The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 158. MY STEED WITH WHIRRING WHEELS

(“Clarion Ballad” from Clarion 30 May 1896)

O, steed with whirring wheels,
With the sunlight on your steels
Shall we race across the moorland where
the whitened road runs wide?
Shall we fly with rushing wings
While the lark above us sings
And, we catch the gleam of waters where
the brown-sailed luggers glide

Stay while I mount your back –
Your hammock saddle black-
I can feel your springing fibres and
your tingling ribs of steel!
Your swelling tubes of air
My forceful thrust will bear,
So fly, my little beauty,with your flashing buzzing wheel!

There’s a spirit in my feet
That makes your spirit fleet,
And they’ll whirl us to destruction if I loose your gleaming bars;
But we fly from lurking stones
That would crack our steels and bones,
For to-day we’re under orders from our hurrying lucky stars,

Do you sniff the scent of furze
As your swift wheel hums and whirrs?
Do you see the blaze of colour on the blossoms flushed with gold
And the sycamore’s ruddy leaves
Which the loom of Spring-tide weaves-
Ah! You surely glance a moment while in check your head I hold.

Clang!  rings your silver bell
And its chimes of warning tell
The teamster we are coming and our onrush he must heed;
Now he moves his straining horse
And no barrier blocks the course
So fly, Swift, fly with power that would shame an Arab steed!

Up, up the Cornish hill,
As our lungs with sea-air fill
And we tug against the head-wind that would hold us, drive us back;
Ah! there’s health in flying steel
When within our brain a wheel
is almost strained to breaking and we fear its spokes will crack!

Past villages and towns,
Past vales and heath-clad downs,
Past woods whose leaves are pointed with
the subtle dyes of Spring:
There’s a castle – hoary, grand-
There’s a sweep of meadowland,
And a ruined abbey yonder where the ivy
tendrils cling

Now halt! now halt and rest
Near the throstle’s hidden nest,
And we’ll cluck the yellow primrose and
the scented bluebell flow’r:
Here’s a drink of sparkling oil
For your bearing, hot with toil,
And I’ll munch a Cornish pasty while we
pass an idle hour.

And now your lamp-glare red
On the dim white road is shed,
Now we turn with steady motion to the
window -lights of Home:
For our furious mood is gone
As the moon shines cold and wan,
And what steed at nightfall wishes from
his stable-stall to roam?

Ah! bicycle, how like
Are a mortal and his “bike”:
Soon your wheels will rock with weakness
and your gleaming handles rust;
But we’ll range Life’s grand highway
Till we’re done with toil and play
And our lamp of joy shall glimmer through
the journey end in dust!


Herbert Thomas

Next time:  Swiftsure’s advice for touring


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