Good Writing On Rowing 2

Here are some more poems and “sayings” on the sport of rowing.

I was the pride of all the Thames
My name was Natty Jerry
The best of smart and flashy dames
I’ve carried in my wherry.

For then no mortal soul like me
So merrily did jog it,
I lov’d my wife, my friend, d’ye see
And won the prize of Doggett.

I Coat and Badge so neat and spruce
I row’d all blithe and merry
And every Waterman did use
To call me Happy Jerry.
From “Happy Jerry” by Charles Dibdin

Strong daughters of the golden south!
With health and beauty for your dower
Sure pledge of grander womanhood,
We hail with you this joyous hour.

We meet this day to dedicate
A noble craft to noble waters,
Sealed by these brief and simple rites,
To ten of San Diego’s daughters.

Manned by a crew as leal and true,
As e’er pulled oar or sailed a smack,
So let all other craft beware,
Nor try to sail athwart “The Zlac.”
From Philip Morse’s “Lines Written for the Launching of the ZLAC”, a barge that was launched 3 August 1895 at the ZLAC Rowing Club

I don’t care, you know, a bit how they row,
Nor mind about smartness of feather;
If steering is bad, I’m not at all sad,
Nor care if they all swing together!
Oh why do they shout and make such a rout,
When one boat another one chases?
‘Tis really too hot to bawl, is it not?
Or bore oneself over the Races!
From “A Regatta Rhyme” (On board the ‘Athena’, Henley-on-Thames) by Joseph Ashby-Sterry, published in Punch

If you want a receipt for that popular mystery,
known to the world as a ‘Varsity crew,
take all the redoubtable athletes in history,
tub them and coach them and clothe them in blue.
The giant physique of a Samson or Hercules,
skill of Apollo in steering the sun,
the custom of noted ascetics to shirk all ease –
e.g. St. Anthony, second to none –
the doggedness deep of the stone-rolling Sisyphus,
speed of a Hutchens when started to run;
a force irresistible used without busy fuss,
like sixty Hanlans rolled into one;
From “The ‘Blue’ Fever” by J. Maycock (with special thanks to ‘Hélène’)

Down the river the light fours roll
Like a tramp in the trough of a heavy sea,
Like a rakish elephant on a spree,
Striking despair to the inmost soul
Of the coach on his tow-path bike or gee,
Watching their plunging, staggering motion,
(As though they were not on the Cam, but the ocean).

Behind rides a man who is quite ignored,
“Out one … You’re straight … Out one again!”
But the steerer sneer with superb disdain –
Crash! And a sculler falls overboard,
And the four leaves a ruinous wake in the train,
Tubs, scullers and pairs – fairly makes one shiver –
And now Trail Eights are on the river!
“Light Fours” by R. E. Swartwout

I met a solid rowing friend, and asked about the race,
“How fared it with your wind,” I said, “when stroke increased the pace?
“You swung it forward mightily, you heaved it greatly back;
“Your muscles rose in knotted lumps, I almost heard them crack.
“And while we roared and rattled too, your eyes were fixed like glue,
“What thoughts went flying through your mind, how fared it, Five, with you?”
But Five made answer solemnly, “I heard them fire a gun,
“No other mortal thing I knew until the race was done.”
From “A Trinity Boating Song” by R. C. Lehmann

In future when the windless lake is still,
And sounds of evening bells float from the hill,

When skimming shells in straining practice fly
Up past the western shore, with coxswain’s cry

And rowlock’s rhythmic throb and wash of oar,
“The Old Man’ in his launch will come nor more.

He dwelt among us without blame or fear,
And trained his oarsmen many a zealous year;

He taught them manhood also; how to meet
Their fate, unspoiled by triumph or defeat.

“Row hard! And may the best crew win,” he said;
And victory hovered ever ‘round his head.

Alas, the crew, the lake, the changing shore
Shall see “The Old Man” in his launch no more.
“Charles E. Courtney” by Albert W. Smith


Come, my friends.

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
From “Ulysses” by Lord Tennyson

What after all, is a sportsman? As I understand the breed he is a one who has not merely braced his muscles and developed his endurance be exercise of some great sport, but has, in the pursuit of that exercise learnt to control his anger, to be considerate to his fellowmen, to take no mean advantage, to resent as a dishonour the very suspicion of trickery, to bear aloft a cheerful countenance under disappointment, and never to own himself defeat until the last breath is out of his body.
R. C. Lehmann

[“Stilton’s”] entire formative years, therefore, as you might say, had been spent in dipping an oar into the water, giving it a shove and hauling it out again. Only a pretty dumb brick would fritter away his golden youth doing that sort of thing.
Bertie Wooster about G. D’Arcy “Stilton” Cheesewright in P. G. Wodehouse’s Joy in the Morning


  1. Thank you for the allusion to my suggestion 😉

    I enjoy reading all this “good writing on rowing”…

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