Droighneach III: Tiercel

He stood sixteen hands high, and then some. Thoroughbred,
Good-natured, but never stirred the stands. Bay, begotten
Of a storied sire, too far from the fountainhead
For higher things. His star fell; broken, failed, forgotten.

I came across him in rough-and-ready retirement.
Little lame, but tough, his heady past and programming
Still chasing through him – an electric enchantment –
And, blood racing, I grew into him, hammering

Cross-country; a shy boy belatedly believing
In himself, the joy of speed; and through the thundering
Of hooves and heart, I heard my soul sing plain, perceiving
The start of feeling whole, ending my wild wondering

About my place and purpose. Perilous, predicting
Life so lightly: no trace of it, or him, evident
Now; fear, finance, tyrant Time’s tireless roll, restricting
Duties – all hold me here. But the pull’s persistent.


Here’s how stressful my week has been: writing another droighneach counts as fun and relaxation…

Anyway, my third go-round at this horribly intricate form is a tribute to Tiercel, a craggy, big-hearted ex-racehorse I rode throughout the glorious summer of 1984, when I was a gauche, insecure and insular lad of 15, and had started riding just the previous winter. Swaggering around on a giant bay steeplechaser when all your friends (and your sister, who’s been riding for years) are still on ponies does wonders for a fragile sense of self. He was well past his best (which hadn’t been that great anyway, by all accounts) but once he got going, boy could he motor: his half-brother was the brilliant Night Nurse, who won the blue-riband Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham two years running.
It was 30 years ago this summer, and Tiercel was well into his teens then, so he’ll be long gone now. But I’ve never forgotten him, and although I haven’t ridden in years, even now few things swell my heart like the grace and courage of the English Thoroughbred. Happy trails, big fella. N.

6 thoughts on “Droighneach III: Tiercel

    • I nearly own the droighneach now, but it’s never going to be an easy one. It’s having to end each line with a three-syllable word that a) alliterates with the preceding one and b) fits an ABAB rhyme scheme that’s the killer for me. Glad you like the poem: he was a fine horse. N.xx

  1. Wow Nick! What a great poem, and it’s a droighneach too! You have mastered it so much better than I have at this point. I’ve been trying to write a Miltonian sonnet with a tail for days and gotten nowhere. I hope you enjoy your time off.
    You can hear the thundering of hooves and heart in the lines. They race with the droighneach’s strange, compelling rhymes, alliteration, and rhythms. I wish I had gotten such mastery, but my efforts are still works in progress.

    • Thanks, Tom. I wanted to have one more try at the droighneach to be sure I’d ‘got’ it, and it seems to have worked – although it ain’t getting any easier! I enjoyed using the alliterations, odd rhythms and line breaks to give it a sense of momentum and movement, but I think the next piece will be something a bit less strenuous! N.

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