Subject: Old Bike Poems
I loved seeing “The Scorcher” a few days ago, it is one of my favorites. It
was written probably in the 1890’s during the first bike boom. A Scorcher
was an early hot rodder, racing around town spooking horses and terrifying
pedestrians in the days when the fastest thing around was a bicycle. The
only thing that could catch a scorcher was a policeman also on a bicycle.
Here are a few other old bike poems including another “Scorcher”. Anyone
interested in a very good history of the bicycle and it’s social impact
should read “A Social History of the Bicycle” (many available on Amazon
from about $4 used), it’s a great read. Keep up the good work. Erik /
THE SCORCHER 1879
He tumbled from his weary wheel and set it by the door;
Then stood as though he joyed to find his feet on earth once more;
And as he mopped his rumpled head his face was wreathed in smiles;
“A very pretty run”, he said, “I did a hundred miles!”
“A hundred miles!”, I cried, “Ah think what beauties you have seen!
The reedy streams where cattle drink, the meadows rich and green.
Where did you wend your rapid way-through lofty woodland aisles?”
He shook his head, “I cannot say-I did a hundred miles.”
“What hamlets saw your swift tyres spin? Ah, how I envy you!
To lose the city’s dust and din beneath the heavens’ blue.
To get a breath of country air; to lean o’er rustic stiles!”
He only said, “The roads were fair; I did a hundred miles!”
TO ARCADY 1895
What men are you who throng
The dusty road this summer day,
Riding together, twenty strong
Uphill and down in bold array,
As the times of Border fray
Knights of the whirring wheel are we
And whither are ye wending, pray?
Merry cyclists that, with song
And laughter, pedal onward say
How, in a world where chains go wrong,
Where tyres collapse, and screws give way,
ye still can be so blithe and gay.
Are all your duns at rest, that ye
Can sing and laugh so lightly?
Nay, we are on the road to Arcady.
GOING DOWNHILL ON A BICYCLE
by HENRY CHARLES BEECHING from the 1870’s)
With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind
The air goes by in a wind.
Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:-
‘Oh bird, see; see, bird, I fly!
‘Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
your feathery life in the air!’
Say heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound,
Steel-shod to the level ground.
Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels are scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.
Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, whereso’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.
Simple but to the point!
Hurrah, hurrah, for the merry wheel
With tires of rubber and spokes of steel;
We seem to fly on the airy steeds
With eagles’ flight in silence speed.