med a dream, and I
Shall never ride again.
`I dreamt last night I rode this race
That I to-day must ride,
And cant'ring down to take my place
I saw full many an old friend's face
Come stealing to my side.
`Dead men on horses long since dead,
They clustered on the track;
The champions of the days long fled,
They moved around with noiseless tread --
Bay, chestnut, brown, and black.
`And one man on a big grey steed
Rode up and waved his hand;
Said he, "We help a friend in need,
And we have come to give a lead
To you and Rio Grande.
`"For you must give the field the slip,
So never draw the rein,
But keep him moving with the whip,
And if he falter -- set your lip
And rouse him up again.
`"But when you reach the big stone wall,
Put down your bridle hand
And let him sail -- he cannot fall --
But don't you interfere at all;
You trust old Rio Grande."
`We started, and in front we showed,
The big horse running free:
Right fearlessly and game he strode,
And by my side those dead men rode
Whom no one else could see.
`As silently as flies a bird,
They rode on either hand;
At every fence I plainly heard
The phantom leader give the word,
"Make room for Rio Grande!"
`I spurred him on to get the lead,
I chanced full many a fall;
But swifter still each phantom steed
Kept with me, and at racing speed
We reached the big stone wall.
`And there the phantoms on each side
Drew in and blocked his leap;
"Make room! make room!" I loudly cried,
But right in front they seemed to ride --
I cursed them in my sleep.
`He never flinched, he faced it game,
He struck it with his chest,
And every stone burst out in flame,
And Rio Grande and I became
As phantoms with the rest.
`And then I woke, and for a space
All nerveless did I seem;
For I have ridden many a race,
But never one at such a pace