How doth I love skating? Let me count the ways... Just prior to the Sochi Olympics, I put together the blog's first collection of poetry about skating called "Patinage Poetry: The Language Of The Ice". Three years have passed, and now the seventh part of this collection brings to light several more beautifully crafted poems in tribute to everyone's favourite sport and art. Put on your beret and get ready to snap afterwards for another fabulous collection of historical skating poetry!
"SKATING" BY RUDYARD KIPLING (FROM "AN ALMANAC OF TWELVE SPORTS", 1898)
Over the ice she flies
Perfect and poised and fair -
Stars in my true-love's eyes
Teach me to do and to dare!
Now I will fly as she flies -
Woe for the stars that misled!
Stars that I saw in her eyes
Now do I see in my head!
"AN OLD SKATING DITTY" (UNKNOWN, BRITISH, EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY)
Little Billy Bates
Bought a pair of skates
But the ice was thin,
He fell on his back,
The ice went crack,
And Little Billy Bates fell in.
"SKATING SONG" BY PHILIP GILBERT HAMERTON (1855)
The lake is frozen bright and clear,
A mirror for the isles;
We skim the surface of the mere,
And never count the miles.
The sun behind the snowy hill
Sank down an hour ago;
The moon has found us gliding still,
As she clambers up the snow.
The golden ways are not so bright
That angels' feet entice,
As our receding path of light
Along the sounding ice.
The lake is like a polished floor.
"A SKATING INTERLUDE" BY KATE PUTNAM OSGOOD (1889)
"Six months ago it was," said he -
"It seems a century of changes -
Since here, beneath this very tree,
We watched the moonlit mountain ranges.
I hate this chattering, skating crowd
That so profanes our silent river,
The sacred spot where once we vowed
A faith that should endure forever!"
"And so we meet again," said he,
"In the same place where then we parted;
How the old time comes back to me!
The words that left us broken hearted."
Swift fell the answer from her mouth:
"Speak for yourself - if you remember,
The wind blows north that then blew south,
And June dies long before December!"
"And does a woman's heart," said he,
"Change like the wind or summer weather?
Yon moon is yet the same, you see,
That shone upon us here together."
"Ah, no!" she said, "that summer moon
Beamed with a radiance mild and tender,
While this forgets the warmth of June
In winter's far and frozen splendor."
"And does that mean farewell?" said he;
"Is it a warning to remember
That dream of June can never be
Which dies in such a chill December?
Your very words!" "Yet, even so,"
She said, controlling tears with laughter,
"Do you forget December snow
Melts in the June that follows after?"
"But shall I go or stay?" said he,
Searching her face with doubt and wonder;
"And if you care at all for me,
Why play at keeping us asunder?"
Because" she smiled, while softly fell
Above her eyes their deep-fringed curtain -
"I did not mean, at first, but well,
You seemed so odiously certain."
EXCERPT FROM "WINTER" FROM "THE SEASONS" BY JAMES THOMSON (1726)
Where the Rhine
Branch'd out in many a long canal extends,
From every province swarming, void of care,
Batavia rushes forth; and as they sweep,
On founding skates, a thousand different ways,
In circling poise, swift as the winds, along,
'The then gay land is madden'd to all joy.
Whereon the moonbeams play,
That lure us on, but evermore
Glitter and glide away.
"OUR KETTLE-DRUM ON THE ICE" - ENGRAVING FROM HARPER'S WEEKLY, POEM UNATTRIBUTED (1876)
All hail to King Winter? Who cares for his coldness,
The snow on his beard, or the ice on his brow?
He comes from the Northland; alarmed at his boldness,
The earth shrinks in terror, the tall forests bow.
At the touch of his hand, how the reed grasses quiver!
The chill of his breath floateth over the stream;
Then hushed is the song of the babbling river,
And flinty and hard do the soft wavelets gleam.
Far to the south has he driven the sparrow;
Insect and bird from his fury have fled;
Under the earth is his cell, cold and narrow,
Low lies the beaver; the flowerets are dead.
Fast in our houses old Winter would bind us;
Strong are his weapons, and wild his breath;
Harsh is the voice who fierce accents remind us,
"Look! how I bring you destruction and death!"
But we care not a toss for his fury and madness;
We laugh in his face, and we dread not his wrath.
He opens new doors unto mirth and to gladness;
On the face of the waters he builds us a path.
We smile at the brawler, and bravely determine,
Though loud in his boasting, no terror we'll feel;
We cover our hearts with a breastplate of ermine,
And marry his thrusts with the coat of the seal.
Boldly we venture far out on the river,
Firm 'neath our feet as our own mother earth.
We'll order a banquet; in case we should shiver,
The steam of the tea-pot shall add to our mirth.
Wrapped in our furs, o'er the ice we are chasing,
Merry our voices, our feet shod with steel;
On through the moonlight, with fond hands embracing,
Never a blast from old Winter we feel.
Winter is vanquished; where sweethearts are mating,
Who cares for a gray-beard so joyless and grum?
We'll give him his supper e'en while we are skating,
And hold on the river a cold kettle-drum.
"THE SKATERS" BY FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN (1881)
Like clouds they scud across the ice,
His hand holds hers as in a vice;
The moonlight strikes the back-blown hair
Of handsome Madge and Rupert Clare.
The ice resounds beneath the steel;
It groans to feel his spurning heel:
While ever with the following wind
A shadowy skater flits behind.
"Why skate we thus so far from land?
O Rupert Clare, let go my hand!
I cannot see—I cannot hear—
The wind about us moans with fear!"
His hand is stiffer than a vice,
His touch is colder than the ice,
His face is paler than the moon
That paves with light the lone lagoon!
"O Rupert Clare, I feel—I trace
A something awful in your face!
You crush my hand—you sweep me on—
Until my breath and sense are gone!"
His grasp is stiffer than a vice,
His touch is colder than the ice;
She only hears the ringing tune
Of skates upon the lone lagoon.
"O Rupert Clare! sweet Rupert Clare!
For heaven’s mercy hear my prayer!
I could not help my heart you know!
Poor Willy Gray,—he loves me so!"
His grip is stiffer than a vice,
His lip is bluer than the ice;
While ever thrills the ringing tune
Of skates along the lone lagoon.
"O Rupert Clare! where are your eyes?
The rotten ice before us lies!
You dastard! Loose your hold, I say!—
O God! Where are you, Willy Gray?”
A shriek that seems to split the sky,—
A wilder light in Rupert’s eye,—
She cannot—cannot loose that grip;
His sinewy arm is round her hip!
But like an arrow on the wind
The shadowy skater scuds behind;
The lithe ice rises to the stroke
Of steel-shod heels that seem to smoke.
He hurls himself upon the pair;
He tears his bride from Rupert Clare;
His fainting Madge, whose moist eyes say,
Ah! here, at last, is Willy Gray!
The lovers stand with heart to heart,—
"No more," they cry, "no more to part!"
But still along the lone lagoon
The steel skates ring a ghostly tune!
And in the moonlight, pale and cold,
The panting lovers still behold
The self-appointed sacrifice
Skating toward the rotten ice!
"A SKATING SONG" BY L.G.F. (ANONYMOUS)
Down the river, and on and on,
Over the shining floor,
Ringing clear of the skates that glide.
Singing, dear, to your racing ride,
As the sleigh slips past the shore,
Mother may stop, and the girl go on
Over the slippery floor,
Living for her when she is dead,
Giving a thought to the words she said,
Till the gray light's gray no more.
"KING SKATE" BY C. TURNER (1894)
Illustration by Henry S. Watson that accompanied Turner's poem when it was published in the January 1895 edition of "Outing"
With stealthy stride, o'er fleecy covered ways
Old Winter glides and grips the silv'ry flood.
Beneath his numbing grasp its action stays
And stagnant stands all nature's circling blood.
Then do I reign!
When call I forth my subjects, myriad-told,
Who love have cast th' inquiring eye for me,
Straightway I bid grim winter's terrors, bold!
And fill the world with carnivals of glee.
Ha! Ha! Right merry is my yearly reign,
And ever welcome is my buxom day.
The glow of health to faded cheeks again
Right soon I bring, and all the world make gay.
I blow my blast! and swift th' opposing clans
Whose doughty contests centre round "the puck,"
Gather from farthest concerns of the lands,
In fiercest struggles of sustained pluck.
Or gentle dames, and knights in serried ranks,
Thread the nice measures of the icy maze.
Whilst midst the waltzers Cupid plays his pranks,
And few escape the ardor of his chase.
For what gives music like my glassy plane,
Crystally clear, and wind swept by the breeze,
The poetry of motion mine attain;
Who can compare with my fair Coryphees?
Or swiftly forth to Lingay mere I bie,
And worlds in icy tourneys there array.
Fierce is the fray, zip! zip! the wing'd feet fly,
In eager battle for the victor's bay.
Who then can boast of merry days like mine,
Or who can hold so wide a sphere in thrall?
I warm the hearts of millions with my wine,
And winter's monarch I am crowned by all.
"SKATING BEFORE THE WIND" BY PHILIP GILBERT HAMERTON (1855)
They pile the Christmas logs at home,
And shiver by the fire ;
But as for heat, the boys that roam
Find more than they require.
We dress as lightly as we may,
For us no hearth is bright;
The low sun warms us not by day,
Nor the naked moon by night.
The prairie has no swifter steed
Than skates of narrow steel;
And highbred coursers when they bleed
Beneath a jockey's heel,
Leave not the ground behind them so,
And not so swiftly move,
As we with this cold ice below,
And colder stars above!
"Look down — the ice streams under us;
This is a frightful speed ! "
My friend looked down, but not for long,
And said, " It is, indeed."
The slippery ice streamed under us,
The ice so green and clear,
It seemed like water calm and deep
In the middle of the mere.
The roaring wind came after us;
And the rain-clouds in the sky,
Which, torn and scattered far and wide,
Were rolling heavily.
Our cloaks were like the sails of ships
Which the stormy tempest fills,
And, changing quickly, we could see
The outlines of the hills.
We left upon the dark-green ice
A track so faint and light,
It seemed as if we scarcely touched
Its surface in our flight.
A long white curve at every stroke,
A true and perfect line,
It seemed as if those mighty arcs
Were part of some design.
Traced swiftly on the tablet bright
Of that hard-frozen lake,
With those great golden compasses
That mighty angels take
To draw the orbits of the stars,
And mark their paths in space,
Or rainbows bright, or halos dim
About the moon's sweet face.