Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Wrestling Match


What guts he had, the Dago lad
Who fought that Frenchman grim with guile;
For nigh an hour they milled like mad,
And mauled the mat in rare old style.
Then up and launched like catapults,
And tangled, twisted, clinched and clung,
Then tossed in savage somersaults,
And hacked and hammered, ducked and swung;
And groaned and grunted, sighed and cried,
Now knotted tight, now springing free;
To bend each other's bones they tried,
Their faces crisped in agony. . . .

Then as a rage rose, with tiger-bound,
They clashed and smashed, and flailed and flung,
And tripped and slipped, with hammer-pound,
And streamin sweat and straining lung,
The mighty mob roared out their joy,
And wild I heard a wench near-by
Shriek to the Frenchman: "Atta Boy!
Go to it, Jo-jo - kill the guy."

The boy from Rome was straight and slim,
And swift and springy as a bow;
The man from Metz was gaunt and grim,
But all the tricks he seemed to know.
'Twixt knee and calf with scissors-lock,
He gripped the lad's arm like a vice;
The prisoned hand went white as chalk,
And limp as death and cold as ice.
And then he tried to break the wrist,
And kidney-pounded with his knee,
But with a cry and lightning twist
The Roman youth had wrested free. . . .

Then like mad bulls they hooked and mauled,
And blindly butted, bone on bone;
Spread-eagled on the mat they sprawled,
And writhed and rocked with bitter moan.
Then faltered to their feet and hung
Upon the ropes with eyes of woe;
And then the Frenchman stooped and flung
The wop among the mob below,
Who helped to hoist him back again,
With cheers and jeers and course cat-calls,
To where the Gaul with might and main
Hung poised to kick his genitals
And drop him senseless in the ring. . . .
And then an old man cried: "My son!"
The maddened mob began to fling
Their chairs about - the fight was done.

Soft silver sandals tapped the sea;
Palms listened to the lack of sound;
The lucioles were lilting free,
The peace was precious and profound.
Oh had it been an evil dream? . . .
A chapel of the Saints I sought,
And thee before the alter gleam
I clasped my hands and thought and thought. . . .

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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