Sports Poetry posted November 12, 2015


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This work has reached the exceptional level
the first in South Australia

The Steeplechase

by mfowler

 
'Twas a cloudy, warm day by the sea - the colony churned with real zeal.
While the ladies sat under the trees, and the men were out seeking a deal,
the horses were moving around, their excitement quite easy to see.
For their hooves were a 'stirring the ground like ponies that love to run free.
 
Now the gov'nor had offered a prize, 'twas fifty five guineas all up.
The first thoroughbred cross the rise, win riches and fine silver cup.
The gents of the town were all there, in top hats and suits with smart tails.
They hoped that the race would be fair as the horses jumped twenty two rails.
 
Bookmakers were swimming in cash, the fav'rite was hotter than fire.
Two hundred ten pounds on The Dash - the owner declared him a flyer.
There were thirteen fine horses to start, and five rounds of the circuit to go.
This fencing was really an art, too bad if the horse was too slow.
 
For Adelaide, this racing was new, like ole England now home on their shores.
All people were there but a few, those servants with too many chores.
E'en  natives came by to see why, the English were drawn to this field.
Stayed away from the crowds, too shy, for their presence to be revealed.
 
The horses arrived at the start, their riders were scratchy and tense.
The grey gelding refused to take part, perhaps he was showing horse sense.
The mayor of the town waved the flag and the field took off with a flurry.
Ten animals raced like real nags - the rest weren't in quite such a hurry.
 
The fences were higher than shrubs, and these horses knew little of height.
As they jumped, too many felt rubs, and they cannoned to ground from the fright.
Six horses remained in the field, strung out like old clothes on a wire.
The riders were strong, wouldn't yield, but the fences got harder and higher.
 
In the bush where the circuit would turn, some children had planned a surprise.
They'd set fires so scrublands would burn, and the riders get smoke in their eyes.
Brown Betty had fallen quite hard; the five left now thundered alone,
but Remembrance returned to the yard - couldn't run with a shattered bone.
 
With four horses approaching the bend, the children got on with their scheme.
In the smoke where the track was to wend, three came to the end of a dream.
Old Neddy threw rider to ground, The Black Schooner sailed off in the breeze,
The Carousel turned round and round, but The Dash emerged from the trees.
 
The favourite alone in the lead with nothing to beat but the clock.
The punters were cheering with greed, the bookies were cursing the jock.
With five fences, one round to go, the favourite needed to stay on its feet.
But, the snake wriggling past didn't know, nor The Dash just who he would meet.
 
As he leapt o'er the final high steeple, The Dash saw the serpent slip by.
His fall was disaster to people who'd sworn that the creature could fly.
Mid mayhem and tears of regret, the race was declared null and void.
The punters were caught in a net - no refunds for tickets destroyed.
 
The first jumps race in South Australia was finished but hardly complete.
The masterminds felt such a failure, to see none of the horses compete.
The indigenous folk who were there, agreed that the English were mad.
They laughed at the racegoer's wear and rated their games just as bad.

 


Recognized


The poem is derived from George Hamilton's colonial painting 'The First Steeplechase in South Australia, 1846'.

Adelaide: pronounced Ad-a-laid, or Ad-laid as I wish it to be read here.

Steeplechase: Horse race over long distances and high obstacles

The indigenous people were the Aboriginal group known as the Kaurna (Gar-na) who occupied the region for 40, 000 years before the English colonised Adelaide in 1836. Adelaide is capital of the state of South Austrlia.
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