Patinage Poetry: The Language Of The Ice (Part Six)

How doth I love skating? Let me count the ways... Just prior to the Sochi Olympics, I put together the blog's first collection of poetry about skating called "Patinage Poetry: The Language Of The Ice". The topic of skating poetry has recurred often on the blog, in "Georg Heym: The Skating Prophet" and "Canada's Valentine" and the second, third, fourth and fith editions of "Patinage Poetry". Guess what? I just can't get enough! The sixth part of this collection is jam packed full of wonderful gems from Williams Haynes and Joseph LeRoy Harrison's 1919 collection "Winter Sports Verse". Put on your beret and get ready to snap afterwards for another fabulous collection of historical skating poetry.


Behold the champion of the world appear,
Equipped his feet with blades of gleaming steel;
As Hermes light, he of winged heel,
Or, graceful as Apollo Belvedere,
He skims the gelid surface of the mere;
Swift as across the tarn the started teal
In noiseless flight he circles wheel on wheel.

In sable garb upon the water frore,
Is this we see a disembodied shade
From some remotest planet earthly strayed,
Thither escaped from the Stygian shore;
Or a creature of a more ethereal mould,
And by terrestrial matter uncontrolled?


Away! away! - our fires stream bright
Along the frozen river,
And their arrowy sparkles of brilliant light
On the forest branches quiver;
Away, away, for the stars are forth,
And on the pure snows of the valley,
In giddy trance the moonbeams dance;
Come let us our comrades rally.

Away, away, o'er the sheeted ice,
Away, away, we go;
On our steel-bound feet we moved as fleet
As deer o'er the Lapland snow.
What though the sharp north winds are out,
The skater heeds them not;
Midst the laugh and shout of the joyous rout
Gray winter is forgot.

'Tis a pleasant sight, the joyous throng
In the light of the reddening flame,
While with many a wheel on the ringing steel
They rage in their riotous game;
And though the night-air cutteth keen,
And the white moon shineth coldly,
Their homes I ween, on the hills have been;
They should breast the strong blast boldy.

Let others choose more gentle sports,
By the side of the winter's hearth,
Or at the ball, or the festival,
Seek for their share of mirth;
But as for me, away, away,
Where the merry skaters be;
Where the fresh wind blows, and the smooth ice glows,
There is the place for me.


O'er crackling ice, o'er gulphs profound,
With nimble glide the skaiters play;
O'er treacherous pleasure's flow'ry ground
Thus lightly skim, and haste away.


Oh, there's nothing in all the world so fine
As teaching a girl to skate;
There's the going up to her house to dine,
And the taking her home quite late;

There's the clamping of skates on her dainty shoes,
And it takes so long a while
That she calls you several times a 'goose' -
And you do not make denial.

There's the frightened grasp of her hand, in haste,
And her dear little shrieks and calls;
There's the putting your arm round her slender waist,
And the picking her up when she falls.


The Frost-King sat on a throne of snow,
On a plain in the Royal Isle:
In his hand a sceptre of ice he bore,
On his brow a crown of ice he wore,
And his face was set in a holiday smile,
When he bade the carnival trumpet blow
For the famous Sports to begin.
The voluble hills returned the din
In echoes that travelled o'er many a mile ;
O'er the broad St. Lawrence to St. Helen's Isle,
To the sounding rapids of old Lachine,
To the Boucherville woods with their tufts of green,
And the peaceful hamlets that smiled between.
A multitude vast as the waves of the sea,
When Tritons rejoice that the winds are free,
People from far off Southern lands,
Where the eagle exults on outspread vans,
People who came from the prairied West,
And pine-clad East, and numbers untold
Of natives who laughed at the teeth of the cold
Were there for a gala- day, threefold blest.
The trumpeter wight was an Arctic sprite,
Whose limbs were lank and whose locks were white,
And when he had blown with all his might,
The Frost-King raised his sceptre high,
When it flashed all the lights of a boreal sky,
And thus, in accents of festive tone,
He welcomed the guests who encircled his throne :
"Friends! who have journeyed far to share
The verve of our Canadian air,
Greeting and love to all.
'Tis wise to lay aside each heavy care
And all the petty ills that do enthral,
To find in ampler scope this lusty joy,
This social amity, where no alloy
Of turbid passion mingles with the gold
Of kindly fellowship:
Where harmony betwixt the heart and lip
Its primal sanctity delights to hold.
Pleasure is native to the heart of man,
Here let it freely flow ;
Here let an ocean tide of gladness roll,
Here where no tyrant's interdict can ban
The sacred glow
That freedom kindles in the human soul.
Now let the Sports begin, and first
Let youths and maids who stand athirst
For Canada's supreme sensation,
For motion's wild intoxication,
Launch from yon hills their swift Toboggans.
Behold, upon the utmost crest,
How democratic Jones and Scroggins
With Lords and Ladies freely jest.
Blow, trumpet, blow !
The signal sound how well they know!
Down, down they plunge, what frantic speed!
No lightning-shod celestial steed
E'er swifter clove the azure air
Than headlong down the polished slide
Those young athletes and damsels ride,
Obedient to the trumpet's blare
Like foamy waves that seek the shore,
When red-mouthed storms behind them roar,
Like avalanches loosed from high,
Like meteors rushing down the sky,
They spurn the steep, they leap, they fly,
Till on the flats in bubbling joy they pour.
A Sport of more elastic grace
Now claims from us its honoured place.
Again, my merry sprite,
The trumpet sound, and let the night
In starry azure veil the face
Of Earth, enrobed in purest white.
The signal blast the Skaters know,
And eagerly with cheeks aglow,
Their costumes varied as the flowers
And blossoms that the Summer hours
On all the sunny lands bestow
They skim in joy the crystal floor,
So full their bliss they ask no more.
In sooth it is a goodly show,
Twice twenty hundred twinkling feet
In fairy flight, advance, retreat
Whilst others, more ambitious still,
In loops and scrolls assert their skill.
The Champion of a hundred rinks,
Behold him there ! his bosom mailed
With trophies rich ; what fancy jinks
Those lithe, light limbs that never failed!
What complicated, airy links
They weave, as weaves a spider's feet!
Till tip-toe wonder, stares and winks,
And plauding hands his triumphs greet.
What ho ! what means yon wild array,
In blanket-coats and sashes gay,
With red fire armed, that wind this way?
Stretching afar for many a mile,
Hither they haste in Indian file,
Ha ! Ha ! the rebel horde I know;
Blow, Trumpeter, the trumpet blow!
To arms! the Snowshoe host have sworn
To storm our castle walls, this morn
A faithful courier warning gave;
Defiant let our war-flag wave!
And you, my guests, remain in sight,
Spectators of the weirdest fight
That ever shook the vault of night.
To arms our veterans! man the walls,
Receive them with a million balls
Of roaring flame, with dart and brand,
And serpents that no mortal hand
Can parry ; let our trusty Pinch,
Who never has been known to flinch,
Protect the gates j our princely friend,
Great Zero, shall in wrath defend
The turrets and the loop-holed walls;
Let Blizzard a tremendous power
In fury guard the centre tower;
And Coldsnap, thine the task to shower
With fiery hail and blistering squalls,
And cannonade of burning snow
From every point the reeling foe!
The rebels advance with a shout and a cheer
But they reck not the might of that spectral host,
Each warrior chieftain a blood-freezing ghost,
Who answered their mirth with a jeer.
Strange voices such sounds as the winter winds make
When lattice and casement they wrench at and shake,
Were heard in those halls ;
And such terrible calls
As made the most valiant assailant to quake.
The castle, a lucent volcano, emits
An ocean of flame on the heads of the foe,
They waver they stagger they lose their five wits,
And print their appalling defeat in the snow.
Short, sharp and decisive the battle no breach
In that marvellous structure the rebels could reach.
To the mountain, abashed, bearing torches, they fled,
Oppressed with the weight of their wounded and dead.
The Frost- King, no longer enveloped in wrath,
With pity surveyed their laborious path;
And then, to the multitude bending, he said :
What folly, what ingratitude !
To think with such rebellious war
This wonder of the world to mar!
This temple that in mist and flood
And cataract in embryo slept,
Till near this Royal Island crept
The fluent particles, on which
I breathed and wedded each to each,
And made the solid lustre rich
In dazzling beauty, fit to reach
And rival, in these gleaming spires,
The loveliness of astral fires,
The mellow radiance of the moon.
Ah! whether late or soon
We with our retinue depart,
Is there a single human heart
Will mourn our exit ? Shall we not
Some few months hence be quite forgot?
If even so, another year,
With equal pleasure, equal cheer,
King Frost shall hold his court, we wot,
And meet your warmest welcome here.


Moon so bright,
Stars alight,
Clouds adance, adance;
Snow of night,
Fleecy white,
Silver ice agleam, aglance.
High, hey, high, hey,
Skimming the smooth, bright way,
High, hey, high, hey,
Over the ice away.

Cheeks so bright,
Face alight,
Heart adance, adance;
Eyes of night,
Brow of white,
Silver skates agleam, aglance.
High, hey, high, hey,
Skimming the smooth, bright way,
High, hey, high, hey,
Over the ice away.


She skates alone, and swift as swallows fly
She skims and glides until she seems a shy,
Fleet winter nymph, for whose bewitching sake
The frosty gnomes the glittering mirrors make
All glassy smooth. And ah! a yearnsome sigh
Escapes from scores of swains, who far and nigh
To win the slightest notice vainly try,
With fancy curves and fine, as o'er the lake,
She skates alone.

But ah! they fail that with her muff would vie
To hold her hand. They little dream that I
Alone the place of warming furs may take,
And merely sit upon the shore and shake
Because I never skate - and that is why
She skates alone.


When the frigid hand of winter froze the surface of the lake,
old McGinley did some talking and he made a big mistake.
He declared he was a skater who was far and wide renowned,
and he bragged of phony honours when the youngsters gathered 'round.
Thus he found himself in trouble when the kids procured some skates,
and demanded that he show them how to do some figure eights.

Now McGinley, even with a youth, was not a skater bold,
And he soon found out, upon the ice his feet were uncontrolled.
But the kids demanded action and they shoved him out in front,
in the hope that old McGinley could perform a fancy stunt.
Then he staggered and he slithered 'cross the floor of glassy ice,
and for all his blatant brags, he had to pay an awful price.

For 'twas then the children organized a game of crack-the-whip,
and McGinley soon was flying at a mile-a-minute clip,
But he lost his hold and slipped and fell, a-slidin' on his face,
and he ended in a bank of snow - the picture of disgrace.
Now McGinley, bruised and battered boasts no more of figure eights,
and there's no amount of money that could get the guy on skates.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":