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The Famous Ballad Of The Jubilee Cup

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You may lift me up in your arms, lad, and turn my face to the sun,
For a last look back at the dear old track where the Jubilee cup
      was won;
And draw your chair to my side, lad--no, thank ye, I feel no pain--
For I'm going out with the tide, lad; but I'll tell you the tale
      again.

I'm seventy-nine or nearly, and my head it has long turned gray,
But it all comes back as clearly as though it was yesterday--
The dust, and the bookies shouting around the clerk of the scales,
And the clerk of the course, and the nobs in force, and 'Is
      'Ighness the Pr**ce of W*les.

'Twas a nine-hole thresh to wind'ard (but none of us cared for that),
With a straight run home to the service tee, and a finish along
      the flat,
"Stiff?" ah, well you may say it! Spot barred, and at five stone
      ten!
But at two and a bisque I'd ha' run the risk; for I was a
      greenhorn then.

So we stripped to the B. Race signal, the old red swallowtail--
There was young Ben Bolt and the Portland Colt, and Aston Villa,
      and Yale;
And W. G., and Steinitz, Leander and The Saint,
And the G*rm*n Emp*r*r's Meteor, a-looking as fresh as paint;

John Roberts (scratch), and Safety Match, The Lascar, and Lorna
      Doone,
Oom Paul (a bye), and Romany Rye, and me upon Wooden Spoon;
And some of us cut for partners, and some of us strung for baulk,
And some of us tossed for stations--But there, what use to talk?

Three-quarter-back on the Kingsclere crack was station enough for
      me,
With a fresh jackyarder blowing and the Vicarage goal a-lee!
And I leaned and patted her centre-bit and eased the quid in her
      cheek,
With a "Soh my lass!" and a "Woa you brute!"--for she could do all
      but speak.

She was geared a thought too high perhaps; she was trained a
      trifle fine;
But she had the grand reach forward! I never saw such a line!
Smooth-bored, clean run, from her fiddle head with its dainty ear
      half-cock,
Hard-bit, pur sang, from her overhang to the heel of her off
      hind sock.

Sir Robert he walked beside me as I worked her down to the mark;
"There's money on this, my lad," said he, "and most of 'em's
      running dark;
But ease the sheet if you're bunkered, and pack the scrummages
      tight,
And use your slide at the distance, and we'll drink to your health
      to-night!"

But I bent and tightened my stretcher. Said I to myself, said I--
"John Jones, this here is the Jubilee Cup, and you have to do or
      die."
And the words weren't hardly spoken when the umpire shouted
      "Play!"
And we all kicked off from the Gasworks End with a "Yoicks!" and a
      "Gone Away!"

And at first I thought of nothing, as the clay flew by in lumps,
But stuck to the old Ruy Lopez, and wondered who'd call for trumps,
And luffed her close to the cushion, and watched each one as it
      broke,
And in triple file up the Rowley Mile we went like a trail of smoke.

The Lascar made the running but he didn't amount to much,
For old Oom Paul was quick on the ball, and headed it back to touch;
And the whole first flight led off with the right as The Saint
      took up the pace,
And drove it clean to the putting green and trumped it there with
      an ace.

John Roberts had given a miss in baulk, but Villa cleared with a
      punt;
And keeping her service hard and low the Meteor forged to the front;
With Romany Rye to windward at dormy and two to play,
And Yale close up--but a Jubilee Cup isn't run for every day.

We laid our course for the Warner--I tell you the pace was hot!
And again off Tattenham Corner a blanket covered the lot.
Check side! Check side! now steer her wide! and barely an inch of
      room,
With The Lascar's tail over our lee rail and brushing Leander's
      boom.

We were running as strong as ever--eight knots--but it couldn't
      last;
For the spray and the bails were flying, the whole field tailing
      fast;
And the Portland Colt had shot his bolt, and Yale was bumped at
      the Doves,
And The Lascar resigned to Steinitz, stalemated in fifteen moves.

It was bellows to mend with Roberts--starred three for a penalty
      kick:
But he chalked his cue and gave 'em the butt, and Oom Paul marked
      the trick--
"Offside--No Ball--and at fourteen all! Mark Cock! and two for his
      nob!"
When W.G. ran clean through his lee and beat him twice with a lob.

He yorked him twice on a crumbling pitch and wiped his eye with a
      brace,
But his guy-rope split with the strain of it and he dropped back
      out of the race;
And I drew a bead on the Meteor's lead, and challenging none too
      soon,
Bent over and patted her garboard strake, and called upon Wooden
      Spoon.

She was all of a shiver forward, the spoondrift thick on her flanks,
But I'd brought her an easy gambit, and nursed her over the banks;
She answered her helm--the darling! and woke up now with a rush,
While the Meteor's jock, he sat like a rock--he knew we rode for
      his brush!

There was no one else left in it. The Saint was using his whip,
And Safety Match, with a lofting catch, was pocketed deep at slip;
And young Ben Bolt with his niblick took miss at Leander's lunge,
But topped the net with the ricochet, and Steinitz threw up the
      sponge.

But none of the lot could stop the rot--nay, don't ask me to stop!
The villa had called for lemons, Oom Paul had taken his drop,
And both were kicking the referee. Poor fellow! he done his best;
But, being in doubt, he'd ruled them out--which he always did when
      pressed.

So, inch by inch, I tightened the winch, and chucked the sandbags
      out--
I heard the nursery cannons pop, I heard the bookies shout:
"The Meteor wins!" "No, Wooden Spoon!" "Check!" "Vantage!"
      "Leg Before!"
"Last Lap!" "Pass Nap!" At his saddle-flap I put up the helm and
      wore.

You may overlap at the saddle-flap, and yet be loo'd on the tape:
And it all depends upon changing ends, how a seven-year-old will
      shape;
It was tack and tack to the Lepe and back--a fair ding-dong to the
      Ridge,
And he led by his forward canvas yet as we shot 'neath Hammersmith
      Bridge.

He led by his forward canvas--he led from his strongest suit--
But along we went on a roaring scent, and at Fawley I gained a foot.
He fisted off with his jigger, and gave me his wash--too late!
Deuce--Vantage--Check! By neck and neck we rounded into the
      straight.

I could hear the "Conquering 'Ero" a-crashing on Godfrey's band,
And my hopes fell sudden to zero, just there, with the race in
      hand--
In sight of the Turf's Blue Ribbon, in sight of the umpire's tape,
As I felt the tack of her spinnaker c-rack! as I heard the steam
      escape!

Had I lost at that awful juncture my presence of mind? ... but no!
I leaned and felt for the puncture, and plugged it there with my
      toe....
Hand over hand by the Members' Stand I lifted and eased her up,
Shot--clean and fair--to the crossbar there, and landed the
      Jubilee Cup!

"The odd by a head, and leg before," so the Judge he gave the word:
And the umpire shouted "Over!" but I neither spoke nor stirred.
They crowded round: for there on the ground I lay in a dead-cold
      swoon,
Pitched neck and crop on the turf atop of my beautiful Wooden Spoon.

Her dewlap tire was punctured, her bearings all red hot;
She'd a lolling tongue, and her bowsprit sprung, and her running
      gear in a knot;
And amid the sobs of her backers, Sir Robert loosened her girth
And led her away to the knacker's. She had raced her last on earth!

But I mind me well of the tear that fell from the eye of our noble
      Pr*nce,
And the things he said as he tucked me in bed--and I 've lain
      there ever since;
Tho' it all gets mixed up queerly that happened before my spill,--
But I draw my thousand yearly: it 'll pay for the doctor's bill.

I'm going out with the tide, lad--you 'll dig me a numble grave,
And whiles you will bring your bride, lad, and your sons, if sons
      you have,
And there when the dews are weeping, and the echoes murmur
      "Peace!"
And the salt, salt tide comes creeping and covers the
      popping-crease;

In the hour when the ducks deposit their eggs with a boasted force,
They'll look and whisper "How was it?" and you'll take them over
      the course,
And your voice will break as you try to speak of the glorious
      first of June,
When the Jubilee Cup, with John Jones up, was won upon Wooden Spoon.

Arthur T. Quiller-Couch


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Picture Credits
Original bunny climbing rope picture by Paige Miglio (copyright 2000 ©) from One More Bunny authored by Rick Walton.
Original purple monster picture by Renee Williams-Andriani (copyright 1998 ©) from Really, Really Bad School Jokes authored by Rick Walton.
Original bullfrog seated picture by Chris McAllister (copyright 1999 ©) from Bullfrog Pops! authored by Rick Walton.
Electronic modifications by Ann Walton.
Last updated: December 22, 2004