The Gipsy Praises his Horse

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The Gipsy Praises his Horse
by Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj, translated by Nikola Tesla

THE GIPSY PRAISES HIS HORSE

You 're admiring my horse, sir, I see.
     He 's so light that you 'd think it 's a bird—
Say a swallow. Ah me!
     He 's a prize!
     It 's absurd
To suppose you can take him all in as he passes
     With the best pair of eyes,
     Or the powerful aid
Of your best pair of glasses:
     Take 'em off, and let 's trade.

What! “Is Selim as good as he seems?”
     Never fear,
     Uncle dear,
He 's as good as the best of your dreams,
     And as sound as your sleep.
     It 's only that kind that a gipsy would keep.
The emperor's stables can't furnish his mate.
But his grit and his gait,
     And his wind and his ways,
     A gipsy like me does n't know how to praise.
But (if truth must be told)
Although you should cover him over with gold
He 'd be worth one more sovereign still.

                                         “Is he old?”
Oh, don't look at his teeth, my dear sir!
     I never have seen 'em myself.
     Age has nothing to do with an elf;
         So it 's fair to infer
My fairy can never grow old.
Oh, don't look—(Here, my friend,
Will you do me the kindness to hold
For a moment these reins while I 'tend
     To that fly on his shanks?)...
     As I said—(Ah—now—thanks!)
         The longer you drive
         The better he 'll thrive.
He 'll never be laid on the shelf!
     The older that colt is, the younger he 'll grow.
     I 've tried him for years, and I know.

“Eat? Eat?” do you say?
Oh, that nag is n't nice
About eating! Whatever you have will suffice.
     He takes everything raw—
Some oats or some hay,
     Or a small wisp of straw,
     If you have it. If not, never mind—
Selim won't even neigh.
What kind of a feeder is he? That 's the kind!

“Is he clever at jumping a fence?”
What a question to ask! He 's immense
     At a leap!
     How absurd!
     Why, the trouble 's to keep
Such a Pegasus down to the ground.
He takes every fence at a bound
         With the grace of a bird;
     And so great is his strength,
     And so keen is his sense,
     He goes over a fence
Not across, but the way of its length!

“Under saddle?” No saddle for Selim!
Why, you 've only to mount him, and feel him
     Fly level and steady, to see
     What disgrace that would be.
No, you could n't more deeply insult him, unless
You attempted to guess
     And pry into his pedigree.

Now why should you speak of his eyes?
     Does he seem like a horse that would need
     An eye-glass to add to his speed
Or, perchance, to look wise?
     No indeed.
     Why, not only 's the night to that steed
Just the same as the day,
     But he knows all that passes—
Both before and behind, either way.
     Oh, he does n't need glasses!

“Has he any defect?” What a question, my friend!
     That is why, my dear sir, I am willing to sell.
     You know very well
It is only the horse that you give or you lend
That has glanders, or springhalt, or something to mend:
     'T is because not a breath
     Of defect or of death
Can be found on my Selim that he's at your pleasure.
Alas! not for gipsies the care of such treasure.

And now about speed. “Is he fast?” I should say!
Just listen—I'll tell you.
                                         One equinox day,
Coming home from Erdout in the usual way,
A terrible storm overtook us. 'T was plain
There was nothing to do but to run for it. Rain,
Like the blackness of night, gave us chase. But that nag,
Though he 'd had a hard day, did n't tremble or sag.
     Then the lightning would flash,
     And the thunder would crash
     With a terrible din.
They were eager to catch him; but he would just neigh,
Squint back to make sure, and then gallop away.
Well, this made the storm the more furious yet,
And we raced and we raced, but he was n't upset,
          And he would n't give in!
At last when we got to the foot of the hill
     At the end of the trail,
By the stream where our white gipsy castle was set,
And the boys from the camp came a-waving their caps,
     At a word he stood still,
To be hugged by the girls and be praised by the chaps.
     We had beaten the gale,
And Selim was dry as a bone—well, perhaps,
     Just a little bit damp on the tip of his tail.[1]

  1. Readers will be reminded by this conclusion of Mark Twain's story of the fast horse as told to him by Oudinot, of the Sandwich Islands, and recorded in “The Galaxy” for April, 1871. In that veracious narrative it is related that not a single drop fell on the driver, but the dog was swimming behind the wagon all the way.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).