Ay, give me the lad who is eager and chubby,
A Stoddart in little, a hero in bud;
Who’d think it a positive crime to grow tubby,
And dreams half the night he’s a Steel or a Studd!
There’s the youth for my fancy, all youngsters above—
The boy for my handshake, the lad for my love!
I know that Bowler, dark and lean,
Who holds his tongue, and pegs away,
And never fails to come up keen,
However hard and straight I play.
Spinning and living, from his hand
The leather, full of venom, leaps;
How nicely are his changes planned,
And what a lovely length he keeps!
Because he pulls his brim so low,
However earnestly one tries
One never sees the darkling glow,
That must be nimble in his eyes.
The fellow’s judgment never nods,
His watchful spirit never sleeps.
There was a clinking ball! Ye gods,
Why, what a splendid length he keeps!
At times he bowls an awkward ball
That in the queerest manner swerves,
And this delivery of them all
Takes most elastic from my nerves:
It comes, and all along my spine
A sense of desolation creeps;
Till now the mastery is mine,
But—what a killing length he keeps!
That nearly passed me! That again
Miraculously missed the bails!
Too good a sportsman to complain,
He never flags, he never stales.
Small wonder if his varied skill
So fine a harvest daily reaps,
For how he marries wit and will!
And what a deadly length he keeps!
UNCLE BOB INDIGNANT.
("Flannelled fools at the wicket")
Come, poke the fire, pull round the screen,
And fill me up a glass of grog
Before I tell of matches seen
And heroes of the mighty slog!
While hussies play near mistletoe
The game of kiss-me-if-you-dare,
I’ll dig for you in memory’s snow,
And where my eager spade shall go
Uncover bliss for you to share,
As sloppiness our sport bereaves
Of what was once a glorious zest,
And female men are thick as thieves,
With croquet, ping-pong, and the rest,
Prophetic eyes discern the shame
Shall humble England in the dust;
And in their graves our sires shall flame
With scorn to know the Nation’s game
Cat’s-cradle; Cricket gone to rust,
Ah, for a winged and wounding pen,
In vigour dipped, to pierce the age
When girls are athletes, not the men,
And toughness dwindles from the stage!—
When purblind poet cannot see
That in the games he wishes barred,
Eager, and hungry to be free
As when it triumphed on the sea,
The Viking spirit battles hard,