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Father Camus.

Edward Woodley Bowling 1837 (Nice,) – 1907 (Ealing, London, )



Smoking lately in my "Funny," as I'm wont, beneath the bank,
Listening to Cam's rippling murmurs thro' the weeds and willows dank,
As I chewed the Cud of fancy, from the water there appeared
An old man, fierce-eyed, and filthy, with a long and tangled beard;
To the oozy shore he paddled, clinging to my Funny's nose,
Till, in all his mud majestic, Cam's gigantic form arose.
Brawny, broad of shoulders was he, hairy were his face and head,
And amid loud lamentations tears incessantly he shed.
"Son," he cried, "the sorrows pity of thy melancholy sire!
Pity Camus! pity Cambridge! pity our disasters dire!
Five long years hath Isis triumphed, five long years have seen my Eight
Rowing second, vainly struggling 'gainst an unrelenting fate.
What will be the end, I know not! what will be the doom of Camus?
Shall I die disowned, dishonoured? Shall I live, and yet be famous?
Backs as strong as oxen have we, legs Herculean and bare,
Legs that in the ring with Titan wrestler might to wrestle dare.
Arms we have long, straight, and sinewy,
Shoulders broad, necks thick and strong,
Necks that to the earth-supporting Atlas might full well belong.
"But our strength un-scientific strives in vain thro' stagnant water,
Every day, I blush to own it, Cambridge strokes are rowing shorter.
With a short spasmodic impulse see the boats a moment leap,
Starting with a flying motion, soon they stop and sink to sleep.
Where are Stanley, Jones, and Courage? where is 'Judas' stout and tall,
Where the Stroke named ''all' by Bargemen, known to Cambridge as 'Jack Hall'?
'Twas a spectacle to see him in his gig-lamps row along,
And the good ship speeding onward swift as Poet's gushing song.
Where is Paley? Where is Fairbairn, from whose lips the Naiads dank
Snatched and gave their sweetest kisses when our Eight at Chiswick sank?
What avails it to remember brilliant days now lost in night?
What avails it Putney's annals, and past glories to recite?
"Lost is Granta, lost our glory, lost our former pride of place,
Gone are all my blushing honours, nought is left me but disgrace.
For regardless of all science, every oarsman now obeys
Wild, new fangled laws and notions, never dream'd of in old days.
But do you, my gentle Freshmen, who have youth in every vein,
Labour by your manly valour our lost laurels to regain!
When you hear the Cox'n's 'row on all,' then keep erect your head;
Then be your arms and bodies with one motion for'ard sped:
Sit firm upon your cushions all; and, when the oar is in,
With one harmonious action let your work at once begin:
Press your feet against the stretcher, and your legs with vigour ply,
Till the ship, as swift as lightning, thro' the yielding water fly.
"He who 'misses the beginning' makes his comrades all to suffer,
Spoils the swing, and is a nuisance; turn him out, for he's a duffer!
Having made a good beginning you must carry on the work,
And until the stroke is finished not an atom must you shirk.
I have seen - no names I mention - certain oarsmen with a dash
Plunge their oars into the water, and produce a sudden splash!
But the middle and the finish are all wasted in the air,
And no human constitution can such toil incessant bear;
For although the ship at starting may at once its distance clear,
And victory seem certain, when the winning post is near,
The crew worn out and breathless have nothing in them left,
And though pluck may ne'er desert them, of their vigour are bereft.

"And do you, my Palinuris, steering straight the gallant bark,
By voice and exhortation keep your heroes to the mark.
Cheer the plucky, chide the cowards who to do their work are loth,
And forbid them to grow torpid by indulging selfish sloth.
Fool! I know my words are idle! yet if any love remain;
If my honour be your glory, my discredit be your pain;
If a spark of old affection in your hearts be still alive!
Rally round old Father Camus, and his glories past revive!
Then adorned with reedy garland shall I take my former throne,
And, victor of proud Isis, reign triumphant and alone.
Then no more shall Cloacina with my streams her offerings blend,
And old Camus clear as crystal to the ocean shall descend!"

He spoke, and 'neath the surface, black as pitch, he hid his head,
And, punting out my Funny, I my homeward journey sped.
But a strange ambrosial odour, as the God sank 'neath the flood,
Seem'd to float and hover round me, creeping upward from the mud:
And for ever from the water's troubled face there seem'd to rise
A melancholy fragrance of dead dogs unto the skies.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Edward Woodley Bowling

Edward Woodley Bowling was an English poet, rector of Houghton Conquest, and fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. more…

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