Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
The Exeter Road
by Amy Lowell
Panels of claret and blue which shine
Under the moon like lees of wine.
A coronet done in a golden scroll,
And wheels which blunder and creak as they roll
Through the muddy ruts of a moorland track.
They daren't look back!
They are whipping and cursing the horses. Lord!
What brutes men are when they think they're scored.
Behind, my bay gelding gallops with me,
In a steaming sweat, it is fine to see
That coach, all claret, and gold, and blue,
Hop about and slue.
They are scared half out of their wits, poor souls.
For my lord has a casket full of rolls
Of minted sovereigns, and silver bars.
I laugh to think how he'll show his scars
In London to-morrow. He whines with rage
In his varnished cage.
My lady has shoved her rings over her toes.
'Tis an ancient trick every night-rider knows.
But I shall relieve her of them yet,
When I see she limps in the minuet
I must beg to celebrate this night,
And the green moonlight.
There's nothing to hurry about, the plain
Is hours long, and the mud's a strain.
My gelding's uncommonly strong in the loins,
In half an hour I'll bag the coins.
'Tis a clear, sweet night on the turn of Spring.
The chase is the thing!
How the coach flashes and wobbles, the moon
Dripping down so quietly on it. A tune
Is beating out of the curses and screams,
And the cracking all through the painted seams.
Steady, old horse, we'll keep it in sight.
'Tis a rare fine night!
There's a clump of trees on the dip of the down,
And the sky shimmers where it hangs over the town.
It seems a shame to break the air
In two with this pistol, but I've my share
Of drudgery like other men.
His hat? Amen!
Hold up, you beast, now what the devil!
Confound this moor for a pockholed, evil,
Rotten marsh. My right leg's snapped.
'Tis a mercy he's rolled, but I'm nicely capped.
A broken-legged man and a broken-legged horse!
They'll get me, of course.
The cursed coach will reach the town
And they'll all come out, every loafer grown
A lion to handcuff a man that's down.
What's that? Oh, the coachman's bulleted hat!
I'll give it a head to fit it pat.
Thank you! No cravat.
~They handcuffed the body just for style,
And they hung him in chains for the volatile
Wind to scour him flesh from bones.
Way out on the moor you can hear the groans
His gibbet makes when it blows a gale.
'Tis a common tale.~