu is my fourth favorite character.) But if it was TNG era, I'd pick operations or tactical.

    Alisa, guilty as charged! You know me too well!

    Amy, oh yes, those delightfully-difficult-to-pronounce French names! This is another poem that has always 'stirred the blood in my veins'. :)


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