And, "What of Ladrone"—do you ask?
Oh! friend. I am sad at the name.
My splendid fleet roan!—The task
You require is a hard one at best.
Swift as the spectral coyote, as tame
To my voice as a sweetheart, an eye
Like a pool in the woodland asleep,
Brown, clear, and calm, with color down deep,
Where his brave, proud soul seemed to lie—
Ladrone! There's a spell in the word.
The city walls fade on my eye—the roar
Of its traffic grows dim
As the sound of the wind in a dream.
My spirit takes wing like a bird.
Once more I'm asleep on the plain,
The summer wind sings in my hair;
Once again I hear the wild crane
Crying out of the steaming air;
White clouds are adrift on the breeze,
The flowers nod under my feet,
And under my thighs, 'twixt my knees,
Again as of old I can feel
The roll of Ladrone's firm muscles, the reel
Of his chest—see the thrust of fore-limb
And hear the dull trample of heel.
We thunder behind the mad herd.
My singing whip swirls like a snake.
Hurrah! We swoop on like a bird.
With my pony's proud record at stake—
For the shaggy, swift leader has stride
Like the last of a long kingly line;
Her eyes flash fire through her hair;
She tosses her head in disdain;
Her mane streams wide on the air—
She leads the swift herd of the plain
As a wolf-leader leads his gaunt pack,
On the slot of the desperate deer—
Their exultant eyes savagely shine.
But down on her broad shining back
Stings my lash like a rill of red flame—
Huzzah, my wild beauty! Your best;
Will you teach my Ladrone a new pace?
Will you break his proud heart in a shame
By spurning the dust in his face?
The herd falls behind and is lost,
As we race neck and neck, stride and stride.
Again the long lash hisses hot
Along the gray mare's glassy hide—
Aha, she is lost! she does not respond.
Now I lean to the ear of my roan
And shout—letting fall the light rein.
Like a hound from the leash, my Ladrone
We're alone on the plain!
Ah! how the thought at wild living comes back!
Alone on the wide, solemn prairie
I ride with my rifle in hand,
My eyes on the watch for the wary
And beautiful antelope band.
Or sleeping at night in the grasses, I hear
Ladrone grazing near in the gloom.
His listening head on the sky
I see etched complete to the ear.
From the river below comes the boom
Of the bittern, the thrill and the cry
Of frogs in the pool, and the shrill cricket's chime,
Making ceaseless and marvelous rhyme.
But what of his fate? Did he die
When the terrible tempest was done?
When he staggered with you to the light,
And your fight with the Norther was won,
Did he live a guest evermore?
No, friend, not so. I sold him—outright.
What! sold your preserver, your mate, he who
Through wind and wild snow and deep night
Brought you safe to a shelter at last?
Did you, when the danger had end,
Forget your dumb hero—your friend?
Forget! no, nor can I. Why, man,
It's little you know of such love
As I felt for him! You think that you feel
The same deep regard for your span,
Blanketed, shining, and clipped to the heel,
But my horse was companion and guard—
My playmate, my ship on the sea
Of dun grasses—in all kinds of weather,
Unhorsed and hungry and sometimes, he
Served me for love and needed no tether.
No, I do not forget; but who
Is the master of fortune and fate?
Who does as he wishes and not as he must?
When I sold my preserver, my mate,
My faithfulest friend—man, I wept.
Yes, I own it. His faithful eyes
Seemed to ask what it meant.
And he kept them fixed on me in startled surprise,
As another hand led him away.
And the last that I heard of my roan,
Was the sound of his shrill, pleading neigh!
Oh magic west wind of the mountain,
Oh steed with the stinging main,
In sleep I draw rein at the fountain,
And wake with a shiver of pain;
For the heart and the heat of the city
Are walls and prison's chain.
Lost my Ladrone—gone the wild living—
I dream, but my dreaming is vain.