Archive for October 16th, 2012

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Lasca by Frank Desprez

Oh, it’s all very well to write reviews, and carry umbrellas and keep dry shoes.
To say what everyone’s saying here, and wear what everyone else must wear,
But tonight I’m sick of the whole affair, I want free life and I want fresh air.
I want free life and I want fresh air;
And I long for the gallop after the cattle,
In their frantic flight, like the roar of battle,
The mêlée of horns, and hoofs, and heads
That wars and wrangles and scatters and spreads—
The green beneath and the blue above,
And dash and danger, and life and love —
And Lasca!
Lasca used to ride
On a mouse-gray mustang close to my side,
With blue serapé and bright-belled spur;
I laughed with joy as I looked at her!
Little knew she of books or of creeds;
An Avé Maria sufficed her needs;
Little she cared, save to be by my side,
To ride with me, and ever to ride,
From San Saba’s shore to Lavaca’s tide.
She was as bold as the billows that beat,
She was as wild as the breezes that blow;
From her little head to her little feet
She was swayed in her suppleness to and fro
By each gust of passion; a sapling pine
That clings to the edge of a beetling bluff,
And wars with the wind when the weather is rough,
Is like this Lasca, this love of mine.
She would hunger that I might eat,
She’d take the bitter and leave me the sweet;
But once, when I made her jealous for fun,
At something I’d whispered, or looked, or done,
One Sunday, in San Antonio,
To a glorious girl in the Alamo,
She drew from her garter a dear little dagger,
And—sting of a wasp!—it made me stagger—
An inch to the left, or an inch to the right,
And I wouldn’t be maundering here to-night;
But she sobbed, and, sobbing, so swiftly bound
Her torn rebosa about the wound,
That I quite forgave her. Scratches don’t count
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

Her eye was brown—a deep, deep brown;
Her hair was darker than her eye;
And something in her smile and frown,
Curled crimson lip and instep high,
Showed that there ran in each blue vein,
Mixed with the milder Aztec strain,
The vigorous vintage of Old Spain.
She was alive in every limb
With feeling, to the finger tips;
And when the sun is like a fire,
And the sky one shining, soft sapphire—
One does not drink in little sips.
The air was heavy, the night was hot,
I sat by her side, and forgot—forgot;
Forgot the herd that was taking its rest,
Forgot that the air was close oppressed—
That the Texas norther comes without warning,
In the dead of night or the dawn of morning—
And once let the herd at its breath take fright,
And nothing on earth can stop its flight;
And woe to the rider, and woe to the steed,
That falls in front of its mad stampede!

Hark! Was that thunder? No, by the Lord!
I sprang to my saddle without a word:
One foot on mine, and she clung behind—
Away! on a wild chase down the wind!
And never was the fox-chase half so hard,
And never was steed so little spared—
For we rode for our lives: you shall hear how we fared
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

The mustang flew, and we urged him on;
There was one chance left, and you have but one—
Halt, jump to the ground, and shoot your horse,
Crouch under his carcass and take your chance;
And if the steers, in their frantic course,
Don’t batter you both to pieces at once,
You may thank your star; or else, good-bye
To the quickening kiss and the long-drawn sigh,
To the balmy air and the open sky,
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

The cattle gained on us—and just as I felt
For my old six-shooter behind in my belt,
Down came the mustang, and down came we,
Clinging together, and—what was the rest—?
A body that spread itself over my breast,
Two arms that shielded my dizzy head,
Two lips that close to my lips were pressed;
Then came thunder in my ears,
As over us surged the sea of steers,
Blows that beat blood into my eyes,
And when I could rise—
Lasca was dead!

I gouged out a grave a few feet deep,
And there in Earth’s bosom I laid her to sleep;
And there she is lying—and no one knows—
‘Neath summer’s sun and winter’s snows;
Full many a day the flowers have spread
A pall of petals over her head.

And the little gray hawk hangs aloft in the air,
And the sly coyoté trots here and there,
And the black snake glides, and glitters and slides
Into a rift in a cotton-wood tree;
And the buzzard sails on—
And comes and is gone—
Stately and still like a ship at sea.
And I wonder why I do not care
For the things that are, like the things that were—
Does half my heart lie buried there
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande?


Date: 1882

By: Frank Desprez (1853-1916)