Curling: A Poem


Fretted to atoms by the poignant air,

Frigid and Hyperborean flies the snow,

In many a vortex of monades, wind-wing'd,

Hostile to naked noses, dripping oft

A crystal humour, which as oft is wip'd

From the blue lip wide-gash'd: the hanging sleeve

That covers all the wrist, uncover'd else,

The peasant's only handkerchief, I wot,

Is glaz'd with blue-brown ice. But reckless still

Of cold, or drifted snow, that might appal

The city coxcomb, arm'd with besoms, pour

The village youngsters forth, jocund and loud,

And cover all the loch: With many a tug,

The pond'rous stone, that all the Summer lay

Unoccupy'd along its oozy side,

Now to the mud fast frozen, scarcely yields

The wish'd-for vict'ry to the brawny youth,

Who, braggart of his strength, a circling crowd

Has drawn around him, to avouch the feat:

Short is his triumph, fortune so decrees;

Applause is chang'd to ridicule, at once

The loosen'd stone gives way, supine he falls,

And prints his members on the pliant snow.

The goals are marked out; the centre each

Of a large random circle; distance scores

Are drawn between, the dread of weakly arms.

Firm on his cramp-bits stands the steady youth,

Who leads the game: Low o'er the weighty stone

He bends incumbent, and with nicest eye

Surveys the further goal, and in his mind

Measures the distance; careful to bestow

Just force enough: then, balanc'd in his hand,

He flings it on direct; it glides along

Hoarse murmuring, while, plying hard before,

Fail many a besom sweeps away the snow,

Or inicle, that might obstruct its course.

But cease, my muse! what numbers can describe

The various game? Say, canst thou paint the blush

Impurpled deep, that veils the stripling's cheek,

When, wand'ring wide, the stone neglects the rank ,

And hops midway? — His opponent is glad,

Yet fears a sim'lar fate, while ev'ry mouth

Cries, off the hog , and T INTO joins the cry.

Or couldst thou follow the experienc'd play'r

Thro' all the myst'ries of his art? or teach

The undisciplin'd how to wick , to guard ,

Or ride full out the stone that blocks the pass?

The bonspeel o'er, hungry and cold, they hie

To the next ale-house; where the game is play'd

Again, and yet again, over the jug;

Until some hoary hero, haply he

Whose sage direction won the doubtful day,

To his attentive juniors tedious talks

Of former times; — of many a bonspeel gain'd,

Against opposing parishes; and shots ,

To human likelihood secure, yet storm'd:

With liquor on the table, he pourtrays

The situation of each stone. Convinc'd

Of their superior skill, all join, and hail

Their grandsires steadier, and of surer hand.

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