The Poetry Corner

The Alpine Club Man.

By Edward Woodley Bowling

"Up the high Alps, perspiring madman, steam, To please the school-boys, and become a theme." Cf. Juv. Sat. x, v. 106. We who know not the charms of a glass below Zero, Come list to the lay of an Alpine Club hero; For no mortal below, contradict it who can, Lives a life half so blest as the Alpine Club man. When men of low tastes snore serenely in bed, He is up and abroad with a nose blue and red; While the lark, who would peacefully sleep in her nest, Wakes and blesses the stranger who murders her rest. Now blowing their fingers, with frost-bitten toes, The joyous procession exultingly goes; Above them the glaciers spectral are shining, But onward they march undismay'd, unrepining. Now the glacier blue they approach with blue noses, When a yawning crevasse further progress opposes; Already their troubles begin - here's the rub! So they halt, and nem. con. call aloud for their grub. From the fountain of pleasure will bitterness spring, Yet why should the Muse aught but happiness sing? No! let me the terrible anguish conceal Of the hero whose guide had forgotten the veal! [1] Now "all full inside" on the ice they embark: The moon has gone down, and the morning is dark, Dreary drizzles the rain, O, deny it who can, There's no one so blest as the Alpine Club man! But why should I dwell on their labours at length? Why sing of their eyelids' astonishing strength? How they ride up "artes" with slow, steady advance, One leg over Italy, one over France. Now the summit is gained, the reward of their toil: So they sit down contentedly water to boil: Eat and drink, stamp their feet, and keep warm if they can - O who is so blest as the Alpine Club man? Now their lips and their hands are of wonderful hue, And skinless their noses, that 'erst were so blue: And they find to their cost that high regions agree With that patient explorer and climber - the flea. Then they slide down again in a manner not cozy, (Descensus baud facilis est Montis Rosae) Now spread on all fours, on their backs now descending, Till broad-cloth and bellows call loudly for mending. Now harnessed together like so many - horses, By bridges of snow they cross awful crevasses; So frail are these bridges that they who go o'er 'em Indulge in a perilous "Pons Asinorum." Lastly weary and Jaded, with hunger opprest, In a hut they chew goat's flesh, and court gentle rest; But entomological hosts have conspired To drive sleep from their eyelids, with clambering tired. O thou, who with banner of strangest device Hast never yet stood on a summit of ice, Where "lifeless but beautiful" nature doth show An unvaried expanse of rock, rain, ice, and snow. Perchance thou may'st ask what avails all their toil? What avails it on mountain-tops water to boil? What avails it to leave their snug beds in the dark? Do they go for a view? do they go for a lark? Know, presumptuous wretch, 'tis not science they prize, The lark, and the view ('tis all mist) they despise; Like the wise king of France with his ten thousand men, They go up their mountain - to come down again. [1] Cf. Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers, 1st Series, p. 296.