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Its popularity among the Negroes throughout the slave-holding states was great, and it was their nearest approach to an epic. It
"' When that they came to the middle of the course, Skewball and his rider began a discourse, Come, my brave rider, come tell unto me, How far is Miss Grizzle this moment from me.'
This is a Manchester (England) broadside (Bebbington, No. 206). In this version the mare with whom Skewball races is called 'Miss Grizzle."'
(From The Vocal Library^ London, 1822, p. 526.)
1424. SKEW BALL
Come, gentlemen sportsmen, I pray, listen all, I will sing you a song in the praise of Skew Ball; And how he came over, you shall understand, It was by Squire Mervin, the pearl of this land. And of his late actions as you've heard before, He was lately challeng'd by one Sir Ralph Gore, For five hundred pounds, on the plains of Kildare, To run with Miss Sportly, that famous grey mare.
Skew Ball then hearing the wager was laid,
Unto his kind master said — Don't be afraid;
For if on my side you thousands lay would,
I would rig on your castle a fine mass of gold!
The day being come and the cattle walk'd forth,
The people came flocking from East, South, and North,
For to view all the sporters, as I do declare,
And venture their money all on the grey mare.
Squire Mervin then, smiling, unto them did say, Come, gentlemen, all that have money to lay; And you that have hundreds I will lay you all, For I'll venture thousands on famous Skew Ball. Squire Mervin then, smiling, unto them did say, Come, gentlemen sportsmen, to morrow's the day, Spurs, horses, and saddles and bridles prepare, For you must away to the plains of Kildare.
The day being come, and the cattle walk'd out,
Squire Mervin order'd his rider to mount,
And all the spectators to clear the way,
The time being come not one moment delay.
The cattle being mounted away they did fly,
Skew Ball like an arrow pass'd Miss Sportly by;
The people went up to see them go round,
They said in their nearts they ne'er touch'd the ground.
Butas they were running in the midst of the sport,*
Squire Mervin to his rider began his discourse:
OI loving kind rider, come teU unto me,
How far at this moment Miss Sportly's from thee;
O! loving kind master, you bear a great style,
The grey mare's behind you a long English mile.
If the saddle maintains me, I'll warrant you there,
You ne'er shall be beat on the plains of Kildare.
But as they were running by the distant chair,f
The gentlemen cry'd out — Skew Ball never fear,
Altho' in this country thou wast ne'er seen before,
Thou hast beaten Miss Sportly, and broke Sir Ralph Gore.
* Read " course " (as in the broadside)?
t Var. (broadside): " But as she was running by the distance chair."