Gig Fours [poem by McG]

[Editor: This poem by McG was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

Gig Fours.

You can see their rudder hissing
Past your canvas, and the kissing
Of the wash that fans behind them on your bow-side makes her roll ;
And your coxswain ’s calling “Quicker !”
As your breath comes thick and thicker,
But you put in half-a-dozen fit to bust your blessed soul.

And the boat is leaking badly,
And you fling your weight on madly ;
But your stick has got no packing and it runs down every dip ;
And your instep ’s sore and skinning,
Still you keep a hope of winning
Till the wind flips on your oar-blade and you bend your stretcher-clip.

Every man is outward swinging,
And a dull and sullen singing
Is vibrating in your ear-drums as you feel them screw and squirm ;
And, through your faultless hauling,
You can hear the youngster calling
That you ’re too almighty slow to catch a paralytic worm.

Then there sounds a scraping under
And your seat and slide ’s asunder,
While you ’re spitting chips like thunder and your knees are fairly broke ;
And the streams of sweat near blind you
As you damn the mugs behind you ;
Or, if you ’re three or two or bow, you blame the rotten stroke.

Then you strike the grip and feather.
Whip a few in hell-for-leather.
And you ’re swinging all together just like clockwork for a spell —
Then the wind comes round an angle
And your form gets in a tangle,
And you ’re chucking up the water and the time is all to hell.

Then you see their wash runs stronger
And decide to hang out longer,
Till at last amid the swirling pools their rudder starts to peep ;
And your heart grows big and bigger
As you spot their coxswain’s figure,
And inch by inch along their side you slowly crawl and creep.

Then you think how far the boat is
From the winning post ; no notice
You take of form or feeling, time or troubles, needs or knack ;
With the swaying, swinging, sweeping
Of the oars you feel her leaping,
And you feel the muscles swelling on your shoulders and your back.

For their stroke looks done ! the catch he
Sets is slow and short and scratchy,
And their bow has cracked up badly ; he ’s a deader to the world.
Ho ! their barrackers yell louder,
And they graft like nigs to crowd her,
But there ’s nothing left but arm-work in them : all their backs are curled.

Loud and louder grow the raging
Cries that echo from the staging,
And you pop on half-a-dozen with all your skill and strength ;
Then, with resting arms before you,
Rings the judge’s pistol o’er you,
And you ’ve done them like a dinner by an easy half-a-length!


A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 107-110

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