The Hundred Yards Race
You ask me for a prophecy
About the hundred: I reply
That man can do no more than try;
And so commence and cast about
To find the lucky athletes out.
The goddess of the football field
Some valuable hints may yield:
Inured to grisly war's alarms:
She knows of many a feat of arms,
Full many a tale has she to tell
Of those who nobly fight and well:
'Twas hers to sing the artful J.,
Whose progress nothing could delay:
Twas hers to sing Hunt's reckless rush
Through flooded fields and slimy slush,
The while with gentle words he tried
To win like prowess from his side.
These, and a host of such as they,
She sings no longer, sad to say:
But champions still remain
Who furnish many a glorious theme
Until the past doth almost seem
To live in them again.
For now the war-like goddess sings,
Obedient to my questionings,
Of Douglas's unrivalled grace,
Of Elliot foremost in the race,
And Stephen's more majestic pace:
Of Chitty's meteoric flight.
And Anderson as swift as light;
Hawke's rapid swoop upon the ball,
Wellesley who never tires at all
Whate'er of toil betide:
Macaulay's oft repeated bound,
Swift Bayley's feet that shun the ground,
The Professorial stride:
Of Bryan Farrer fast as strong,
Of Lawrence' limbs so lithe and long,
Of Booth's wild gallop in the van.
She sings the deathless praise:
How stoutly Polhill-Turner ran.
How Spring-Rice flashed across the field.
How Peirse was never known to yield.
She tells in stirring lays:
She tells in frightened periods
How Ridley's steps disturbed the infernal gods
But hold! my muse is running wild
On this too stirring theme:
It was her weakness from a child;
Excuse it, gentle reader, pray.
Now from her eyes I dare to say
Prophetic flashes gleam.
Put not, rash man, thy hopes in all
Who can pursue the flying ball:
Not all of these shall dare to run
When fate reserves the prize for one:
Or if it shall most kindly be
Can never favour more than three.
Not all that I have named shall strive
The deadly struggle to survive:
Smith may despise all worldly pelf,
Start others but not start himself;
And Chitty may be turned reporter
In Hundred, hurdle race and Quarter,
And with his note-book scour the plain
With Chronicle upon the brain.
Yet some will start: and now we reach
The wisdom I design to teach:
My task I quickly will dispose of.
There are but three your prophet knows of
Who may be safely backed for places
In this, the shortest of the races,
Macaulay, Lawrence, Elliot these
Are they: the order if you please
I'll leave to you, and so remain
Yours truly till we meet again,
Poeta Etonensis qui
Stipendium meret Chronicli.