Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HOW THE WINNING FOUR WEST HOME, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

HOW THE WINNING FOUR WEST HOME, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Superb in pride we strained upon the golden chariot-pole
Last Line: Though slumber takes us—still they talk low-whispering in the ilex walk!
Subject(s): Chariot Racing; Collective Behavior; Competition; Driving & Drivers; Games; Victory; Mobs; Crowds; Recreation; Pastimes; Amusements

Superb in pride we strained upon the golden chariot-pole.
Around our necks were garlands gay, and garlands decked the wheels that day.
Down from the temple thronged the crowd. "Since Pegasus was foal
Never such mighty steeds were bred as these of Rome!" the sages said.

But, sneering, that Ardelian swine cried, "Though thou hast the race,
Valerian, I yet deny thy fat and pampered steeds can fly!"
Our master turned. "This afternoon had proved it to thy face
Did they allow such slinking shames as thou to view the public games!"

Yet in our master's cheek a flame flickered. We pawed anew.
"'Tis sixty stadia to my home. I drive. I drive full speed from Rome,
Now,—when my steeds have won a race that strained their every thew!
I drive full speed to Love's abode. Set thy swift runners on my road!"

Braced in the footholds forward leaned our master with the word.
Forward we surged and struck our stride with eyes afire and nostrils wide.
Forth through the streets with thundering hoofs! And far behind we heard
A thousand people roar acclaim, shouting o'er all our master's name.

We flashed upon the seaward way swifter than shafts of fate,
Likened indeed to leaping flames, as once at the Circensian games
Some praetor praised us. Fair before the thin white road lay straight.
And swifter still we heaved and sprang till the strong chariot rocked and rang.

Oh, often from the splendid Hill the sounding march has wound
To cross the forum cheering us on to the Circus Maximus
Where seven times through din and dust the goals we girdled round,—
But now indeed more glory shone on the white road we took alone!

"A little villa hid in vines! A face I fain would see!"
So clear above our galloping we heard our master gaily sing.
"Claudia, Claudia, kind and grave, thine was the victory!
Thy kiss, thy trustful smile and calm more than all Idumæan palm!"

How often from our alcoves loosed we four have ramped superb,
The purple napkin for a sign fluttering down to launch our line
To sudden thunder of swift hoofs in fury none could curb;
Yet now—our master's happy song urged us as might no triple thong!

So soon, with Rome a dream behind, we snuffed and glimpsed the Sea.
Through dust of gold we swerved and slowed our pace along the farmstead road
Under the rosy afterglow. 'Twixt darkening tree and tree
Her villa showed a square of light, yellow in welcome, low and bright!

And now we champ sweet grain indeed with thyme and clover strewn.
Fragrant Massilian is poured our master by his One Adored—
Yet were her voice the finer choice! And—yonder sails the moon!
Though slumber takes us—still they talk low-whispering in the ilex walk!

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