Cricket: An Heroic Poem

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Cricket: An Heroic Poem (1744)
by James Dance
2000053Cricket: An Heroic Poem1744James Dance

An Heroic Poem,

Illustrated with the critical observations of

Scriblerus Maximus


June 18, 1744.

James Love

Book I

THE ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST BOOK.—The Subject. Address to the Patron of Cricket. A Description at the Pleasures felt at the Approach of the proper Season for Cricket, and the Preparations for it. A Comparison between this game and others, particularly Billiards, Bowls and Tennis. Exhortation to Britain to leave all meaner sports, and cultivate Cricket only, as most adapted to the Freedom and Hardiness of its Constitution. The Counties most famous for Cricket are describ'd, as vying with another for Excellency.

While others soaring on a lofty Wing,
Of dire Bellona's cruel Triumphs sing;
Sound the shrill Clarion, mount the rapid car,
And rush delighted thro' the Ranks of War;
My tender Muse, in humbler, milder, Strains,
Presents a bloodless Conquest on the Plains;
Where vig'rous Youth, in Life's fresh Bloom resort,
For pleasing Excercise and healthful Sport.
Where Emulation fires, where Glory draws,
And active Sportsmen struggle for Applause;
Expert to Bowl, to Run, to Stop, to Throw,
Each Nerve collected at each mighty blow.

Hail Cricket! glorious, manly, British game!
First of all Sports! be first alike in Fame!
To my fir'd Soul thy busy Transports bring,
That I may feel thy Raptures, while I sing!
And thou, kind Patron of the mirthful Fray,
Sandwich, thy Country's Friend, accept the Lay!
Tho' mean my verse, my Subject yet approve,
And look propitious on the Game you love!

When the returning Sun begins to smile,
And shed its Glories round this sea-girt Isle;
When new-born Nature deck'd in vivid Green,
Chaces dull Winter from the charming Scene:
High panting with Delight, the jovial Swain
Trips exulting o'er the Flow'r-strew'd Plain;
Thy Pleasures, Cricket! all his Heart controul;
Thy eager Transports dwell upon his Soul:
He weighs the well-turn'd Bat's experienc'd Force,
And guides the rapid Ball's imperious Course,
His supple Limbs with nimble Labour plies,
Nor bends the Grass beneath him as he flies,
The joyous Conquests of the late flown Year,
In Fancy's Paint, with all their Charms appear,
And now again he views the long wish'd Season near,
O thou, sublime Inspirer of my Song!
What matchless Trophies to thy Worth belong!
Look round the Globe, inclin'd to Mirth, and see
What daring Sport can claim the Prize from thee!

Not puny Billiards, where, with sluggish Pace,
The dull Ball trails before the feeble Mace.
Where no triumphant Shouts, no Clamours dare
Pierce thro' the vaulted Roof and wound the Air;
But stuff Spectators quite inactive stand,
Speechless attending to the Striker's Hand:
Where nothing can your languid Spirits move,
Save when the Marker bellows out, Six Love!
Or when the Ball, close cushion'd, slides askew,
And to the opening Rocket runs, a Cou.

Nor yet the happier Game, where the smooth Bowl,
In circling Mazes, wanders to the Goal;
Where, much divided between Fear and Glee,
The Youth cries Rub; O Flee, you Ling'rer, Flee!

Not Tennis self, thy sister Sport, can charm,
Or with thy fierce Delights our bosom warm.
Tho' full of Life, at Ease alone dismay'd,
She calls each swelling Sinew to her Aid;
her echoing Courts confess the sprightly Sound,
While from the Racket the brisk Balls rebound.
Yet, to small Space confin'd, ev'n she must yield
To nobler Cricket, the disputed Field.

O Parent Britain! Minion of Renown!
Whose far-extended Fame all Nations own;
Of Sloth-promoting Sports, forewarn'd beware!
Nor think thy Pleasures are thy meanest Care;
Shun with Disdain the squeaking Masquerade,
Where fainting Vice calls Folly to her Aid.
Leave the dissolving Song, the baby Dance,
To soothe the Slaves of Italy and France:
While the firm Limb, and strong brac'd Nerve are thine.
Scorn Eunuch Sports; to manlier Games incline;
Feed on the Joys that Health and Vigour give;
Where Freedom reigns, 'tis worth the while to live.

Nurs'd on thy Plains, first Cricket learnt to please,
And taught thy Songs to slight inglorious Ease:
And see where busy Counties strive for Fame,
Each greatly potent at this mighty Game!
Fierce Kent, ambitious of the first Applause,
Against the World combin'd asserts her Cause;
Gay Sussex sometimes triumphs o'er the Field,
And fruitful Surry cannot brook to yield.
While London, Queen of Cities! proudly view,
And often grasps the well-disputed Prize.

Thus while Greece triumph'd o'er the barb'rous Earth,
Seven Cities struggl'd which gave Homer birth.

Book II

THE ARGUMENT OF THE SECOND BOOK.—Kent challenges all the other Counties. The Match determined. A description of the Place of Contest. The particular Qualifications and Excellencies of each Player. The Counties go in.

And now the sons of Kent immortal grown,
By a long Series of acquir'd Renown,
Smile at each weak Attempt to shake their Fame;
And thus with vaunting Pride, their Might proclaim.
Long have we bore the Palm, trimphant still,
No County fit to match our wond'rous Skill:
But that all tamely may confess our Sway,
And own us Masters of the glorious Day;
Pick the best Sportsmen from each sev'ral Shire,
And let them, if they dare, 'gainst Us appear:
Soon will we prove the Mightiness we boast,
And make them feel their Error, to their Cost.

Fame quickly gave the bold Defiance vent,
And magnify'd th' undaunted Sons of Kent.
The boastful Challenge sounded far and near;
And spreading, reach'd at length Great N——'s Ear:
Where, with his Friend, all negligent he laugh'd,
And threatened future Glories, as they quaff'd.
Struck with the daring Phrase, a piercing Look
On B——n first he cast, and thus he spoke.

And dare the Slaves this paltry Message own!
What then in N——'s Arm no better known?
Have I for this the Ring's wide Ramparts broke?
Whilst R——y shudder'd at the mighty Stroke.
Now by Alcmena's sinew'd Son, I wear,
Whose dreadful Blow no mortal Strength can bear!
By Hermes, Offspring too of thund'ring Jove!
Whose winged Feet like nimble Lightning move!
By ev'ry Patron of the pleasing War,
My chief Delight, my Glory and my Care!
This Arm shall cease the far-driv'n Ball to throw,
Shrink from the Bat and feebly shun the Blow;
The trophies from this conqu'ring Forehead torn,
By Boys and Women shall in Scorn be worn;
E'er I neglect to let these Blust'res know,
There live who dare oppose, and beat them too.
Illustrious B——n! Now's the Time to prove
To Cricket's Charms thy much experienc'd Love.
Let us with Care, each hardy Friend insprire!
And fill their Souls with emulating Fire!
Come on ... True Courage never is dismay'd.
He spoke ... The Hero listen'd, and obey'd.

Urg'd by their Chiefs, the Friends of Cricket hear,
And joyous in the fated Lists appear.
The Day approach'd. To view the charming Scene,
Exulting Thousands croud the levell'd Green.

A place there is, where City-warriors meet,
Wisely determin'd not to fight, but eat.
Where harmless Thunder rattles to the Skies,
While the plump Buff-coat fires, and shuts his Eyes.
To the pleas'd Mob the bursting Cannons tell
At ev'ry circ'ling Grass, how much they swill.
Here, in the Intervals of Bloodless War,
The Swains with milder Pomp their Arms prepare.
Wide o'er th' extended Plain, the circling Strong
Restrains th' impatient Throng, and marks a Ring.
But if encroaching on forbidden Ground,
The heedless Croud o'erleaps the proper Bound;
S——th plies, with strenuous Arm, the smacking Whip,
Back to the Line th' affrighted Rebels skip.

The Stumps are pitch'd. Each Heroe now is seen,
Springs o'er the Fence, and bounds along the Green
In decent White, most gracefully array'd,
Each strong-built Limb in all its Pride display'd.

Now Muse, exert thy Vigour, and describe
The mighty Chieftains of each glorious Tribe!
Bold R——y first, before the Kentish Band
God-like appear'd, and seiz'd the chief Command.
Judicious Swain! whose quick-discerning Soul
Observes the various Seasons as they roll.
Well-skill'd to spread the thriving Plant around;
And paint with fragrant Flow'rs th' enamell'd Ground.
Conscious of Worth, with Front erect he moves,
And poises in his Hand the Bat he loves.
Him Dorset's Prince protects, whose youthul Heir
Attends with ardent Glee with mighty Play'r.
He, at Mid-wicket, disappoints the Foe;
Springs at the coming Ball and mocks the Blow.
Ev'n thus the Rattle-Snake, as Trav'lers say,
With stedfast Eye observes it's destin'd Pray;
Till fondly gazing on the glitt'ring Balls,
Into her Mouth th' unhappy Victim falls.
The baffled Hero quits his Bat with Pain,
And mutt'ring lags across the shouting Plain.
Brisk H——l next strides on with comely Pride,
Tough as the subject of his Trade, the Hide.
In his firm Palm, the hard-bound Ball he hears,
And mixes joyous with his pleas'd Compeers.
Bromlean M——s attends the Kentish Throng;
And R——n from his Size, surnam'd the Long.
Six more, as ancient Custom has thought meet,
With willing Steps, th' intrepid Band compleat.
On th' adverse Party, tow'rin o'er the rest,
Left-handed N——d dires each arduous Breast.
From many a bounteous Crop, the foodful Grain
With swilling Stores rewards his useful Pain:
While the glad Farmer, with delighted Eyes,
Smiles to behold his close-cram'd Gran'ries rise.
Next B——n came, whose cautious Hand could fix
In neat disposed Array the well-pil'd Bricks:
With him, alone, scarce any Youth wou'd dare
At single Wicket, try the doubtful War.
For few, save him, th' exalted Honour claim
To play with Judgment, all the various Game.
Next, his accomplished Vigour, C——y tries;
Whose shelt'ring Hand the nest-form'd Garb supplies.
To the dread Plain her D——e Surry sends,
And W——k on the jovial Train attends.
Equal in Numbers, bravely they begin
The dire Dispute.—The Foes of Kent go in.

Book III

THE ARGUMENT OF THE THIRD BOOK.—The Game. Five on the Side of the counties are out for three Notches. The Odds run high on the Side of Kent. Bryan and Newland go in; they help the Game greatly. Bryan is unfortunately put out by Kips. Kent, The first Innings, is Thirteen a-head. The Counties go in again, and get fifty-seven a-head. Kent, in the Second Innings, is very near losing, the two last men being in. Weymark unhappily misses a catch, and by that means Kent is victorious.

With wary Judgment, scatter'd o'er the Green,
Th' ambitious Chiefs of fruitful Kent are seen.
Some, at a Distance, for the Long Ball wait,
Some, nearer planted, seize it from the Bat.
H——l and M——s behind the Wickets stand,
And each by Turns, the flying Ball command:
Four times from H——l's arm it skims the Grass;
Then M——s succeeds. The Seekers-out change Place.
Observe, cries H——l, to the wond'ring Throng,
Be Judges now, whose Arms are better strung!
He said—then pois'd, and rising as he threw,
Swift from his Arm the fatal Missive flew.
Nor with more Force the Death conveying Ball,
Springs from the Cannon to the batter'd Wall;
Nor swifter yet the pointed Arrows go,
Launch'd from the Vigour of the Parthian Bow.
It whizz'd alone, with unimagin'd Force,
And bore down all, resistless in its Course.
To such impetuous Might compell'd to yield
The Bail, and mangled Stumps bestrew the Field.

Now glows with ardent Heat th' unequal Fray,
While Kent usurps the Honours of the Day;
Loud from the Ring resounds the piercing Shout,
Three Notches only gain'd, five Leaders out.

But while the drooping Play'r invokes the Gods,
The busy Better calculates his Odds,
Swift round the Plain, in buzzing Murmurs run,
I'll hold you Ten to Four, Kent.—Done Sir.—Done.

What Numbers can with equal Force, describe
Th' increasing Terrors of the losing Tribe!
When, vainly striving 'gainst the conqu'ring Ball,
They see their boasted Chiefs, dejected fall!
Now the two mightiest of the fainting Host
Pant to redeem the Fame their Fellows lost.
Eager for Glory;—For the worst prepared;
With pow'rful Skill, their threat'ned Wickets guard.
B——n, collected for the deadly Stroke,
First cast to Heav'n a supplicating Look;
Then pray'd.—Propitious Pow'rs! Assist my Blow,
And grant the flying Orb may shock the Foe!
This said; he wav'd his Bat with forceful Swing,
And drove the batter'd Pellet o'er the Ring.
Then rapid five times cross'd the shining Plain,
E'er the departed Ball return'd again.

Nor was thy Prowess valient N——d mean,
Whose strenuous Arm increas'd the Game eighteen;
While from thy Stroke, the Ball retiring hies,
Uninterrupted Clamours rend the Skies.
But oh, what horrid Changes oft' are seen,
When faithless Fortune seems the most serene!
Beware, unhappy B——n! oh beware!
Too heedless Swain, when such a Foe is near.
Fir'd with Success, elated with his Luck,
He glow'd with Rage, regardless how he struck;
But, forc'd the fatal Negligence to mourn,
K——s crush's his Stumps, before the Youth could turn.
The rest their unavailing Vigour try,
And by the Pow'r of Kent, demolish'd die.
Awaked Eccho speaks the Innings o'er,
And forty Notches deep indent the Score.

Now Kent prepares her better Skill to shew;
Loud rings the Ground, at each tremendous Blow.
With nervous Arm, performing God-like Deeds,
Another, and another Chief succeeds;
'Til, tired with Fame, the conqu'ring Host give Way;
And head by thirteen Strokes, the toilsome Fray.

Fresh rous'd to Arms, each Labour-loving Swain
Swells with new Strength, and dares the Field again
Again to Heav'n aspires the Chearful Sounds;
The Strokes re-echo o'er the spacious Ground.
The Champion strikes. When, scarce arriving fair,
The glancing Ball mounts upwards in the Air?
The Batsman sees it, and with mournful Eyes,
Fix'd on th' ascending Pellet as it flies,
Thus suppliant Claims the Favour of the Skies.
O mighty Jove! and all ye Pow'rs above!
Let my regarded Pray'r your pity move!
Grant me but this. Whatever Youth shall dare
Snatch at the Prize, descending thro' the Air;
May him extended on the grassy Plain,
And make his bold, ambitious Effort vain.

He said. The Powers, attending his request
Granted one Part, to Winds consign'd the rest.

And now Illustrious S——e, where he stood,
Th' approaches Ball with cautious Pleasure view'd;
At once he sees the Chief's impending Doom
And pants for mighty Honours, yet to come:
Swift as the Falcon, darting on its Prey,
He springs elastick o'er the verdant Way;
Sure of Success, flies upward with a Bound,
Derides the slow Approach, and spurns the Ground.

The Counties now the Game triumphant lead,
And vaunt their Numbers fifty-seven a Head.

To end th' immortal Honours of the Day
The Chiefs of Kent, once more, their Might essay;
No trifling Toil ev'n yet remains untry'd,
Nor mean the Numbers of the adverse Side.
With doubled Skill each dang'rous Ball they shun,
Strike with observing Eye, with Caution run.
At length the know the wish'd for Number near,
Yet wildly pant, and almost own they fear.
The two last Champion even now are in,
And but three Notches yet remain to win.
When, almost ready to recant it's Boast,
Ambitious Kent within an Ace had lost;
The mounting Ball, again obliquely driv'n,
Cuts the pure Æther, soaring up to Heav'n.
W——k was ready; W——k, all must own,
As sure a Swain to catch as e'er was known;
Yet, whether Jove, and all-compelling Fate,
In their high Will determin'd Kent should beat;
Or the lamented Youth too much rely'd
On sure Success, and Fortune often try'd.
The erring Ball, amazing to be told!
Slip'd thro' his out-stretch'd Hand, and mock'd his Hold.

And now the Sons of Kent compleat the Game,
And firmly fix their everlasting Fame.