Punt Counter Punt

Mid all these problems we’re confronting
I come to sing the praise of punting! –
Not that, beneath the flowing mays
One may forget these evil days,
Or drown with strident gramophoning
The echoes of Creation’s groaning –
‘The sluggard’s dream’ some would define thee
O noble Punt, how they malign thee!
‘Rather, I say, on Cher and Isis
Britons prepare for future crisis,
Our country’s foes shall find their measure
In heroes trained near Parsons’ Pleasure,
And future Waterloos be won
Where Islip’s modest waters run.

For think! how just a punt (and pole)
Can brace the body, nerve the soul,
When slim canoes flash briskly by
With trailing blade, derisive eye,
Or other punts, with cool effrontery
Pass, conscious of superior puntery!
How one accepts, with scarce a shiver,
Down arm and sleeve, the icy river,
Of all things false one is bereft,
Hair, teeth, on passing trees are left,
Man stands alone, and (unlike rowing)
He stands and sees the way he’s going.

But if the pole in mud be bedded
And pole and punt, which should be wedded
Threaten to part, his frenzied voice
Proclaims the Hour of Punter ’s Choice –
Then must he show both Force and Vision
Or take the Plunge of Indecision.

(1946)

Oxford satires