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From The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls and Company, 1911; pp. 595-601.




First on the ground appeared the god-like Trojan Eleven,
Shining in purple and black, with tight and well-fitting
Woven by Andromache in the well-ordered palace of
After them came, in goodly array, the players of Hellas,
Skilled in kicking and blocking and tackling and fooling
          the umpire.
All advanced on the field, marked off with white alabaster,
Level and square and true, at the ends two goal posts
Richly adorned with silver and gold and carved at the
Bearing a legend which read, “Don’t talk back at the umpire” —
Rule first given by Zeus, for the guidance of voluble mortals.
All the rules of the game were deeply cut in the crossbars,
So that the players might know exactly how to evade

On one side of the field were ranged the Trojan spectators,
Yelling in composite language their ancient Phrygian
Ho-hay-toe, Tou-tais-tou, Ton-tain-to; Boomerah
          Boomerah, Trojans!”

596 And on the other, the Greeks, fair-haired, and ready to
If occasion should offer and Zeus should grant them a
Breck-ek kek-kek-koax, Anax andron, Agamemnon!”

First they agreed on an umpire, the silver-tongued Nestor.
Long years ago he played end-rush on the Argive eleven;
He was admitted by all to be an excellent umpire
Save for the habit he had of making public addresses,
Tedious, long-winded and dull, and full of minute
How they used to play in the days when Cadmus was half-back,
Or how Hermes could dodge, and Ares and Phœbus could
Couched in rhythmical language but not one whit to the
On his white hair they carefully placed the sacred tiara,
Worn by the foot-ball umpires of old as a badge of their
Able to save their heads, in case the players should slug
Then they gave him a spear wherewith to enforce his decisions,
And to stick in the ground to mark the place to line up to.
He advanced to the thirty-yard line and began an oration:

“Listen, Trojans and Greeks! For thirty-five seasons,
“I played foot-ball in Greece with Peleus for half-back
          and captain,
“Those were the days of old when men played the game
          as they’d orter,
“Once, I remember, Æacus, the god-like son of Poseidon,
597 “Kicked the ball from a drop, clean over the city of Argos,
“That was the game when Peleus, our captain, lost all his
          front teeth;
“Little we cared for teeth or eyes when once we were
          warmed up.
“Why, I remember that Æacus ran so that no one could
          see him,
“There was just a long hole in the air and a man at the
          end on’t,
“Hercules umpired that game, and I noticed there wasn’t
          much back-talk.”

Him interrupting, sternly addressed the King Agamemnon:
“Cease, old man; come off your antediluvian boasting;
“Doubtless our grandpas could all play the game as well
          as they knew how,
“They are all dead, and have long lined up in the fields of
“If they were here we would wipe up the ground with the
          rusty old duffers.
“You call the game, and keep your eyes fixed on the helmeted
“He’ll play off-side all the while, if he thinks the umpire
          don’t see him!”
Then the old man threw the lots, but sore was his heart
          in his bosom.
“Troy has the kick-off,” he said, “the ball is yours, noble
Then he gave the ball, a prolate spheroid of leather,
Much like the world in its shape, if the world were lengthened,
          not flattened,
Covered with well-sewed leather, the well-seasoned hide
          of a bison,
598 Killed by Lakon, the hunter, ere bisons were exterminated.
On it was painted a battle, a market, a piece of the ocean,
Horses and cows and nymphs and things too many to

Then the heroes peeled off their sweaters and put on their
Also the fiendish expressions the great occasion demanded.
Ajax stood on the right; in the center the great Agamemnon;
Diomed crouched on the left, the god-like rusher and
Crouched as a panther crouches, if sculptors do justice to
Crafty Ulysses played back, for none of the Trojans could
          pass him,
All the best Greeks were in line, but Podas Okus Achilleus,
Who though an excellent kicker stayed all day in his section.

Hector dribbled the ball, then seized it and putting his
          head down,
And, as a lion carries a lamb and jumps over fences —
Dodging this way and that the shepherds who wish to
          remonstrate —
So did the son of Priam carry the ball through the rush
Till he was tackled fair by the full-back, the crafty
Even then he carried the ball and the son of Laertes
599 Full five yards till they fell to the ground with a deep
Where one might hide three men so that no man could see
          them —
Men of the present day, degenerate sons of the heroes —

Now, when Pallas Athene discovered the Greeks would be
She slid down from the steep of Olympus upon a toboggan.
Sudden she came before crafty Ulysses in guise like a
Not that she thought to fool him, but since Olympian
Made the form of a woman good form for a goddess’
She then spoke to him quickly, and said, “O son of
Seize thou the ball; I will pass it to thee and trip up the
Her replying, slowly re-worded the son of Laertes —
“That will I do, O goddess divine, for he can outrun
Then when the ball was in play, she cast thick darkness
          around it.
Also around Ulysses she poured invisible darkness.
Under this cover, taking the ball he passed down the middle,
Silent and swift, unseen, unnoticed, unblocked, and
Meanwhile she piled the Greeks and the Trojans in
Much like a tangle of pine-trees where lightning has
          frequently fallen,
600 Or like a basket of lobsters and crabs which the provident
Dumps on the kitchen floor and vainly endeavors to count
So seemed the legs and the arms and the heads of the
          twenty-one players.
Sudden a shout arose, for under the crossbar, Ulysses,
Visible, sat on the ball, quietly making a touch-down;
On the tip of his nose were his thumb and fingers
Curved and vibrating slow in the sign of the blameless
Violent language came to the lips of the helmeted Hector,
Under his breath he murmured a few familiar quotations,
Scraps of Phrygian folk-lore about the kingdom of
Then he called loud as a trumpet, “I claim foul, Mr. Umpire!”
“Touch-down for Greece,” said Hector; “ ’twixt you
          and me and the goal-post
“I lost sight of the ball in a very singular manner.”

Then they carried the sphere back to the twenty-five yard
Prone on the ground lay a Greek, the leather was poised in
          his fingers —
Thrice Agamemnon adjusted the sphere with deliberation;
Then he drew back as a ram draws back for deadly
Then he tripped lightly ahead, and brought his sandal in
Right at the point; straight flew the ball right over the
601 While like the cries of pygmies and cranes the race-yell
“Breck-ek kek-kek-koax, Anax andron, Agamemnon!”

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