A Reminiscence of Cricket

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ONCE in my heyday of cricket,
Oh, day I shall ever recall!
I captured that glorious wicket.
The greatest, the grandest of all.

Before me he stands like a vision,
Bearded and burly and brown,
A smile of good-humoured derision
As he waits for the first to come down.

A statue from Thebes or from Cnossus,
A Hercules shrouded in white,
Assyrian Bull-like Colossus,
He stands in his might.

With the beard of a Goth or a Vandal,
His bat hanging ready and free.
His great hairy hands on the handle
And his menacing eyes upon me.

And I—I had tricks for the rabbits.
The feeble of mind or of eye,
I could see all the duffer's bad habits
And guess where his ruin might lie.

The capture of such might elate one,
But it seemed like some horrible jest
That I should serve tosh to the great one,
Who had broken the hearts of the best.

Well, here goes! Good Lord, what a rotter!
Such a sitter as never was dreamt.
It was clay in the hands of the Potter,
But he tapped it with gentle contempt.

The second was better—a leetle,
It was low, but was nearly long hop.
As the housemaid comes down on the beetle,
So down came the bat with a chop.

He was sizing me up with some wonder,
My broken-kneed action and ways,
I could see the grim menace from under
The striped peak that shaded his gaze.

The third was a gift—or it looked it,
A foot off the wicket or so,
His huge figure swooped as he hooked it.
His great body swung to the blow.

Still when my dreams are night-marish
I picture that terrible smite.
It was meant for a neighbouring parish
Or any old place out of sight.

But—yes, there's a but to the story—
The blade swished a trifle too low,
Oh wonder! and vision of glory!
It was up like a shaft from a bow.

Up, up, like the towering game bird,
Up, up, to a speck in the blue,
And then coming down like the same bird
Dead straight on the line that it flew.

Good Lord, was it mine! Such a soarer
Would call for a pair of safe hands;
None safer than Derbyshire Storer—
And there, face uplifted, he stands.

Wicket-keep Storer, the knowing.
Wary and steady of nerve,
Watching it falling and growing.
Marking the pace and the curve.

I stood with my two eyes fixed on it.
There was "plunk" as the gloves shut upon it.
And he cuddled it up to his shirt.

Out, beyond question or wrangle!
Homeward he lurched to his lunch,
His bat was tucked up at an angle.
His great shoulders curved to a hunch.

Walking he rumbled and grumbled,
Scolding himself, and not me.
One glove was off, and he fumbled
Twisting the other hand free.

Did I give Storer the credit,
The thanks he so splendidly earned?
It was mere empty talk if I said it,
For Grace was already returned.