To An Oarsman

Yesterday, working with the marvellous rowing stuff at the National Rowing Foundation’s National Rowing Hall of Fame, I found a rowing poem that I would like to share with you. I do not know who wrote it or when, or what it has to do with the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen, but on top of the printed sheet of paper it said just that: Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen. The last line could, of course, nowadays read, for those who like, “/ – a game that was built for a woman./”

Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen

To An Oarsman

Have you heard the old call that comes to us all
To get out in the fields and the air;
To shove into a heap the letters that keep
You chained fast to your desk and your chair?

Do you know the delight of a chill moonlit night,
As your paddle flashes and gleams,
And you see the big moon rising up o’er the gloom
Of the pines, where your camp fire beams?

Have you set decoys, to learn all the joys
Of the whir and the incoming swing
Of the blue-bills or teal as you see them to wheel
And come in with dropped foot and set wing?

Have you straightened your kinks on an eighteen-hole links,
Do you know the champagne of a drive
That lifts the ball true, a white speck in the blue,
That rises, then carries, then drives?

If you’ve answered the call, you’ve perhaps tried them all,
And others besides, for there’s more;
But tell me, my friend, ‘ere I come to the end,
Have you pulled out your heart at an oar?

Have you sat at the line, with cold chills down your spine,
Just before a hard race had begun,
When each moment intense seems a year of suspense
While you watch for the flash of the gun?

Have you seen your own sweep, as you swing, seem to creep
Past the boat that’s not ten yards away,
While you tighten your grip, as the oars flash and rip
With a swirl through the water and spray –

And your eyes sting with sweat, and you fight had to get
Your next breath, and your tongue’s like a bone;
Have you given her ten then done it again,
When you’re rowing on pure nerve alone?

Have you dropped with the gun, just knowing you’ve won,
While you grin to yourself if you can?
If you have, here’s my hand, for it takes “guts” and sand;
It’s a game that was built for a man.

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