Poetry Selection

Introduction to Ogilvie’s Work

Several poems have been selected. We thank Will’s estate for permission to reproduce in full these works.

A Scotch Night
Ho! For The Blades of Harden
The Queen of Yore
The Opening Run
Skyline Tommy
Queensland Opal
Witchery Knows
From the Gulf
The Riding of The Rebel
Bowmont Water
The Land We Love
The Hill Road to Roberton
The Hoofs of the Horses

Will’s rhyming varied with a rhyme scheme from a four-line stanza of AABB, and a six stanza eight-line XAXAXBXB; frequently ABABCDCD is enjoyed. After the long hours droving in Australia could be a reason why many of his poems have a rhythm similar to horses’ hooves. As Ogilvie said:

“Neatly every set of verses in my book was written in this way; a couplet or quatrain came unasked, and round them the other lines fell into place. But always the key-lines were the best, and I can pick them out among their neighbours, and remember exactly the hour when they came, and rode by my bridle-hand, pleading to be pencilled down.”

His first poem was printed in the local Scottish town paper when he was just fifteen. The Australian debut came when the young man had ‘Kings of the Earth’ printed in South Australia’s The Border Post in April 1893. It was the nationally-circulating The Bulletin’s April 1894 printing of ‘Beneath the barrier’ that took the drover and jackaroo on the road to his calling. Within his lifespan he saw twenty anthologies published, and another three were compiled posthumously.

Unlike many of today’s professional poets, he worked diligently on the land and with his hands; while working, the words came to comfort and inspire him along the way. Will H. Ogilvie’s sentiments bonded with those around him – whether in the Australian bush, gazing upon the Cheviot Hills, admiring the energy of a gray horse – and why his poems, prose, and short stories are still relatable and continue to be relevant and enjoyed today.

A Scotch Night

A Scotch Night

If you chance to strike a gathering of half-a-dozen friends
When the drink is Highland whusky or some chosen Border blends,
And the room is full of speirin and the gruppin’ of brown han’s,
And the talk is all of tartans and of plaidies and of clans,-
You can take things douce and easy, you can judge you’re going right,
For you’ve had the luck to stumble on a wee Scotch night!

When you’re pitch forked in among them in a sweeping sort of way
As “anither mon an’ brither” from the Tweed or from the Tay;
When you’re taken by the oxter and you’re couped into a chair
While someone slips a whusky in your tumbler unaware,-
Then the present seems less dismal and the future fair and bricht,
For you’ve struck Earth’s grandest treasure in a guid Scots nicht!

When you hear a short name shouted and the same name shouted back
Till you think in the confusion that they’ve all been christened Mac;
When you see a red beard flashing in the corner by the fire,
And a giant on the sofa who is six-foot three or higher,-
Before you’ve guessed the colour and before you’ve gauged the height
You’ll have jumped at the conclusion it’s a braw Scotch night!

When the red man in the corner puts his strong voice to the proof
As he gives The Hundred Pipers, and the chorus lifts the roof;
When a chiel sings Annie Laurie with its tender, sweet refrain
Till the tears are on their eyelids and – the drinks come round again;
When they chant the stirring war-songs that would make the coward fight,-
Then you’re fairly in the middle of a wee Scotch night!

When the plot begins to thicken and the band begins to play;
When every tin-pot chieftain has a word or two to say;
When they’d sell a Queensland station for a sprig of native heath;
When there’s one Mac on the table and a couple underneath;
When half of them are sleeping and the whole of them are tight,-
You will know that you’re assisting at a (hic!) Scotch night!

When the last big bottle’s empty and the dawn creeps grey and cold,
And the last clan-tartan’s folded and the last dammed lie is told;
When they totter down the footpath in a brave, unbroken line,
To the peril of the passers and the tune of Auld Lang Syne;
You can tell the folk at breakfast as they watch the fearsome sicht,
“They have only been assisting at a braw Scots nicht!”

Extract from letter dated 1st January 1995 from George Ogilvie (Son of the poet) to Ann Holt (Secretary of the WHO Memorial Trust)

“The other day, You said someone had asked you about W.H.O.s’ work (The Scotsman) and asked which were his best poems. That has given me some thought. The merit of his work, I think, is the way he can describe so accurately a situation or a place. Ask an Australian bushman, which is the best thing he wrote – ask a horseman, ask a nature lover, ask a humorist – each one will be different. “The Comfort of the Hills” has a big public. Now for “The Wee Scotch Night” people used to say; “Will Ogilvie! Oh the man who wrote “The Wee Scotch Night!” This made dad wild. He used to say, “I wish I’d never written the thing!” It is, of course, very funny and beautifully written as so many of his “comic” verses are. But his ambition was to write poetry and to be remembered for something good. He was afraid that he might be slotted in with the traditional music hall Scott with a bottle of whisky in his hand! Kipling may be remembered as “the man who wrote” “The Road to Mandalay”, But dad didn’t want to be remembered for “The Wee Scotch Night”.

What perhaps is required now, is a book giving the best of his many subjects in groups. Horses, nature, solitude, humour, war poems, children.”

In 2009 the WHOMT published “The Hill Road to Roberton” in the hope of addressing the wishes of George’s request and the concerns of the poet himself.

‘A Scotch night’ was published in his inaugural 1898 anthology, ‘Fair Girls and Gray Horses’. The word ‘d–d’ represented the word ‘damned’. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.
Extract from letter dated 1st January 1995 from George Ogilvie (son of the poet) to Ann Holt (Secretary of the WHO Memorial Trust)

Ho! for the blades of Harden

Ho! for the blades of Harden

Ho! for the blades of Harden!
Ho! for the driven kye!
The broken gate and the lances’ hate
And a banner red on the sky!
The rough road runs by the Carter;
The white foam creams on the rein;
Ho! for the blades of Harden!
“There will be moonlight again!”

The dark has heard them gather,
The dawn has bowed them by,
To the guard on the roof comes the drum of a hoof
And the drone of a hoof’s reply.
There are more than birds on the hill to-night
And more than winds on the plain!
The threat of the Scott’s has filled the moss,
“There will be moonlight again!”

Ho! for the blades of Harden!
Ho! for the ring of steel!
The stolen steers of a hundred years
Come home for a Kirkhope meal!
The ride must risk its fortune,
The raid must count its slain,
The March must feed her ravens.
“There will be moonlight again!”

Ho! For the blades of Harden!
Ho! for the pikes that cross!
Ho! for the king of lance and ling
– A Scott on the Ettrick moss!
The rough road runs by the Carter,
The white foam creams on the rein;
And aye for the blades of Harden
“There will be moonlight again!”

Scocha singing Ho for the Blades

Published in The Border poems of Will H. Ogilvie (1959). Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

The Queen Of Yore

The Queen Of Yore

Slowly she hobbles past the town, grown old at heart and gray;
With misty eyes she stumbles down along the well-known way;
She sees her maiden march unrolled by billabong and bend,
And every gum’s a comrade old and every oak’s a friend;
But gone the smiling faces that welcomed her of yore –
They crowd her tented places and hold her hand no more.
And she, the friend they once could trust to serve their eager wish,
Shall show no more the golden dust that hides in many a dish;
And through the dismal mullock-heaps she threads her mournful way
Where here and there some gray-beard keeps his windlass-watch to-day;
Half-flood no more she looses her reins as once of old
To wash the busy sluices and whisper through the gold.
She sees no wild-eyed steers above stand spear-horned on the brink;
The brumby mobs she used to love come down no more to drink;
Where green the grasses used to twine above them, shoulder-deep,
Through the red dust – a long, slow line – crawl in the starving sheep;
She sees no crossing cattle that Western drovers bring,
No swimming steeds that battle to block them when they ring.

She sees no barricaded roofs, no loop-holed station wall,
No foaming steed with flying hoofs to bring the word ‘Ben Hall!’
She sees no reckless robbers stoop behind their ambush stone,
No coach-and-four, no escort troop; – but, very lorn and lone,
Watches the sunsets redden along the mountain side
Where round the spurs of Weddin the wraiths of Weddin ride.

Tho’ fettered with her earthen bars and chained with bridge and weir
She goes her own way with the stars; she knows the course to steer!
And when her thousand rocky rills foam, angry, to her feet,
Rain-heavy from the Cowra hills she takes her vengeance sweet,
And leaps with roar of thunder, and buries bridge and ford,
That all the world may wonder when the Lachlan bares her sword!

Gray River! let me take your hand for all your memories old –
Your cattle-kings, your outlaw-band, your wealth of virgin gold;
For once you held, and hold it now, the sceptre of a queen,
And still upon your furrowed brow the royal wreaths are green;
Hold wide your arms, the waters! Lay bare your silver breast
To nurse the sons and daughters that spread your empire west!

First published in Bertram STEVENS’ ‘An Anthology of Australian Verse’ (1906). The poem speaks of locations in New South Wales such as the the Lachlan River. Ben Hall was a bushranger (highway robber). Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

The Opening Run

The Opening Run

The rain-sodden grass in the ditches is dying,
The berries are red to the crest of the thorn;
Coronet-deep where the beech leaves are lying
The hunters stand tense to the twang of the horn ;
Where rides are re-filled with the green of the mosses,
All foam-flecked and fretful their long line is strung,
You can see the white gleam as a starred forehead tosses,
You can hear the low chink as a bit-bar is flung.
The world’s full of music. Hounds rustle the rover
Through brushwood and fern to a glad ‘Gone away!’
With a ‘Come along, Pilot! ‘-one spur-touch and over-
The huntsman is clear on his galloping grey;
Before him the pack’s running straight on the stubble-
Toot-toot-too-too-too-oot ! ,_, Tow-row-ow-ow-ow ! ‘
The leaders are clambering up through the double
And glittering away on the brown of the plough.
The front rank, hands down, have the big fence’s measure;
The faint hearts are craning to left and to right;
The Master goes through with a crash on The Treasure,
The grey takes the lot like a gull in his flight.
There’s a brown crumpled up, lying still as a dead one.
There ‘s a roan mare refusing, as stubborn as sin,
While the breaker flogs up on a green underbred one
And smashes the far-away rail with a grin.
The chase carries on over hilltop and hollow,
The life of Old England, the pluck and the fun;
And who would ask more than a stiff line to follow
With hounds running hard in the Opening Run?

First published in the 1922 ‘Galloping Shoes’. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

Skyline Tommy

Skyline Tommy

He loves all games that good men play-
And plays them clean and straight-
But most the chase of foxes
With all its turns of fate.
When far behind him in the vale
Strings out our beaten hunt
With easy grace he keeps his place,
His rightful place, in front.
He always seems to lead us
Whate’er the pace may be-
‘ He’s always on the skyline! ‘
As some one said to me.
‘Tis true his horses are the best,
‘Tis true he steals his start,
But none could hold a line so bold
Without a gallant heart.
So here’s to Skyline Tommy,
The bravest of our guides!
In all the scattered counties
No finer horseman rides;
Not soon shall we, the laggards,
The cheering sight forget
Of Tommy high against the sky
In splendid silhouette!

First published in the 1923 ‘Scattered Scarlet’. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

Queensland Opal

Queensland Opal

Opal, little opal, with the red fire glancing,
Set my blood a-spinning, set my pulse a-stir,
Strike the harp of memory, set my dull heart dancing
Southward to the Sunny Land and the love of Her!

Opal, shining opal, let them call you luckless jewel,
Let them curse or let them covet, you are still my heart’s desire,
You that robbed the sun and moon and green earth for fuel
To gather to your milky breast and fill your veins with fire!

Green of fluttering gum-leaves above dim water-courses,
Red of rolling dust-clouds, blue of summer skies,
Flash of flints afire beneath the hoofs of racing horses,
Sunlight and moonlight and light of lovers’ eyes

Pink clasping hands amid a Southern summer gloaming,
Green of August grasses, white of dew-sprung pearls,
Grey of winging wild geese into the Sunset homing,
Twined with all the kisses of a Queen of Queensland girls!

First published in the 1907 ‘Rainbows and Witches’. Opal is a beautiful stone as described by Will. Queensland is a State within Australia. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

Witchery Knows!

Witchery Knows!

Witchery knows what it means
When the oats and the barley, the wheat and the beans,
Have been built into stacks and the stubbles are bare;
When the woodlands are flaming in russet and rose,
When there’s rime on the grass and a nip in the air,
Witchery knows!
Witchery knows very well
When the gorse-tops are shaking down there in the dell,
And a Whip like a statue waits under a tree,
That the moment has come to be up on her toes
And reaching her lean little head to her knee-
Witchery knows!
Witchery knows how to creep
When the banks are still blind and the ditches are deep,
When a double looms up scarce a cat could get through,
While his true tongue beyond it old Ruffian throws,
Little Witchery knows how to take it in two-
Witchery knows!
Witchery knows how to race
When the hard-riding leaders are cramming on pace
And the dog-hounds are lifting it over the plough;
She hears the glad horn and the challenge it blows,
And she knows how to answer that merry tow-row-
Witchery knows!
Witchery knows the whole game
From the find of a fox to the death of the same;
And she knows when the woods in full splendour are dressed,
And the berries hang black where the elder-bush grows,
That it’s time for a good mare to gallop her best-

Witchery knows!

‘Witchery knows’ first appeared in the 1925 ‘On The Grass’. The horse was well-known to Will as he also wrote ‘Witchery’ and ‘Witchery’s ride’ in the 1903 Hearts of gold. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

From the Gulf

From the Gulf

Store cattle from Nelanjie! The mob goes feeding past,
With half-a-mile of sandhill ’twixt the leaders and the last;
The nags that move behind them are the good old Queensland stamp—
Short backs and perfect shoulders that are priceless on a camp;
And these are Men that ride them, broad chested, tanned, and tall,
The bravest hearts amongst us and the lightest hands of all:
Oh, let them wade in Wonga grass and taste the Wonga dew,
And let them spread, those thousand head—for we’ve been droving too!

Store cattle from Nelanjie! By half-a-hundred towns,
By Northern ranges rough and red, by rolling open downs,
By stock-routes brown and burnt and bare, by flood-wrapped river-bends,
They’ve hunted them from gate to gate—the drover has no friends!
But idly they may ride to-day beneath the scorching sun
And let the hungry bullocks try the grass on Wonga run;
No overseer will dog them here to “see the cattle through,”
But they may spread their thousand head—for we’ve been droving too!

Store cattle from Nelanjie! They’ve a naked track to steer;
The stockyards at Wodonga are a long way down from here;
The creeks won’t run till God knows when, and half the holes are dry;
The tanks are few and far between and water’s dear to buy:
There’s plenty at the Brolga bore for all his stock and mine—
We’ll pass him with a brave God-speed across the Border Line;
And if he goes a five-mile stage and loiters slowly through,
We’ll only think the more of him—for we’ve been droving too!

Store cattle from Nelanjie! They’re mute as milkers now;
But yonder grizzled drover, with the care-lines on his brow,
Could tell of merry musters on the big Nelanjie plains,
With blood upon the chestnut’s flanks and foam upon the reins;
Could tell of nights upon the road when those same mild-eyed steers
Went ringing round the river bend and through the scrub like spears;
And if his words are rude and rough, we know his words are true,
We know what wild Nelanjies are—and we’ve been droving too!

Store cattle from Nelanjie! Around the fire at night
They’ve watched the pine-tree shadows lift before the dancing light;
They’ve lain awake to listen when the weird bush-voices speak,
And heard the lilting bells go by along the empty creek;
They’ve spun the yarns of hut and camp, the tales of play and work,
The wondrous tales that gild the road from Normanton to Bourke;
They’ve told of fortunes foul and fair, of women false and true,
And well we know the songs they’ve sung—for we’ve been droving too!

Store cattle from Nelanjie! Their breath is on the breeze;
You hear them tread, a thousand head, in blue-grass to the knees;
The lead is on the netting-fence, the wings are spreading wide,
The lame and laggard scarcely move—so slow the drovers ride!
But let them stay and feed to day for sake of Auld Lang Syne;
They’ll never get a chance like this below the Border Line;
And if they tread our frontage down, what’s that to me or you?
What’s ours to fare, by God they’ll share! for we’ve been droving too!

This poem was published in Will’s inaugural 1898 anthology, ‘Fair Girls and Gray Horses’. Set in Australia, it speaks of droving cattle from the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

The Riding of The Rebel

The Riding of The Rebel

He was the Red Creek overseer, a trusted man and true,
Whose shoulder never left the wheel when there was work to do;
Through all the day he rode the run, and when the lights grew dim
The sweetest wife that ever loved would wait and watch for him.
She brought him dower of golden hair and eyes of laughing blue,
Stout heart and cunning bridle-hand to guide the mulga through;
And when the mob was mustered from the box flats far and wide
She loved to mount the wildest colts that no one else would ride.
And once it chanced a wayward steed, half-mouthed and roughly broke,
Denied the touch of gentle hand and gentler words she spoke,
And, plunging forward like the ship that feels the autumn gales,
He reared and lost his footing and fell backwards on the rails.
Her husband bent above her with cold terror at his heart—
The form was still he loved so well, the wan lips would not part;
And all the day in trance she lay, but when the stars smiled down
He heard his name low-whispered and he claimed her still his own.
And afterward he spoke his fear: “Heart’s Love, if you should die!…
Unless you take your orders from some other man than I,
You shall never finger bridle, never mount on horse’s back,
Till the outlaw on Glenidol is a broken lady’s hack!”
There’s an outlaw on Glenidol that is known through all the West,
And three men’s lives are on his head, bold riders of the best;
The station lads have heard the sneer that travelled far and wide
And flung the answering challenge: “Come and teach us how to ride!
Roll up, ye merry riders all, whose honour is to guard!
We’ve mustered up the ranges and The Rebel’s in the yard;
His open mouth and stamping foot and keen eye flashing fire
Repeat the temper of his dam, the mettle of his sire.
Roll up, ye merry riders all, from hut and camp and town!
You’ll have to stick like plaster when the stockyard rails go down.
But the boss will come down handsome, as the boss is wont to come,
To the first who brings The Rebel under spurs and greenhide home.”
And the stockmen heard the challenge from the Cooper to the Bree,
And rode from hut and cattle-camp by one and two and three
To keep their horseman’s honour clean and play a hero’s part,
To best the bold Glenidol boys and break The Rebel’s heart.

And Ruddy Neil, the breaker, from the Riverine came through
With all the latest breaking-gear, and all the wiles he knew,
But ere the saddle was secured, before a girth was drawn,
The Rebel’s forefoot split his skull—they buried him at dawn!
Marora Mick, the half-caste, from the Flinders River came
To give the South-the-Border boys a lesson at the game;
But he got a roguish welcome when he entered New South Wales,
For The Rebel used his blood and brains to paint the stockyard rails!
And Mulga Jack came over from the Yuinburra side—
The horse was never foaled, they say, that Mulga could not ride:
With a mouth as hard as a miser’s heart, a will like the Devil’s own,
The Rebel made for the Stony Range with the man who wouldn’t be thrown;
The Rebel made for the Stony Range, where the plain and the scrub-land meet,
And the dead boughs cracked at his shoulder-blade, the stones leapt under his feet,
And the ragged stems of the gidyas cut and tore as they blundered past…
And Jack lay cold in the sunset gold—he had met with his match at last.

And once again the challenge rang, the bitterer for scorn,
And spoke the bold Glenidol boys, their jackets mulga-torn:
“A week have we been hunting him and riding fast and hard
To give you all another chance—The Rebel’s in the yard.”
And the stockmen heard the challenge from the Cooper to the Bree;
But “I’m getting old!” “I’m getting stiff!” or “I’ve a wife, you see!”
Came whispered to the border: and the horse they could not tame
Had saved Glenidol from disgrace and cleansed a sullied name.
But ere the reddening sun went down and night on the ranges broke
A stranger youth to the slip-rails rode, and fastened his horse and spoke
Softly and low, yet not so low but that every man there heard:
“I’ve come to tackle your outlaw colt,”—and he looked as good as his word.
He bridled The Rebel in failing light, and saddled the colt and drew
The straps of his gearing doubly tight and looked that his “length” was true.
He mounted The Rebel and gave the word, and the clattering rails went down,
And the outlaw leapt at the open gate and into the shadows brown;
But he settled himself to the soothing voice and the touch of the fondling hand,
As it followed the curve of his arching neck from wither to forehead-band;
His flanks were wet with the fresh-sprung sweat, his shoulders lathered with foam,
And he bent to the bridle and played with the bit as he came at a canter home.
And the boys were dumb with wonder, and sat, and the Red Creek overseer
Was first to drop from the stockyard fence and give him a hearty cheer.
He raised his hat in answer and . . the gold hair floated free!
And the blue eyes lit with laughter as she shouted merrily:
“You can reach me down my bridle, give my girths and saddle back,
For the outlaw of Glenidol is a broken lady’s hack!”

This poem was published in Will’s inaugural 1898 anthology, ‘Fair girls and gray horses’. Set in Australia, it is about breaking a horse to make it suitable for general riding. Rivers of New South Wales are mentioned included the Birrie (‘Bree’). Glenidol is a property just west of the town of Narromine. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

Bowmont Water

Bowmont Water

O, we think we’re happy roving!
But the stars that crown the night,
They are only ours for loving
When the moon is lost to sight!
And my hopes are fleeting forward
With the ships that sail the sea,
And my eyes are to the Nor’ ward
As an exile’s well may be,
And my heart a shrine has sought her
Where the lights and shadows play,
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water—far away!

O, it’s fair in summer weather
When the red sun dropping low
Sets a lustre on the heather
And the Cheviot peaks aglow;
When the hares come down the meadows
In the gloaming clear and still,
And the flirting lights and shadows
Play at hidies on the hill;
When the wild duck’s mate has sought her
And the speckled hill-trout play
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water—far away!

O, it’s grand when Winter’s creeping
And the rime is on the trees,
And the giant hills are sleeping
With the gray clouds on their knees;
When the autumn days are ended
And the glens are deep with snow,
And the grips are dark and splendid
Where the mountain eagles go:
Then the strath is a king’s daughter,
In her purple robes and gray,
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water—far away!

We have wandered down the valley
In the days of buried time,
Seen the foxgloves dip and dally,
Heard the fairy blue-bells chime;
Seen the brier roses quiver
When the West-wind crossed the dell,
Heard the music of the river
And the tale it had to tell,
Where the melody Love taught her
Is the laverock’s only lay,
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water—far away!

I have tried the spots, in order,
Where the brightest sunbeams fall,
But the land upon the Border
Is my own land after all,
And I would not take the glory
Of the whole world’s golden sheen
For the white mists down the corrie
And the naked scaurs between;
And my heart a shrine has sought her
That will last her little day—
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water—far away!

This poem was published in Will’s inaugural 1898 anthology, ‘Fair Girls and Gray Horses’. Written in Australia, the locations speak of Will’s youth he had left behind years before. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

The Land We Love

The Land We Love

Just a line of blue hills to remember:
Just a valley one fails to forget,
Whether bound with the gold of September
Or with jewels of midsummer set!
Just a fringe of dark woodland and coppice,
Just a ribbon of river and stream
For a hem to the cornfields whose poppies
Burn soft as a rose in a dream!

Just a sweep of marsh-moorland and heather,
Just a brae where the blackfaces climb,
Just a loch where the grey gulls forgather
And the burns out of Cheviot chime!
Just a glen where the wild-duck and pheasant
Find a sheltering nook from the blast,
Just a peel-tower that stoops to the Present
With the legend and lore of the Past!

Just an abbey that, ruined and hoary
And racked with the reign of the years,
Tells a mystic and marvellous story
That breaks on the silence like tears!
Just a fortress, perhaps, or a fastness,
Just a bridge or a grave or a stone,
That has saved from Time’s infinite vastness
Some tale half as old as Time’s own!

There’s a spell in this Land of the Marches,
In this Border that gave us our birth,
In this spot where the Heaven’s wide arch is
Spread blue o’er the best of the earth!
Tis the shrine where our hearts keep returning
Wherever our feet may be led;
All our love on that altar lies burning,
All our song-wreaths around it are spread!

This poem was published in Will’s 1910 anthology of the same name. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

The Hill Road to Roberton

The Hill Road to Roberton

The hill road to Roberton: Ale Water at our feet,
And grey hills and blue hills that melt away and meet,
With cotton-flowers that wave to us and lone whaups that call,
And over all the Border mist—the soft mist over all.

When Scotland married England long, long ago,
The winds spun a wedding-veil of moonlight and snow,
A veil of filmy silver that sun and rain had kissed,
And she left it to the Border in a soft grey mist.

And now the dreary distance doth wear it like a bride,
Out beyond the Langhope Burn and over Essenside,
By Borthwick Wa’s and Redfordgreen and on to wild Buccleuch
And up the Ettrick Water, till it fades into the blue.

The winding road to Roberton is little marked of wheels,
And lonely past Blawearie runs the track to Borthwickshiels,
Whitslade is slumbering undisturbed and down in Harden Glen
The tall trees murmur in their dreams of Wat’s mosstrooping men.

A distant glint of silver, that is Ale’s last goodbye,
Then Greatmoor and Windburgh against a purple sky,
The long line of the Carter, Teviotdale flung wide,
And a slight stir in the heather—a wind from the English side.

The hill road to Roberton’s a steep road to climb,
But where your foot has crushed it you can smell the scented thyme,
And if your heart’s a Border heart, look down to Harden Glen,
And hear the blue hills ringing with the restless hoofs again.

The poem appears in the 1959 anthology ‘The Border poems’ of Will H. Ogilvie, and was reprinted in the 2009 anthology named after the poem. Place names are well-known to the residents of Hawick in the Scottish Borders. For our non-Scots readers, Buccleuch is pronounced ‘buck-clue’, buc meaning a deer buck, and cleuch for a ravine; and Teviotdale is pronounced as ‘Tee-vee-ott-dale’ rather than ‘tev-ee-ott-dale’. A whaup is the bird otherwise known as the curlew. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.

The Hoofs of the Horses

The Hoofs of the Horses

The hoofs of the horses!—Oh! witching and sweet
Is the music earth steals from the iron-shod feet;
No whisper of lover, no trilling of bird
Can stir me as hoofs of the horses have stirred.

They spurn disappointment and trample despair,
And drown with their drum-beats the challenge of care;
With scarlet and silk for their banners above,
They are swifter than Fortune and sweeter than Love.

On the wings of the morning they gather and fly,
In the hush of the night-time I hear them go by—
The horses of memory thundering through
With flashing white fetlocks all wet with the dew.

When you lay me to slumber no spot you can choose
But will ring to the rhythm of galloping shoes,
And under the daisies no grave be so deep
But the hoofs of the horses shall sound in my sleep.

Re-read it now with the pace of a horse in canter. This poem was first published in Will’s 1922 anthology, ‘Galloping Shoes’, and later in the 1932 ‘The Collected Sporting Verse of Will H. Ogilvie. It is also reprinted in Ogilvie’s biography written by his son in 1994: ‘Balladist of Borders and Bush’. Reproduced in full with the permission of the copyright holder.
Listen to Wylie GUSTAFSON’s setting of Will’s poem to music, appearing on his Wylie & the Wild West’s Hooves of the Horses CD.

Unpublished work

Other documents of interest

Other Documents of interest – ‘History of the Will.H.Ogilive Memorial Trust’

James Jackson of Cumston, Corrie near Lockerbie and Ann Holt of Annan, both Dumfriesshire, formed a small committee of seven people in the Autumn of 1991 to raise funds to erect a memorial to the Borders Poet Will H. Ogilvie with the intentions of gaining him some recognition for the legacy he left in the form of his poems. It was also their intentions to reproduce his last book which was ‘Border Poems’.

The original committee members were:-

James Jackson
P Ann Holt
William Landles
Ian W Landles
Euphen F Alexander
J Graham B Murray
Billy S Young

The Will H Ogilvie Memorial Committee worked extremely hard and with the generosity of the general public eventually sufficient funds were raised to both reprint ‘Border Poems’ and pay for Bill Landles the Hawick sculptor to create a superb bronze book and face plate which were placed on a stone cairn built from reclaimed stone from the recently demolished Hawick Auction Mart and gifted by Andrew Hepburne-Scott of Harden. The builder of the Cairn was John Grant.

It was the committee’s intention to have a memorial cairn erected on the hill road to Roberton, as that was where the Poet’s ashes were scattered, in time to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of his death. However, as this was the 30th January they thought perhaps around the time of his birth that same year would be better. So on a beautiful Summers day, Saturday, 21st August, 1993, which of course was exactly 124 years since his birth, the Memorial Cairn to Will H. Ogilvie was unveiled by his son George before a substantial crowd of people from far and near. Afterwards all who wished were treated to a meal in the Foreman Hall, Roberton.

The efforts of these few people from the Scottish borders stirred up interest in the Poet in Australia and not to be outdone by us in Scotland the Australians commissioned Bill Landles to produce an exact copy of our Cairn for Bourke, N.S.W. There are also memorials to him at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Queensland and one at Maaoupe Station, Penola. And many, many of his poems have been reprinted and set to music since the committee got together in 1991. So I think their objectives have been realised and they have brought to the attention of a new and younger generation the delights of poetry.

The Will H Ogilvie Memorial Committee was renamed the Will H Ogilvie Memorial Trust and attained charitable status in March 2014.

Will Ogilvie: Poet of the Romantic Borderland - by William Landles