Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Thursday, May 10, 2012

At Putney

At Putney

When eight strong fellows are out to row,
With a slip of a lad to guide them,
I warrant they’ll make the light ship go,
Though the coach on the launch may chide them,
With his “Six, get on to it! Five, you’re late!

Don’t hurry the slides, and use your weight!
You're bucketing, Bow; and, as to Four,
The sight of his shoulders makes me sore!”

But Stroke has steadied his fiery men,
And the lift on the boat gets stronger;
And the Coxswain suddenly shouts for “Ten!

Reach out to it, longer, longer!”
While the wind and the tide raced hand in hand
The swing of the crew and the pace were grand;

But now that the two meet face to face
It’s buffet and slam and a tortoise-pace.

For Hammersmith Bridge has rattled past,
And, oh, but the storm is humming.

The turbulent white steeds gallop fast;
They’re tossing their crests and coming.

It’s a downright rackety, gusty day,
And the backs of the crew are drenched in spray;
But it’s “Swing, boys, swing till you’re deaf and blind,

And you’ll beat and baffle the raging wind.”

They have slipped through Barnes; they are round the bend;
And the chests of the eight are tightening.
“Now spend your strength, if you’ve strength to spend,
And away with your hands like lightning!
Well rowed!” - and the coach is forced to cheer -
“Now stick to it, all, for the post is near! ”

And, lo, they stop at the coxswain’s call,

With its message of comfort, “Easy all!”
So here’s to the sturdy undismayed

Eight men who are bound together
By the faith of the slide and the flashing blade
And the swing and the level feather;
To the deeds they do and the toil they bear;
To the dauntless mind and the will to dare;

And the joyous spirit that makes them one
Till the last fierce stroke of the race is done.

R. C. Lehmann

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