Tuesday, May 17, 2016
This poem was written for my friend Jack, a Scotsman living in Australia. I knew next to nothing about Rugby...OR Scotland...before befriending Jack. This was my gift to him, for sharing his culture (and friendship) with me.
Seth Bessey was a rugged boy from out in western Maine.
A quiet lad, hard-working; he never did raise Cain.
His parents were quite proud of him; with honors he left school.
But that did not keep others from thinking Seth a fool.
You see, our Mr. Bessey – an easy man to teach –
Just happened to develop an impediment of speech.
T’is something not uncommon, but when speaking should be crisp,
It was so most unfortunate that Bessey had a lisp.
Of course, had they envisioned such a problem for their son,
Seth’s parents would have dumped his name for ANY OTHER ONE.
Alas, t’was almost three whole years before their son did talk.
Suggestions they rename him THEN, quite simply made them balk.
And so, this strapping boy of theirs, cursed with this appellation
Quite dreaded having strangers ask him of his designation.
His face would flame, his hands would sweat, he’d murmur, “It’th Theth Bethey.”
The spit would spray, the strangers flinch— it really was quite methy!
His classmates had been cruel, as children often are.
And after twelve long years of taunts, Seth wanted to go far.
He applied himself to research; for he was college-bound,
And after much due diligence, some relatives he found.
He wrote a nice long letter (for sure, he dared not call!)
And asked if he might stay with them, commencing in the fall.
University was near them; he’d pay room, board and berth,
If he could just be welcomed in their Scottish home in Perth.
He thought it serendipitous (a word he’d NEVER utter!)
That he could name their village and not suffer blush or stutter!
He’d found a town that suited him! In comfort, he’d say ‘Perth’,
And when he did, there was no call for sniggering and mirth.
The Fitzgeralds answered speedily. They housed almost a dozen!
But if he wanted, he could come and bunk in with his cousin.
Of room and board they would not take, but Scots are known as tight!
Instead, they’d make a barter! For their Rugby team he’d fight!
It sounded like a bargain, though Rugby was a mystery.
But smart young Seth was confident. He’d read up on its history!
He packed his bags; he kissed his mum; he shook his pappy’s hand.
And then he climbed aboard his flight and left his native land.
He disembarked the aeroplane in grand old Edinburgh.
His rugby book read end-to-end, his education thorough.
With open arms young Seth was met by cousins Garth and Mabel.
To say their names without a lisp, he happily was able!
His kin then drove him home to Perth, (though on wrong side of street!)
And soon enough, there was a mess of kinfolk for-to meet.
A Mary and a Maggie, a Maura and a Beth…
So far, the names pronounceable by their new cousin Seth.
There was a boy named Peter, another one named John…
But wouldn’t you just know it! His roommate’s name was Sean!
With sinking heart, he met them all, then lifted up his sack,
But Sean — he gripped Seth’s shoulder and said, ‘You can call me Jack!’
His roommate, cousin…and now friend had already perceived
That Seth did not like ‘Esses’ and thus, made him feel relieved.
As soon as Seth was settled in, Jack said ‘Let’s hit the street!
‘We’ll find a pub and have a drink; I’ve mates that you should meet!’
Although young Seth had ne’er imbibed (for what would Mother say?)
He followed Jack along the roads that skirt the River Tay.
They walked along the South Inch, came to the old Ice Factory…
Bells Whiskey, learnt the boy from Maine, was more than satisfactory!
They gathered mates and bottles and to Railway Bridge they went.
Carousing over River Tay – his first Scotch evening spent.
The next day, Cousin Jack…he laughed! Said “Lad, you don’t look frisky!”
Seth groaned, “I am tho very thick of Bellth Fine Thcottith Whithky!”
So Jack took pity on his friend. To keep him feeling hale,
When they drank at The Foundry, he restricted him to ale.
And over at Grey Friars, t’was vodka they did guzzle.
While at the City Nightclub, he put red wine to his muzzle.
But Jack knew more than drinking and he showed young Seth the land.
There were so many lovely spots Fitzgerald had at hand.
They toured inside Scone Palace, where many kings were crowned.
St. John’s Kirk they did visit; the church was much renowned.
The Museum of The Black Watch; The place where they made glass;
Distilleries where they made Scotch to knock you on your ass.
Jack made his cousin feel at home and when Seth dared to speak,
He never mocked or laughed at him, or made him feel a freak.
He let Seth talk quite slowly, as his cousin did finesse
A language almost absent of the pesky letter ‘S’.
To Dundee Uni they did go, to get put through their paces…
North-easterly they drove each morn, the sunrise in their faces.
And after classes every day they’d gather at the pitch.
A sport Seth had deemed easy – was hellish and a bitch!
His Scottish mates were skeptics… this Seth was just a Yank!
They plotted to be hard on him, to see just how he’d rank!
Though Seth had not played football (for his lisp had made him shy)
He was an awesome worker and a tough and rugged guy.
He’d never kicked or thrown a ball, he’d never played a game.
But he could split ten cords of wood, and put the rest to shame.
He could throw a calf for brand; a garden he could spade.
And he could pile a thousand bales! Yeah, he would make the grade.
Jack gave him many pointers. “The referee’s the boss!
“Don’t ever, EVER give him lip, or we’ll end up with a loss!
“Be sure you wear the best of boots to stabilize your ankle.
“For once you leave the game, you’re OUT – and that can really rankle!”
“We’ll start you as a forward, since you’re a beefy chum.
“Make sure you give it all you’ve got, when we’re awarded scrum!
“And please, do NOT pass forward towards the other fellows’ goal!
“For Dundee needs a win or two to save our loving soul!”
“Be careful with your knock-ons! And with foot the ball is hooked!
“With hands, don’t touch the ball in scrum, or our asses will be cooked!”
Seth took his words at value. Jack was a pro at ruggers!
But all Seth really cared to do was thrash those other buggers!
A couple of the other mates had mimicked how he spoke.
At now, at eighteen, Seth was sick of being someone’s joke!
They’d hinted that — because he lisped — he would be ineffectual!
Now Seth was gonna screw ‘em good – and it was nothing sexual!
A Wilson, a McGregor, a Rawden and a Fife
Were about to get a lesson that they’d carry throughout life!
Testosterone was flowing as the game went into play,
And all that Bessey cared about was entering the fray.
The rules, well…they meant nothing! He wanted them to scream!
Instinctively he took out HALF of that opposing team!
And then, the ball was in his hands! His legs were pumping high!
He crossed the goal, pushed down the ball, and got the game’s first Try!
“Take THAT, you Thcottith thithies in your thilly thriped thockth!”
He flashed a sheepish grin at Jack. “What idiotic talk!
“I think when next a player be for a beating begging…
“I’ll call him ‘Gaelic weakling-- in daftie banded legging’!”
He slung his arm around friend Jack and walked him past the mound
Of rugby players lying there in pain upon the ground.
“That game hath left me feeling parched. How ’bout we find a nip?
“There mutht be thome Bellth Whithky that I could thlowly thip!”