If you have need of flabbier times,
Colensos, Stormbergs, Spion Kops,
Tell cricketers to take to rhymes,
And smash at once the cross-bar props.
When sportsmen, tied to sport, refuse
To offer lead the loyal breast,
To tramp for miles in bloody shoes,
To smirch their souls, to crack their thews,
Then let the poet rail his best,
Aye, if our social state be planned
Devoid of giant games of ball,
Macaulay’s visitor will stand
The earlier on the crumbled wall.
Nerve, daring, sprightliness, and pluck
Improve by noble exercise;
The wish to soar above the ruck,
The power to laugh at dirty luck
And face defeat with sparkling eyes,
By George, there goes the supper-bell!
And yet your duffing Uncle Bob
Has never told you what befell
When all his team got out for blob.
So much for bad poetic gas
That gets my ancient dander up!
Well, to the banquet! What is crass
Shall deeply drown in radiant Bass
While we as Vikings greatly sup,
I refuse to find attractions
In the ancient Roman native;
I am sick to death of fractions,
And of verbs that take the dative:
It is mine to be recorder
Of a boy’s congested brain, Sir,
With the pitch in perfect order
And the weather like champagne, Sir!
I—the sport of conjugations—
I am cooped up as a lodger
Where I serve out mental rations
To a proudly backward dodger.
While the two of us are dreaming
Of the canvas and the creases,
Close we sit together, scheming
How to pull an ode to pieces.
Even now in London’s gabble
Memory’s magic tricks the senses!
Plain I hear the streamlet babble,
Smell the tar on country fences:
Down the road Miss Grey from Marlett
Skirts the fox-frequented thicket,
In her belt a rose of scarlet,
In her eyes the love of cricket.
There’s my mother with her ponies
Underneath Sir Toby’s beeches,
Pulling up to share with cronies
News of grapes and plums and peaches:
Many a gaffer stops to fumble
At his forelock as she passes,
While the children cease to tumble
Frocks and blouses in the grasses.
Though my body stays with duty
Here to work a sum or rider,
Mother’s magnet and her beauty
Draw my soul to sit beside her!
Ah, what luck if I were able
There to play once more in flannels,
Free from all this littered table,
Virgil’s farmyard, Ovid’s annals!