with Horse and Hound

G.J. Whyte-Melville (1821--1878)

clipper.whyte melville

The Clipper that Stands in the Stall at the Top

clipper.whyte melvilleIllustration by Lionel EdwardsNot long ago we polled our readers and were pleased to find that the great majority of you enjoyed reading the classic foxhunting poems. Here’s one such classic that to me best expresses the pride, gratitude, and love the foxhunter feels for that one special horse—the most generous, the most reliable, the most gentlemanly of all we’ve had—that takes us over the day’s obstacles and brings us safely home.






Go strip him, lad! Now, sir, I think you’ll declare
   Such a picture you’ve never set eyes on before,
He was bought in at Tatt’s for three hundred I swear,
   And he’s worth all the money to look at, and more;
For the pick of the basket, the show of the shop,
Is the Clipper that stands in the stall at the top.

In the records of racing I read their career,
   There was none of the sort that could gallop and stay,
At Newmarket his sire was the best of the year,
   And the Yorkshiremen boast of his dam to this day;
But never a likelier foal did she drop
Than this Clipper that stands in the stall at the top.

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A Rum One to Follow, A Bad One to Beat

whyte-melville.vanity_fairGeorge Whyte-Melville as caricatured in Vanity Fair, 1871You may have noticed that White-Melville and Ogilvie are my favorite poets. These two establish a cadence in their meter that transports me to the field atop a horse, rhythmically pumping his hindquarters and stretching his neck beneath me.

I was pleased to learn from the Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Sirs Stephen and Lee, that Whyte-Melville, being a gentleman of means, “devoted all the earnings of his pen...to philanthropic and charitable objects, especially to the provision of reading rooms and other recreation for grooms and stable boys in hunting quarters.”

This poem has long been a favorite of mine. Whyte-Melville, having been a major in the cavalry and having devoted his life to foxhunting, was an able horseman, I'm certain. Yet though he was thrown out this day, he expresses his admiration for the rider who left him in the dust.

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