A rollicking ride

How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix
A great poem by Robert Browning.

I think it has something to do with religious persecution in the renaissance but that's just an oppinion. Those days were presided over by a the Borgias who were trying to resuscitate the Holy Roman Empire.

And kill any attempt to bring Unitarianism to light.

Or maybe not. Maybe it was about a shopping bill. Maybe they were out of wine. …

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 girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the check-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 Dueffeld '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 Aerschot 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, its 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 the staggering knees
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
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 her 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,
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.

And all I remember is friends flocking round,
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.

Robert Browning

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4 thoughts on “A rollicking ride

  1. Here's one about another long ride throught the night:A horse that ran for 20 miles over bridges, rivers, hedges, styles, through broken forests paths unseen, over mountain tracks where no roads seem. And on and on, foam and sweat, horse and rider broken, yet.Another horse at the exchange, another race through open range. River valley hill and moor, another noble steed made poor.The souls of other horses blight the story of that ride, that flight and other mounts whose shoes made spark the empty night the hot ride dark as in one girdle of the sun he fled to Pesaro from Rome.We know his name, not why the ride, nor what nameless horses died.*******Actually I don't remember his name nor if he only had one horse or used many post horses. His position might have allowed it if he fled quickly enough. "He" was the first husband of Lucretia Borgia.And it is unlikely he travelled alone. Then again…Apparently she warned him and also apparently, she was informed of her father's plans for her husband by her brother. So what was going on at that moment can't even be guessed.

  2. Here is one by W H AudenNIGHT MAILThis is the Night Mail crossing the border, bringing the cheque and the postal order, letters for the rich, letters for the poor, the shop at the corner and the girl next door.Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb, the gradient's against her, but she's on time. Through sparse counties she rampages, her driver's eye upon the gauges.Panting up past lonely farms, fed by the fireman's restless arms. Striding forward along the rails through southern uplands with northern mails.Winding up the valley to the watershed, through the heather and the weather and the dawn overhead. Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder,shovelling steam over her shoulder, snorting noisily as she passes silent miles of wind-bent grasses.Birds turn their heads as she approaches, staring from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches. Sheepdogs cannot turn her course, they slumber on with paws across.In the farm she passes no one wakes but a jug in the bedroom gently shakes. Dawn freshens, the climb is done.Down towards Glasgow she descends towards the steam tugs. Yelping down the glade of cranes, towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.All Scotland waits for her in the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs. Men long for news.Letters of thanks, letters from banks, letters of joy from the girl and the boy. Receipted bills and invitations to inspect new stock or visit relations and applications for situations and timid lovers' declarationsAnd gossip, gossip from all the nations, news circumstantial, news financial. Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in, letters with faces scrawled in the margin, letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts, letters to Scotland from the South of France. Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands. Notes from overseas to Hebrides. Written on paper of every hue, the pink, the violet, the white and the blue. The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring, the cold and official and the heart's outpouring. Clever, stupid, short and long, the typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.Thousands are still asleep dreaming of terrifying monsters, or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's.Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh, asleep in granite Aberdeen, they continue their dreams. And shall wake soon and long for letters, and none will hear the postman's knock without a quickening of the heart, for who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

  3. Hmm still needs scanning:Letters of thanks, letters from banksLetters of joy from the girl and the boy.Receipts and bills, invitations to hear the wills.Applications for situations or to visit relationsAnd and timid lovers' declarations and gossip.Gossip from every nation.News financial and circumstantial.With holiday snaps to enlarge in,Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,Letters to Scotland from the South of France.Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands.Notes from overseas to Hebrides written on paper of every hue, the pink, the violet, the white and the blue.The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring, the cold and official and the heart's outpouring.Clever, stupid, short and long, the typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

  4. I don't think the last one is all that good mixed up as it is with narration from perhaps another source.It should have been easy enough for the poet to make those pieces rhyme and scan. I even dropped a word or two from the actual poem:"Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder, shovelling steam clouds over her shoulder," became:Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder,shovelling steam over her shoulder.Let's see what I can do about it for my liking.NIGHT MAILThis is the night mail crossing the border, bringing the cheque and the postal order, letters for the rich, letters for the poor, the shop at the corner and the girl next door.Up Beattock hill, a steady climb, the gradient's against her, but she's on time. Through moorland counties she secretes, the sorters swaying on their feet.Panting up past dozing farms, her fire fed by swinging arms. Sliding forward along the rails, snaking through the night with northern mails.Winding up the valley to the watershed, through the heather and the weather and the dawn ahead. Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder, shovelling steam over her shoulder, snorting "Shushshesssss!" as she passes silent miles of wind-bent grasses.Birds awake as she approaches, staring from the bushes at her flashing coaches. Sleeping dogs in the hay by their doors counting sheep as she rattles the course and slumber on tuned to ignore. In the farms she passes no one wakes maybe a jug somewhere gently shakes.Dawn freshens, the climb is done, down towards Glasgow and the hill is gone. Down to the river filled with noise, tugs and barges ships and buoys. Yards of cranky flocks of cranes, bridges, towers, furnace flames. Set on the dark plain giant shadows grown of steel where once flowered meadow.All Scotland waits for her in the glens, in cottages crofters, fishermen putting on their trousers putting on their shoes putting on their breakfasts waiting for the news.Letters of thanks, letters from banks, letters of joy from the girl and the boy. Receipts and bills, invitations to inspect new stock or hear the wills. To visit relations and applications for situations and timid lovers' declarations and gossip, gossip from every nation, news financial, circumstantial. Holiday snaps to enlarge in, letters with faces scrawled in the margin, letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts, letters to Scotland from the South of France. Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands. Notes from overseas to Hebrides. Written on paper of every hue, the pink, the violet, the white and the blue. The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring, the cold and official and the heart's outpouring. Clever, stupid, short and long, the typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.Thousands of people still asleep dreaming of news that must yet keep. Asleep in Glasgow as in Auld Reekie, children, wives, mothers, all are sleepy, from Aberdeen to Wick the night still keeping. And some shall wake soon and long for letters and run for the post and nothing better. For who will hear the postman's knock without a frisson or without a shock, for who can bear to be forgot?

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