Verses on Games

(To an Almanac of Twelve Sports by W. Nicholson, 1898.)

Rudyard Kipling

HERE is a horse to tame
    Here is a gun to handle
God knows you can enter the game
    If you’ll only pay for the same,
And the price of the game is a candle—
A single flickering candle!

JANUARY (Hunting)
        Certes, it is a noble sport,
            And men have quitted selle and swum for’t.
        But I am of the meeker sort
            And I prefer Surtees in comfort.

        Reach me my Handley Cross again,
        My run, where never danger lurks, is
        With Jorrocks and his deathless train—
        Pigg, Binjimin, and Artexerxes.

FEBRUARY (Coursing)
        Most men harry the world for fun—
            Each man seeks it a different way,
        But “of all daft devils under the sun,
            A greyhound’s the daftest” says Jorrocks J.

MARCH (Racing)
        The horse is ridden—the jockey rides—
            The backers back—the owners own
        But  .  .  . there are lots of things beside,
            And I should let this game alone.

APRIL (Rowing)
        The Pope of Rome he could not win
            From pleasant meats and pleasant sin
        These who, replying not, submit
            Unto the curses of the pit
        Which that stern coach (oh, greater shame)
            Flings forth by number not by name.
        Can Triple Crown or Jesuit’s oath
        Do what one wrathful trainer doth?

MAY (Fishing)
        Behold a parable. A fished for B
            C took her bait; her heart being set on D.
        Thank heaven who cooled your blood and cramped your wishes,
            Men and not Gods torment you, little fishes!

JUNE (Cricket)
        Thank God who made the British Isles
            And taught me how to play,
        I do not worship crocodiles,
            Or bow the knee to clay!
        Give me a willow wand and I
            With hide and cork and twine
        From century to century
            Will gambol round my shrine!

JULY (Archery)
        The child of the Nineties considers with laughter
            The maid whom his sire in the Sixties ran after,
        While careering himself in pursuit of a girl whom
            The Twenties will dub a “last century heirloom.”

AUGUST (Coaching)
        The Pious Horse to church may trot,
            A maid may work a man’s salvation  .  .  .  .
        Four horses and a girl are not,
            However, roads to reformation.

SEPTEMBER (Shooting)
“Peace upon Earth, Goodwill to men”
            So greet we Christmas Day!
        Oh, Christian, load your gun and then
            Oh, Christian, out and slay.

        Why Golf is art and art is Golf
            We have not far to seek—
        So much depends upon the lie,
            So much upon the cleek.

        Read here the moral roundly writ
            For him who into battle goes—
        Each soul that hitting hard or hit,
            Endureth gross or ghostly foes.
            Prince, blown by many overthrows
            Half blind with shame, half choked with dirt
        Man cannot tell, but Allah knows
            How much the other side was hurt!

DECEMBER (Skating)
        Over the ice she flies
            Perfect and poised and fair.
        Stars in my true-love’s eyes
            Teach me to do and dare.
        Now will I fly as she flies—
            Woe for the stars that misled.
        Stars I beheld in her eyes,
            Now do I see in my head!

Now we must come away.
    That are you out of pocket ?
’Sorry to spoil your play
But somebody says we must pay
    And the candle’s down to the socket—
        Its horrible tallowy socket.

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