Rudie Lehmann’s Rowing Style

We all have our ‘rowing heroes’. One of mine is Rudolph Chambers Lehmann (1856-1929) – R.C. Lehmann – who was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He became a famous coach, both for Oxford and Cambridge, but also for Leander, Harvard University, Trinity College (Dublin) and Berliner Ruderklub. During a few years, he was a Member of Parliament for the Liberals. Lehmann wrote some very good books on rowing, and wrote articles for Punch. He is also known as a poet, who wrote light verse which was mostly published in Punch. Here is one fine example:

Style and the Oar

To sit upon a seat
With the straps about your feet,
And to grasp an oar and use it, to recover and to slide,
And to keep your body swinging,
And to get the finish ringing,
And to send the light ship leaping as she whizzes on the tide!

To make the rhythm right
And your feather clean and bright,
And to slash as if you loved it, though your muscles seem to crack;
And, although your brain is spinning,
To be sharp with your beginning,
And to heave your solid body indefatigably back;

Not to be a fraction late
When the rate is thirty-eight;
To be quick when stroke demands it, to be steady when he’s slow;
And to keep a mind unheeding
When the other lot are leading,
And to set your teeth and brace your back and just to make her go.

And when she gives a roll
To swing out with heart and soul,
And to balance her and rally her and get her trim and true;
And while the ship goes flying
To hear the coxswain crying,
“Reach our, my boys, you’ll do it!” and, by Jupiter, you do!

To seek your bed at ten,
And to tumble out again
When the clocks are striking seven and the winds of March are chill;
To be resolute and steady,
Cheerful, regular, and ready
For a run upon the Common or a tramp up Putney Hill;

To sink yourself and be
Just a unit, and to see
How the individual withers and the crew is more and more;
And to guard without omission
Every glorious tradition
That the ancient heroes founded when they first took up an oar;

In short, to play the game
Not so much for name or fame
As to win a common honour for your colours light or dark –
Oh! It’s this has made your crew-man
Such a chivalrous and true man
Since the day that Father Noah went a-floating in the Ark.

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