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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