English poetry

Poems in English

White Horses

White Horses

Where run your colts at pasture?
Where hide your mares to breed?
‘Mid bergs about the Ice-cap
Or wove Sargasso weed;
By chartless reef and channel,
Or crafty coastwise bars,
But most the ocean-meadows
All purple to the stars!

Who holds the rein upon you?
The latest gale let free.
What meat is in your mangers?
The glut of all the sea.
‘Twixt tide and tide’s returning
Great store of newly dead,
The bones of those that faced us,
And the hearts of those that fled.
Afar, off-shore and single,
Some stallion, rearing swift,
Neighs hungry for new fodder,
And calls us to the drift:
Then down the cloven ridges
A million hooves unshod
Break forth the mad White Horses
To seek their meat from God!

Girth-deep in hissing water
Our furious vanguard strains
Through mist of mighty tramplings
Roll up the fore-blown manes
A hundred leagues to leeward,
Ere yet the deep is stirred,
The groaning rollers carry
The coming of the herd!

Whose hand may grip your nostrils
Your forelock who may hold?
E’en they that use the broads with us
The riders bred and bold,
That spy upon our matings,
That rope us where we run
They know the strong White Horses
From father unto son.

We breathe about their cradles,
We race their babes ashore,
We snuff against their thresholds,
We nuzzle at their door;
By day with stamping squadrons,
By night in whinnying droves,
Creep up the wise White Horses,
To call them from their loves.

And come they for your calling?
No wit of man may save.
They hear the loosed White Horses
Above their fathers’ grave;
And, kin of those we crippled,
And, sons of those we slew,
Spur down the wild white riders
To school the herds anew.

What service have ye paid them,
Oh jealous steeds and strong?
Save we that throw their weaklings,
Is none dare work them wrong;
While thick around the homestead
Our snow-backed leaders graze
A guard behind their plunder,
And a veil before their ways.

With march and countermarchings
With weight of wheeling hosts
Stray mob or bands embattled
We ring the chosen coasts:
And, careless of our clamour
That bids the stranger fly,
At peace with our pickets
The wild white riders lie.

. . . .

Trust ye that curdled hollows
Trust ye the neighing wind
Trust ye the moaning groundswell
Our herds are close behind!
To bray your foeman’s armies
To chill and snap his sword
Trust ye the wild White Horses,
The Horses of the Lord!



Poem White Horses - Rudyard Kipling