LIGHTNING
by
Fred Leigh
 Why am I looking so down in the mouth,
And why are the tears in my eyes?
Well, no one has asked me the question,
So I'll tell you the wherefores and whys.

You see this here ha'p'oth of cats-meat - 
It doesn't look much, I'll admit,
But it's all I've got left of the finest old cab horse 
That ever wore bridle and bit.

Ah, me! when I think of poor Lightning - 
For that was the old horse's name -
I think of his grandest performance - 
The deed that established his fame.

You've heard of it? No? You surprise me. 
Then whether you like it or not,
I'll tell you what that Lightning did once on a time, 
And how he got the name that he got.

You talk of your famous race horses, 
And what they have done on the course,
Yet no one but me has a word to say
About Lightning the famous cab-horse.

He may not have won any Derbies, 
But if you had looked at his joints,
As they stuck through his skin, you'd have to admit 
That at least he'd got plenty of points.

One day near the National Gallery, 
My cab was the first on the rank,
And somebody shouted, 'Four-wheeler, 
I want you to drive to the Bank.

Go straight through the City of London, 
Don't lose time by taking short cuts;
I'll give you an extra three-ha'pence 
If you get there before the Bank shuts.'

I thought for awhile. Could we do it? 
The church clock was then striking one;
The Bank closed at four. Dare I risk it? 
By heaven, yes, the deed should be done.

I undid the old horse's nose-bag, 
And woke him up out of his nap.
'Here's the chance of your life-time,' I whispered, 
'Just show what you're made of old chap.'

I climbed on the box, and we started - 
My mates came and lent me a hand,
And in less than an hour and three quarters 
We were dashing full pelt down the Strand.

We reached Charing Cross in a twinkling, 
And before it was twenty past three,
So swift was the pace we were making 
That Somerset House we could see.

On, on through the roar of the traffic, 
And the bus-drivers shouted 'Hurrah!'
As we rushed like the wind past the Law Courts, 
And almost knocked down Temple Bar.

The brave horse was galloping grandly - 
He'd made up his mind we should win,
And he threw up his head with defiance 
As we cannoned an orderly bin.

He paused for a while near Chancery Lane 
To shake a few flies off his ear;
But ten minutes later he braced himself up 
And continued his headlong career.

On, on once again, with a loosened rein 
Down Fleet Street we gallantly sped,
And we raced with a funeral procession 
And we beat the last coach by a head.

'Twas then that I thought of the fare inside. 
Through the window I ventured to peep;
Ah, little he cared for the dangers we dared - 
The bounder had fallen asleep!

Before me I saw Ludgate Circus, 
And yonder uprose Ludgate Hill,
And I knew that the terrible crossing 
Demanded a driver's best skill.

The traffic was something enormous. 
From all sides the vehicles flocked,
So I turned up Shoe Lane to escape them, 
And there for two hours we were blocked.

But as the swift moments were flying, 
I made up my mind what to do:
I'd take a short cut round the 'Angel', 
And thus save a mile - perhaps two;

But as we were racing through Smithfield, 
A mist seemed to come o'er my brain,
And before I knew where we were going 
We were near Ludgate Circus again.

Then Lightning showed what he was made of. 
We knocked over three apple stalls,
And dashed up the hill - past Old Bailey - 
And round the wrong side of St Pauls.

Back, back once again round the churchyard - 
Through Cannon Street under the hour,
And Lightning got into his paces 
By the time we were passing the Tower.

Down Whitechapel Road, and through Houndsditch, 
The old horse sped on with his load,
And the Police stopped us three times for loitering, 
And charged us with blocking the road.

Up Bishopsgate Street into Shoreditch, 
And when old Hackney church was in sight,
Poor Lightning sat down on his tailpiece, 
And slept there the rest of the night.

We'd worked hard to get to the Bank in time, 
And in Lightning's defence, I must say,
Though we didn't arrive there before the place shut, 
We were there when it opened next day.  
The end