This week our normally placid ocean was whipped into a fury by a deep low just off the coast. The 5 metre waves roared and foamed with the wind whipping the spray off the top and throwing it back in huge plumes. It was an awesome sight and crowds of people stood watching this example of natures fury unleashed. I did a post about it on my Gypsy life blog (click here to go to it)
Laying in bed that night thinking of the ocean brought back memories of a favourite poem, “Horses on the Camargue”. Next day I sorted through all my boxes and folders of memorabilia and found it. It was still as moving and evocative for me as it was when I was a teenager.
Reading it my mind travelled back over the years to when I was a horse-mad girl, my life revolved around horses. My earliest horse memories were of the delivery men, in the 1940’s and 50’s they all had horse and carts. The coal-man came round once a month with a huge Clydesdale pulling his heavy coal waggon. He would hoist me onto the horses back. I was about six years old at the time, and I felt on top of the world, with legs stretched almost to their limit, as they straddled the warm, smooth back of this giant. We would trundle to the end of my street where he would lift me down and I would run home. Once a week the vegs came laid out on a cart pulled by Kitty a gentle, chubby piebald. As I grew older I would go back to the stables to help groom and feed Kitty. Every so often the rag and bone man came by, ringing a bell and with his distinctive cry “Any old bones, bring them out now” I never really got to know his pony as he didn’t stop unless some one hailed him. I always felt sorry for his small, black undernourished pony with a tangled mane and tail that I longed to brush. The pony every one avoided was the ice-cream mans bad-tempered grey. He would park at the school gate on hot days and his pony would stand with ears back and snap viciously at any one that came close.
My father was a keen gardener, as were many others along the street, and they all had their bucket and shovel at the ready and it was a race to collect the free manure if lucky enough to have it deposited out side your gate.
How times have changed, no horses on the street now. But home deliveries are becoming a growth area in Australia, with the advent of on-line shopping, groceries are now dropped off at your door, but faster delivery times are needed than would be possible with a horse and cart. Life moves so fast in this computer age.
I was a city girl living in an environment like Coronation Street, but longed for country life and a horse of my own. So as a young child my constant companion was Thunder, my imaginary horse. Gleaming black coat with a white blaze. I would call him to me each morning and mounting him, would canter off to school. I ran everywhere back then…
As I grew up horses were always part of my life. At age 12 I found a horse breeding farm not far from home and hung around till the owner eventually gave me a job helping muck out, feed and groom his many horses. That is a long story and would need to be a book, not a blog post to tell the story.
So all these memories of horses were triggered by the ocean, which in turn reminded me of a poem. The mind can work in a strange way of associations.
So here is the poem. I wonder if it will bring pictures to your mind and feelings of the grandeur of the horse in all its glory.
Horses on the Camargue
In the grey wastes of the dread,
The haunt of shattered gulls where nothing moves
But in a shroud of silence like the dead,
I heard a sudden harmony of hooves,
And, turning, saw afar
A hundred snowy horses unconfined,
The silver runaways of Neptune’s car
Racing, spray curled like waves before the wind.
Sons of the Mistral, fleet
As him with those strong gusts they love to flee,
Who shod the flying thunders on their feet
And plumed them with the snortings of the sea;
Theirs is no earthly breed
Who only haunt the verges of the earth
And only on the sea’s salt herbage feed–
Surely the great white breakers gave them birth
For when for years a slave,
A horse of the Camargue, in alien lands,
Should catch some far off fragrance of the wave
Carried far in land from his native sands,
Many have told the tale
Of how in fury, foaming at the rein,
He hurls his rider; and with lifted tail,
With coal-red eyes and cateracting mane,
Heading his course for home,
Though sixty foreign leagues before him sweep,
Will never rest till he breathes the foam
And hears the native thunder of the deep.
But when the great gusts rise
And lash their anger on these arid coasts,
When the scared gulls career with mournful cries
And whirl across the waste like driven ghosts:
When hail and fire converge,
The only souls to which they strike no pain
Are the white crested fillies of the surge
And the white horses of the windy plain.
Then in their strength and pride
The stallions of the wilderness rejoice;
They feel their Master’s trident in their side,
And high and shrill they answer to his voice.
With white tails smoking free,
Long streaming manes, and arching necks, they show
Their kinship to their sisters of the sea–
And forward hurl their thunderbolts of snow.
Still out of hardship bred,
Spirits of power and beauty and delight
Have ever on such frugal pastures fed
And loved to course with tempests through the night.