Two Poems About The Boat Race 7 April, 2012

As it is still April, which means that it is still Poetry Month, today HTBS will post two poems, both about the Oxford–Cambridge Boat Race which was rowed on 7 April, 2012. To be honest, I am not sure if I should called both these writings poems, as only one is written by a real poet, HTBS’s own Poet Laureate of Rowing, Philip Kuepper. The second ‘poem’ is written by, well … ehh, never mind… Enjoy!

Photograph © Hélène Rémond: ‘The End of Boat Race Day’

Rowers, True

The tower of Christ dreamed
As King’s enchoired the evening
At the close of the day of the race.
Dusk brushed gray the river
Where earlier the men had rowed.

Their psyches flowed like rivers in them,
Rivers of memory of what had happened,
Their race, suddenly!,
Blitzed by an anarchist
Throwing himself in the path of their boats,

The smooth river, suddenly!,
A shark-like thrashing of confusion,
The rowers, suddenly!,
Oaring to stillness their boats.
They tread the river with dismay,

The anarchist shark thrashing the river to chaos,
The race attacked, blood spilled,
The heart of the race wounded.
The shark cleared from the river,
The rowers turned, again, to the race,

The order of the day brought
Into a semblance of balance.
Yet anarchy was still
To force its hand,
As an oar’s blade broke,

Depriving one boat of a rower.
Anger, heartbreak rowed in his place.
But the tower of Christ dreamed
As King’s enchoired the evening.
The rowers had crossed

The finish line, regardless,
Rowing their dream to reality.

Philip Kuepper
(April 2012)

Photograph from

The Row of the Brave Eighteen
(with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Two more miles, two more miles,
Two crews go onward,
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.
‘Forward, the Light Blue crew!
Charge for the Cup!’ cox yelled.
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

‘Forward, you Dark Blue crew!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the oarsmen knew –
There’s no room for blunder:
They provide no reply,
They’re not to reason why,
They are to row, or die:
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

Public to right of them,
Public to left of them,
Public ahead of them,
Voices roll like thunder,
Storm’d at with shout and yell,
Boldly they rowed and well,
Into the snare of Hell,
Into the mocking scene
Rowed the brave eighteen.

Flashing all oars so bare,
Flashing them up in air
Pulling and pulling – ‘there…’
Charging on, no despair,
Then, what a scheme, so mean,
Plunged from the shore, this bloke
Swam in their lane, dimwit!
Brothers of Oxbridge boats
Stopped their huge power stroke.
Stunned by the swimming twit,
They could not row, no more,
Not the brave eighteen.

Launches to right of them,
Launches to left of them,
Chaos all around them.
Stupid act, never seen,
Played out by daft rebel.
Race had been fought so well,
Now fate has cast a spell.
– Garrett, the umpire, said:
‘Crews – ready in your shell!’
Flag is up, flag is down
Go – all brave eighteen!

Two Blue crews, fearless men
Charging the championship course.
Cox orders: ‘Another ten!’
Oarsmen obey with force.
Pulling hard – not too close…
Oars clashing, dark blade lost,
– Seven rowing heroes!
Finish line not yet crossed:
‘Forward, you strong Blue crews!
Soon your pain will be gone.’
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

There it is – Chiswick Bridge!
Oxford’s crew now fading,
Though on course, racing still
Bravely they try spurting.
What a race, what a thrill:
Winning boat is Cambridge!
Arms in air, cries of joy;
Then, here comes Oxford’s crew
Slumped on oars – ‘bow’ is down,
So rows a true Blue!
– Ignore the stupid clown –
Clear is the race review:
Upon the water of Thames
Rowed the two brave eights.

When will their glory fade?
O the wild chase they made.
Their gallant show: pristine…
Honour the row they made!
Honour the whole Brigade,
Noble, brave eighteen.

(April 2012)

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