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The Kelpie Riders
by [?]


Buried alive in calm Rochelle,
Six in a row by a crystal well,

All Summer long on Bareau Fen
Slumber and sleep the Kelpie men;

By the side of each to cheer his ghost,
A flagon of foam with a crumpet of frost.

Hear me, friends, for the years are fleet;
Soon I leave the noise and the street

For the silent uncompanioned way
Where the inn is cold and the night is gray.

But noon is warm and the world is still
Where the Kelpie riders have their will.

For never a wind dare stir or stray
Over those marshes salt and gray;

No bit of shade as big as your hand
To traverse or trammel the sleeping land,

Save where a dozen poplars fleck
The long gray grass and the well’s blue beck.

Yet you mark their leaves are blanched and sear,
Whispering daft at a nameless fear.

While round the hole of one is a rune,
Black in the wash of the bleaching noon.

“Ride, for the wind is awake and away.
Sleep, for the harvest grain is gray.”

No word more. And many a mile,
A ghostly bivouac rank and file,

They sleep to-day on the marshes wide;
Some far night they will wake and ride.

Once they were riders hot with speed,
“Kelpie, Kelpie, gallop at need!”

With hills of the barren sea to roam,
Housing their horses on the foam.

But earth is cool and the hush is long
Beneath the lull of the slumber song

The crickets falter and strive to tell
To the dragon-fly of the crystal well;

And love is a forgotten jest,
Where the Kelpie riders take their rest,

And blossoming grasses hour by hour
Burn in the bud and freeze in the flower.

But never again shall their roving be
On the shifting hills of the tumbling sea,

With the salt, and the rain, and the glad desire
Strong as the wind and pure as fire.


One doomful night in the April tide
With riot of brooks on the mountain side,

The goblin maidens of the hills
Went forth to the revel-call of the rills.

Many as leaves of the falling year,
To the swing of a ballad wild and clear

They held the plain and the uplands high;
And the merry-dancers held the sky.

The Kelpie riders abroad on the sea
Caught sound of that call of eerie glee,

Over their prairie waste and wan;
And the goblin maidens tolled them on.

The yellow eyes and the raven hair
And the tawny arms blown fresh and bare,

Were more than a mortal might behold
And live with the saints for a crown of gold.

The Kelpie riders were stricken sore;
They wavered, and wheeled, and rode for the shore.

“Kelpie, Kelpie, treble your stride!
Never again on the sea we ride.

“Kelpie, Kelpie, out of the storm;
On, for the fields of earth are warm!”

Knee to knee they are riding in:
“Brother, brother,–the goblin kin!”

The meadows rocked as they clomb the scaur;
The pines re-echo for evermore

The sound of the host of Kelpie men;
But the windflowers died on Bareau Fen.

Over the marshes all night long
The stars went round to a riding song:

“Kelpie, Kelpie, carry us through!”
And the goblin maidens danced thereto.

Till dawn,–and the revel died with a shout,
For the ocean riders were wearied out.

They looked, and the grass was warm and soft;
The dreamy clouds went over aloft;

A gloom of pines on the weather verge
Had the lulling sound of their own white surge;

A whip-poor-will, far from their din,
Was saying his litanies therein.

Then voices neither loud nor deep:
“Tired, so tired; sleep! ah, sleep!

“The stars are calm, and the earth is warm,
But the sea for an earldom is given to storm.