new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

The English Rider

That girl who always wore the Harris tweeds
Riding to hounds — I don’t recall her name —
Tweeds, and a sulky mouth; but all the same,
In some vague manner, she seemed typical
Of all this little country thinks it needs.
Nor gorse in her, I mean, no smouldering flame,
Brought up from kiddie days to play the game,
Any damned game, archery, basketball;
I don’t believe the frosty kisses pall
On English mouths. Not unattractive, no —
A hint of blood-red berries in the snow,
That quite unspeakable self-confidence
Of silk-worms not cut down on mulberry leaves,
Just the right stockings. But she’d take a fence
Calm as a desperate man. One half believes
Something cried out in her, "Christ, let me fall! —
Let the hare off, this once." Well, there’s your trick
Britishers play, against the stale cards stacked
By the world’s cardsharps. Just that silvery quick
Jingle of stirrups, a young fool, unbacked
Except by youth, riding past hazards. Yes,
She looked as if she rode to fall. I guess
Her seat was good, she wouldn’t stop to think
About the red tongue, lolling, mad to drink,
The hunted in the thorn-brakes. But she’d ride
With the taut English look of deep-cut pride.
You’d think, "She’s just a kid, not come to bloom —
A jonquil, and the shrewd scratch out her tomb.
God, I won’t let that pass." It works, you see —
God save the King! God, somehow, free the free.


Last updated 21 September, 2003