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Chivalry of Sport


LXXXII

The Soldier's Game

Pluck, endurance, submission to discipline, good temper, calmness, judgment, quickness of observation, self-control, are all qualities as essential in a good polo player as in a good soldier.—Badminton LibraryPolo.

HERE'S a song of the game we play
Out on the burnt maidân,
Right from Poona to Mandalay,
"Trichy" to far Mooltan.


Sahib and Jemadar here may meet:
Victory's laurels rest
Still with the daring, bold, and fleet
Sons of the East or West.


Rules of precedence too we doff,
Etiquette's self is blind;
Subalterns ride their Colonel off,
Nor does the Colonel mind.


Here's a verse for the steeds we ride,
Never a swerve or flinch,
Hunter's strength with a racehorse stride,
Fourteen hands and an inch.


Arab, and Waler, and country-bred,
Chestnut, and brown, and bay,
Sloping shoulder and lean game head,
Built to gallop and stay.


Here's to the "one" who'll never shirk,
Doing the thing he's told.
Here's to the "three" who knows his work
Resolute, safe, and bold.


Here's to the "back's" unerring aim
Never a moment late.
Here's to the man who wins the game
Galloping hard and straight.


Blinding and dense the dust-clouds roll,
Little the horsemen mind,
Racing hard for the distant goal,
Thunder of hoofs behind;


On to the ball when the pace is quick,
Galloping all the way,
Stirrup to stirrup and stick to stick—
God, what a game to play!


This is the law that mayn't be broke,
This is our chiefest pride;
Never a single selfish stroke,
Every man for the side.


This is the toast we love to drink,
Every night the same,
Bumpers all! and the glasses clink,
"Here's to the Soldier's Game!"


LXXXIII

Racing Rhymes

HAVE you felt the joy that is almost fear
As you face the ditch and are two lengths clear,
And you hear the thunder of hoofs in rear?
There is just a second when you may see
Clear out what the consequence will be—
If you go too close or take off too far
Comes a rending crash and a sickening jar,
A futile arm that you raise to defend,
And the battering hoofs that bring the end.


You are stride for stride, and you set your lip
As you urge with your heel and raise your whip,
And the moment he feels the whipcord sting
He leaps from the track with a glorious spring.
You hear the crash as the stout birch sunders,
And gain a length as your rival blunders.


LXXXIV

The River Bathe

WHEN the messenger sunbeam over your bed
Silently creeps in the morn;
And the dew-drops glitter on flower and tree,
Like the tears of hope new-born;
When the clouds race by in the painted sky
And the wind has a merry tune:
Ah! then for the joy of an early dip
In the glorious pools of Lune!


Up! up from your bed! Let the sluggards lie
In an airy palace of dreams,
Respond to the joyous lapwing's call
And the song of the burbling streams!
Oh, balmy the air, and wondrous fair
Are the hills with sunlight crowned,
And all the voices of nature seem
To mingle in one glad sound.


Then hurry along, for as light as the heart
Are the feet on a morning in June,
To the banks that are speckled with sunshine and shade,
'Neath the guardian trees of Lune,
Where the eddies play with the rocks all day
In a whirl of fretful fun,
And the wavelet kisses the pebbly shore
With a mirrored smile from the sun.


A good brave plunge in the crystal cool
Of this grand primeval tub:
Then glowing you stand on the warm dry rocks
By the edge of the foaming Dub.
Then homeward along, like the soul of a song
That has every note in tune;
And dear will the memory always be
Of the glorious pools of Lune.


LXXXV

To a Black Greyhound

SHINING black in the shining light,
Inky black in the golden sun,
Graceful as the swallow's flight,
Light as swallow, wingèd one,
Swift as driven hurricane—
Double-sinewed stretch and spring,
Muffled thud of flying feet,
See the black dog galloping,
Hear his wild foot-beat.


See him lie when the day is dead,
Black curves curled on the boarded floor.
Sleepy eyes, my sleepy-head—
Eyes that were aflame before.
Gentle now, they burn no more;
Gentle now and softly warm,
With the fire that made them bright
Hidden—as when after storm
Softly falls the night.


God of speed, who makes the fire—
God of Peace, who lulls the same—
God who gives the fierce desire,
Lust for blood as fierce as flame—
God who stands in Pity's name—
Many may ye be or less,
Ye who rule the earth and sun:
Gods of strength and gentleness,
Ye are ever one.


LXXXVI

Hymn to the Wild Boar

GOD gave the horse for man to ride,
And steel wherewith to fight,
And wine to swell his soul with pride
And women for delight:
But a better gift than these all four
Was when He made the fighting boar.


The horse is filled with spirit rare,
His heart is bold and free;
The bright steel flashes in the air,
And glitters hungrily.
But these were little use before
The Lord He made the fighting boar.


The ruby wine doth banish care,
But it confounds the head;
The fickle fair is light as air,
And makes the heart bleed red;
But wine nor love can tempt us more
When we may hunt the fighting boar.


When Noah's big monsoon was laid,
The land began to ride again,
And then the first hog-spear was made
By the hands of Tubal Cain;
The sons of Shem and many more
Came out to ride the fighting boar.


Those ancient Jew boys went like stinks,
They knew not reck nor fear,
Old Noah knocked the first two jinks,
And Nimrod got the spear.
And ever since those times of yore
True men do ride the fighting boar.


LXXXVII

Ivinghoe Hill

HERE, where three counties join hands in alliance,
Terrace on terrace and glade upon glade,
Ashridge looms up like a keep of the giants,
Buttressed with beech woods from Aldbury to Gade.
Northwards the vale stretches smiling and spacious,
Spurs of the Chilterns the far distance fill;
Never held dreamland a prospect more gracious:
Sunlight and shadow on Ivinghoe hill.


Here, uneffaced by two thousand years' weather,
Scarred on the chalk down and stamped in the clay,
Linking the Eastland and Westland together,
Runs the long line of the great Icknield Way.
Here, in the days of the dawning of history,
Marched the Iceni to plunder and kill;
Over it all hangs the glamour of mystery:
Shades of the past under Ivinghoe hill.


Yonder's the knoll where the beacon was lighted,
Northward and eastward the red message runs:
"Philip's tall ships in the Channel are sighted;
Arm, for your country hath need of her sons!"
Straightway they rose and flung back the Armada.
Lives the same spirit within our hearts still?
Can England muster such champions to guard her?
Mists of the future round Ivinghoe hill.


Hush! A brown form through the gorse stems is stealing,
Off to the vale with a wave of his brush!
Heedless of aught that the future's concealing,
Back to the present we come with a rush.
One ringing shout to the horsemen who follow,
Waking the woods till they echo and thrill;
Now the horn answers: Hark holloa! hark holloa!
Huntsman and hound upon Ivinghoe hill.


LXXXVIII

Cricket: the Catch

WHIZZING, fierce, it came
Down the summer air,
Burning like a flame
On my fingers bare,
And it brought to me
As swift—a memory.


Happy days long dead
Clear I saw once more.
Childhood that is fled:—
Rossall on the shore,
Where the sea sobs wild
Like a homesick child.


Oh, the blue bird's fled!
Never man can follow.
Yet at times instead
Comes this scarlet swallow,
Bearing on its wings
(Where it skims and dips,
Gleaming through the slips)
Sweet Time-strangled things.


LXXXIX

Rugby Football

(Written on receiving the Football Match List from Ilkley Grammar School)

YOU came by last night's mail
To my strange little mud-built house,
At a time when the blues were on my trail
And I'd little to do but grouse.
For the world seemed a-swim with ooze,
With everything going wrong,
And though I knew that we couldn't lose,
Yet the end of it all seemed long.
The sandbag bed felt hard,
And exceedingly cold the rain,
But you sang to me, little green card,
And gave me courage again;
For at sight of the old green back
And the dear familiar crest,
I was off and away on memory's track,
Where Rumbold's Moor stands bleak and black
And the plaintive curlews nest.
Then, thin and clear, I seemed to hear—
Now low and sweet, now high and strong—
A note of cheer to banish fear;
The little card sang thus his song.


The Song

There's a broad green field in a broad green vale,
There's a bounding ball and a straining pack;
There's a clean cold wind blowing half a gale,
There's a strong defence and a swift attack.
There's a roar from the "touch" like an angry sea,
As the struggle wavers from goal to goal;
But the fight is clean as a fight should be,
And they're friends when the ball has ceased to roll.
Clean and keen is the grand old rule,
And heart and courage must never fail.
They are making men where the grey stone school
Looks out on the broad green vale.
Can you hear the call? Can you hear the call?
Now, School! Now, School! Play up!
There's many a knock and many a fall
For those who follow a Rugger ball;
But hark! can you hear it? Over all—
Now, School! Now, School! Play up!


She makes her men and she sends them forth,
O proud old mother of many sons!
The Ilkley breed has proved its worth
Wherever the bond of Empire runs;
But near or far the summons clear
Has sought them out from town and heath,
They've met the foeman with a cheer,
And face to face have smiled on death.
They are fighting still to the grand old rule,
That heart and courage must never fail—
If they fall, there are more where the grey stone school
Looks out on the broad green vale.
Can you hear the call? Can you hear the call
That drowns the roar of Krupp?
There are many who fight and many who fall
Where the big guns play at the Kaiser's ball,
But hark!—can you hear it? Over all—
Now, School! Now, School! Play up!


So when old age has won the fight
That godlike youth can never win,
The mind turns from the coming night,
To boyish visions flooding in;
And by the hearth the old man dreams
Of school and all it meant to him,
Till in the firelight's kindly beams
The wise old eyes grow very dim.
But he's lived his life to the grand old rule
That heart and courage must never fail;
So he lifts his glass to the grey stone school
That looks on the broad green vale.
Can you hear the call? Can you hear the call?
Here's a toast, now! Fill the cup!
Though the shadow of fate is on the wall,
Here's a final toast ere the darkness fall—
"The days of our boyhood—best of all!"
Now, School! Now, School! Play up!