Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve

Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve

Oil on canvas by Pro Hart 

Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864-1941), Australia’s national poet, is renowned for his poetry of the bush and for his best loved poem The Man from Snowy River. I posted that poem a few weeks ago when Kirk Douglas died, Douglas having had a dual role in the film version of the poem. 

Readers of Paterson’s poetry will know that he had a thing about horses, even his pen name – The Banjo – was after his favourite horse. It is is also interesting to note the names of the horses in his poems: Regret, Pardon, Reprieve. Any wonder, given that The Banjo was also a qualified lawyer, a solicitor. 

Remember the opening of The Man from Snowy River . . . 
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.  
There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
. . . . 
Did you know that there’s a prequel to that poem? 

It’s another poem by The Banjo and it’s called Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve, the story of outsiders taking their horse to the Menindee races where it's the best result out of three races. Their horse is nobbled by the locals who try to make sure, the night before, that the horse cannot run. Pardon is quite ill in the first heat but, like the horse of The Man from Snowy River, puts in a mammothe effort in the last two heats.



Johnnie, Johnny: an inexperienced new worker, usually an immigrant 
Never: The Never Never is a vast, remote area of the Australian Outback, 
Mameluke: Mameluke (1824 – 1849) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and sire
Turon: The Turon River is part of the Macquarie catchment within the Murray–Darling basin 
Yattendon: a thoroughbred racehorse
Shindy: a noisy disturbance or quarrel
Docet: Latin for teaches 
Damper: a rough bush bread made with flour, water and salt, often in the coals of a campfire in the bush. (Btw, there's nothing better than stew and damper, or hot damper with jam).
Books: bookmakers, who covered the bets at the races


Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve

         - Banjo Paterson

You never heard tell of the story? 
Well, now, I can hardly believe! 
Never heard of the honour and glory 
Of Pardon, the son of Reprieve? 
But maybe you're only a Johnnie 
And don't know a horse from a hoe? 
Well, well, don't get angry, my sonny, 
But, really, a young un should know. 
They bred him out back on the "Never", 
His mother was Mameluke breed. 
To the front -- and then stay there - was ever 
The root of the Mameluke creed. 
He seemed to inherit their wiry 
Strong frames -- and their pluck to receive -- 
As hard as a flint and as fiery 
Was Pardon, the son of Reprieve. 

We ran him at many a meeting 
At crossing and gully and town, 
And nothing could give him a beating -- 
At least when our money was down. 
For weight wouldn't stop him, nor distance, 
Nor odds, though the others were fast; 
He'd race with a dogged persistence, 
And wear them all down at the last. 

At the Turon the Yattendon filly 
Led by lengths at the mile-and-a-half, 
And we all began to look silly, 
While her crowd were starting to laugh; 
But the old horse came faster and faster, 
His pluck told its tale, and his strength, 
He gained on her, caught her, and passed her, 
And won it, hands down, by a length. 

And then we swooped down on Menindie 
To run for the President's Cup; 
Oh! that's a sweet township -- a shindy 
To them is board, lodging, and sup. 
Eye-openers they are, and their system 
Is never to suffer defeat; 
It's "win, tie, or wrangle" -- to best 'em 
You must lose 'em, or else it's "dead heat". 

We strolled down the township and found 'em 
At drinking and gaming and play; 
If sorrows they had, why they drowned 'em, 
And betting was soon under way. 
Their horses were good uns and fit uns, 
There was plenty of cash in the town; 
They backed their own horses like Britons, 
And, Lord! how we rattled it down! 

With gladness we thought of the morrow, 
We counted our wages with glee, 
A simile homely to borrow -- 
"There was plenty of milk in our tea." 
You see we were green; and we never 
Had even a thought of foul play, 
Though we well might have known that the clever 
Division would "put us away". 

Experience docet, they tell us, 
At least so I've frequently heard; 
But, "dosing" or "stuffing", those fellows 
Were up to each move on the board: 
They got to his stall -- it is sinful 
To think what such villains will do -- 
And they gave him a regular skinful 
Of barley -- green barley -- to chew. 

He munched it all night, and we found him 
Next morning as full as a hog -- 
The girths wouldn't nearly meet round him; 
He looked like an overfed frog. 
We saw we were done like a dinner -- 
The odds were a thousand to one 
Against Pardon turning up winner, 
'Twas cruel to ask him to run. 

We got to the course with our troubles, 
A crestfallen couple were we; 
And we heard the " books" calling the doubles -- 
A roar like the surf of the sea. 
And over the tumult and louder 
Rang "Any price Pardon, I lay!" 
Says Jimmy, "The children of Judah 
Are out on the warpath today." 

Three miles in three heats: -- Ah, my sonny, 
The horses in those days were stout, 
They had to run well to win money; 
I don't see such horses about. 
Your six-furlong vermin that scamper 
Half-a-mile with their feather-weight up, 
They wouldn't earn much of their damper 
In a race like the President's Cup. 

The first heat was soon set a-going; 
The Dancer went off to the front; 
The Don on his quarters was showing, 
With Pardon right out of the hunt. 
He rolled and he weltered and wallowed -- 
You'd kick your hat faster, I'll bet; 
They finished all bunched, and he followed 
All lathered and dripping with sweat. 

But troubles came thicker upon us, 
For while we were rubbing him dry 
The stewards came over to warn us: 
"We hear you are running a bye! 
If Pardon don't spiel like tarnation 
And win the next heat -- if he can -- 
He'll earn a disqualification; 
Just think over that now, my man!" 

Our money all gone and our credit, 
Our horse couldn't gallop a yard; 
And then people thought that we did it 
It really was terribly hard. 
We were objects of mirth and derision 
To folks in the lawn and the stand, 
Anf the yells of the clever division 
Of "Any price Pardon!" were grand. 

We still had a chance for the money, 
Two heats remained to be run: 
If both fell to us -- why, my sonny, 
The clever division were done. 
And Pardon was better, we reckoned, 
His sickness was passing away, 
So we went to the post for the second 
And principal heat of the day. 

They're off and away with a rattle, 
Like dogs from the leashes let slip, 
And right at the back of the battle 
He followed them under the whip. 
They gained ten good lengths on him quickly 
He dropped right away from the pack; 
I tell you it made me feel sickly 
To see the blue jacket fall back. 

Our very last hope had departed -- 
We thought the old fellow was done, 
When all of a sudden he started 
To go like a shot from a gun. 
His chances seemed slight to embolden 
Our hearts; but, with teeth firmly set, 
We thought, "Now or never! The old un 
May reckon with some of 'em yet." 

Then loud rose the war-cry for Pardon; 
He swept like the wind down the dip, 
And over the rise by the garden 
The jockey was done with the whip. 
The field was at sixes and sevens -- 
The pace at the first had been fast -- 
And hope seemed to drop from the heavens, 
For Pardon was coming at last. 

And how he did come! It was splendid; 
He gained on them yards every bound, 
Stretching out like a greyhound extended, 
His girth laid right down on the ground. 
A shimmer of silk in the cedars 
As into the running they wheeled, 
And out flashed the whips on the leaders, 
For Pardon had collared the field. 

Then right through the ruck he was sailing -- 
I knew that the battle was won -- 
The son of Haphazard was failing, 
The Yattendon filly was done; 
He cut down The Don and The Dancer, 
He raced clean away from the mare -- 
He's in front! Catch him now if you can, sir! 
And up went my hat in the air! 

Then loud fron the lawn and the garden 
Rose offers of "Ten to one on!" 
"Who'll bet on the field? I back Pardon!" 
No use; all the money was gone. 
He came for the third heat light-hearted, 
A-jumping and dancing about; 
The others were done ere they started 
Crestfallen, and tired, and worn out. 

He won it, and ran it much faster 
Than even the first, I believe; 
Oh, he was the daddy, the master, 
Was Pardon, the son of Reprieve. 
He showed 'em the method of travel -- 
The boy sat still as a stone -- 
They never could see him for gravel; 
He came in hard-held, and alone. 

* * * * * * * 

But he's old -- and his eyes are grown hollow 
Like me, with my thatch of the snow; 
When he dies, then I hope I may follow, 
And go where the racehorses go. 
I don't want no harping nor singing -- 
Such things with my style don't agree; 
Where the hoofs of the horses are ringing 
There's music sufficient for me. 

And surely the thoroughbred horses 
Will rise up again and begin 
Fresh faces on far-away courses, 
And p'raps they might let me slip in. 
It would look rather well the race-card on 
'Mongst Cherubs and Seraphs and things, 
"Angel Harrison's black gelding Pardon, 
Blue halo, white body and wings." 

And if they have racing hereafter, 
(And who is to say they will not?) 
When the cheers and the shouting and laughter 
Proclaim that the battle grows hot; 
As they come down the racecourse a-steering, 
He'll rush to the front, I believe; 
And you'll hear the great multitude cheering 
For Pardon, the son of Reprieve 


And there you have it, the story of Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup.

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