The Poetry Corner

Shakespeare on the Turf

By Banjo Paterson (Andrew Barton)

An Unpublished Drama A Winter's Turf Tale As the public have "stood" uncomplainingly the publication of a portrait of the Supreme Being, they may accept the following drama as the work of William Shakespeare. SCENE I SCENE: The saddling paddock at a racecourse. Citizens, Battlers, Toffs, Trainers, Flappers, Satyrs, Bookmakers and Turf Experts. Enter Shortinbras, a Trainer, and two Punters. FIRST PUNTER: Good Shortinbras, what thinkest thou of the Fav'rite? SHORTINBRAS (aside): This poltroon would not venture a ducat on David to beat a dead donkey; a dull and muddy-mettled rascal. (To Punter): Aye marry Sir, I think well of the Favourite. PUNTER: And yet I have a billiard marker's word That in this race to-day they back Golumpus, And when they bet, they tell me, they will knock The Favourite for a string of German Sausage. SHORTINBRAS: Aye, marry, they would tell thee, I've no doubt, It is the way of owners that they tell To billiard markers and the men on trams Just when they mean to bet. Go back it, back it! (Tries to shuffle off, but Punter detains him.) PUNTER: Nay, good Shortinbras, what thinkest thou of Golumpus? Was it not dead last week? SHORTINBRAS: Marry, sir, I think well of Golumpus. 'Tis safer to speak well of the dead: betimes they rise again. (Sings) They pulled him barefaced in the mile, Hey, Nonny, Nonny. The Stipes were watching them all the while; And the losers swear, but the winners smile, Hey, Nonny, Nonny. Exit Shortinbras. SECOND RUNTER: A scurvy knave! What meant he by his prate Of Fav'rite and outsider and the like? Forsooth he told us nothing. Follow him close. Give him good watch, I pray you, till we see Just what he does his dough on. Follow fast. Exeunt Punters SCENE II The same. Bookmakers call: "Seven to Four on the Field!" "Three to One, Bar One!" "Ten to One, Golumpus." Enter Two Heads. FIRST HEAD: How goes the battle? Did thou catch the last? SECOND HEAD: Aye, marry did I, and the one before, But this has got me beat. The Favourite drifts, And not a single wager has been laid About Golumpus. Thinkest thou that both are dead? Re-enter Punters PUNTER: Good morrow, Gentlemen. I have it cold Straight from the owner, that Golumpus goes Eyes out to win today. FIRST HEAD: Prate not to me of owners. Hast thou seen The good red gold Go in. The Jockey's Punter Has he put up the stuff, or does he wait To get a better price. Owner say'st thou? The owner does the paying, and the talk; Hears the tale afterwards when it gets beat And sucks it in as hungry babes suck milk. Look you how ride the books in motor cars While owners go on foot, or ride in trams, Crushed with the vulgar herd and doomed to hear From mouths of striplings that their horse was stiff, When they themselves are broke from backing it. SCENE III Enter an Owner and a Jockey OWNER: 'Tis a good horse. A passing good horse. JOCKEY: I rose him yesternoon: it seemed to me That in good truth a fairly speedy cow Might well outrun him. OWNER: Thou froward varlet; must I say again, That on the Woop Woop course he ran a mile In less than forty with his irons on! JOCKEY: Then thou should'st bring the Woop Woop course down here. OWNER: Thou pestilential scurvy Knave. Go to! Strikes him. Alarms and excursions. The race is run and Shortinbras enters, leading in the winner. FIRST PUNTER: And thou hast trained the winner, thou thyself, Thou complicated liar. Didst not say To back Golumpus or the Favourite! SHORTINBRAS: Get work! For all I ever had of thee My children were unfed, my wife unclothed, And I myself condemned to menial toil. PUNTER: The man who keeps a winner to himself Deserves but death. (Kills him) Enter defeated Owner and Jockey. OWNER: Thou whoreson Knave: thou went into a trance Soon as the barrier lifted and knew naught Of what occurred until they neared the post. (Kills him) Curtain falls on ensemble of punters, bookmakers, heads and surviving jockeys and trainers. CURTAIN