By Bob High (USA)
When in July the sweet sun of summer shines
And lifts our thirsty souls like foreign wines;
When sea and soil have cast off winter's chill
And flowers bloom upon the grassy hill;
When dogs begin to pant, and the bold sun
His half-course in the Lion's sign has run;
When work and city life begin to pall
And stones and bowls in distant climes do call;
Then in our hearts and minds we all soon know
The time has come to gather and play Go,
And players weak and strong pack up their bans
Whether they be of humble rank, or dans;
Then players long to seek the stranger strands
Of far-off Go-saints, known in other lands;
And gathering from countries near and far
On Canterbury, England, fix their star.
It happened in that season, one odd day
In New York, at the Go club, as I played
While idly watching two shodans fight ko
Someone suggested, "Why don't we all go?"
"To get to Canterbury's no great hump;
It's a hop, a skip and a monkey-jump!"
No sooner said, the party had agreed:
The thought was welcome parent to the deed;
And so our little party made its plans:
To Canterbury we would take our bans!
Now, while I have the time and ample space
Before our story picks up in its pace
It seems a bit of wisdom to relate
The nature of our party, and its fate:
Who my companions were upon this trip
And something of the tales that crossed the lip
For as we planned to travel together
And wanted better converse than the weather
To keep our party fresh and never stale
It was agreed that each would tell a tale
And ere relating some of what they said
I'd best attach a body to each head!
I'll introduce the party one by one;
I'd wot you'll know them well before I'm done!
A KIBITZER there was among the crowd
Whose comments o'er the Go board oft were loud;
He'd find a game where two fierce armies vied
And take up vigil by the Go-ban's side;
At first he'd only smile, or crook a brow,
But soon he'd nod and mutter, "Ah! That's how!"
And shake his head, and grimace as they played
Or give a sudden gasp, as stones were laid.
And if the players, rising from their game
Admonishing, would try to show him shame
He'd start, and say, "I'm really frightfully sorry
But look - throw in, extend, and then atari!"
And though the other players surely knew
That they were dans, and he a lowly kyu
And all agreed he couldn't be too bright -
God's wounds, three times in four his moves were right!
So if you've lately come to slate and shell,
Pray mark the moral of this tale full well;
'Twere best learned now, ere playing any longer:
The kibitzer is always two stones stronger.
A SAN-DAN and his scribe soon joined the pack;
The san-dan's name was Phil; his scribe was MAC.
For years this san-dan scrupulously had
Pursued a plan some might consider mad:
Each game the san-dan played his scribe would save -
In truth, upon his memory engrave;
Then later, 'neath the gaze of some wise teacher
They'd carefully explore each move and feature.
Each blunder, aji keshi or mistiming
He'd patiently endure his teacher's sliming.
Such discipline might leave some players unnerved,
Seeing what lofty scorn their play deserved;
Yet, truth to tell, far from engendering shame
This studiousness had much improved Phil's game!
Nor was our san-dan chary of his time;
Despite his plan the ranks of dan to climb,
In his home town our san-dan had a club
Of which he was the founder, host and hub;
He also chaired the rating subcommittee
(For which his wife and friends held him in pity),
And sundry other duties carried out
To such a degree, that I could have not a doubt
That one could hardly find a finer soul
Who ever lifted stones from cherry bowl.
A PARODIST we counted in our number
To whom the pun was natural as slumber;
No sooner would he hear a rhyme or ditty
Than he'd be scheming how to make it witty.
No poem, song or proverb was immune;
The parodist would shape it to his tune,
And though the other players did resist
Collaboration from them he'd enlist
In singing or reciting all his works
Ad nauseum, despite their groans and smirks.
The only way they found to dim his flame
Was challenge him to play a lightning game;
Then, when the last fierce battle had been fought,
He'd scan the board and sigh, "What hath Go wrought?"
An EDITOR there was among our band
Who'd penned his articles in many a land;
From far Cathy reports he once mailed
And to the Hermit Kingdom twice he'd sailed.
He carried with him journals by the pound
And when requested gladly passed them round;
When asked about the issues overdue
He'd stop and stammer, overcome with rue.
No malcontent was he, no sad misfit,
But sociable, and with a ready wit;
He could make songs and poems, and recite;
Knew how to play the piano, loud and bright,
Enjoyed a hand of Pits or Liars' Dice
And would take up his Go stones in a trice.
He'd take a drink or two, and something more -
He'd learned abroad to use both hands to pour,
And when the party started in to sing
He was the one got harmonies to ring.
On top of this, and just to round the list,
He was a first-class family therapist.
A SECRETARY came among our crew
Whose task it was to see our numbers grew
For he had charge of all Go-playing rolls;
Renewal and expansion were his goals.
This secretary led an active life,
With multiple enthusiasms rife;
He liked to run and hike, to read and play,
And folded origami night and day.
He was in general an amiable sort
Though when his patience failed, quick to retort,
And though he'd gladly join in a drink and joking
He had but little tolerance for smoking.
It happened that the Secretary bore
A resemblance to his friend, the Editor.
This similarity, as plain as day,
Made one who came among the party say
"The Editor and Secretary look
As like as facing pages in a book!"
And though the two in truth were no relation
Neither was put off by this conflation,
For they were friends and shared a common passion
For jokes and puns, and parodies they'd fashion
Adapting old familiar songs to Go.
Alas, one difference 'tween the two soon showed:
The Secretary had a way with words
Was good at math, could juggle roots and surds,
But though he was a wizard at sum
When singing, it was best if he'd just hum!
A PRESIDENT enhanced our little troop:
The highest officer among our group.
A gracious diplomat, the soul of tact,
Only a dan diploma did she lack.
Our President had travelled far and wide;
Adventurous, she'd no need of a guide;
She'd been to Beijing, Tokyo and Prague
And seem Hiroshima, and London's fog.
Though at organizing Go she was astute
Her special love was music, and her lute
Would oft be heard, o'er click of clam and slate
Once the hour was adequately late;
Her voice would soar, in tones both gay and bold,
Performing compositions both new and old.
She'd have a round of saki, beer or scotch,
While members of our party stood and watched
Then entertain us merrily anent
The Tournament Director's sad lament
Or "Harry's Song", "Joseki" or another
Penned by the editor or his false brother,
And ere our party finally left the scene
Inevitably sing "Goodnight Irene".
A TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR joined the fold
For organizing worth her weight in gold;
Who, though she knew the rules, frankly preferred
To watch; if asked to play she just demurred.
Well known among our players strong and weak
Her manner as TD was far from meek:
For she'd assert her right (as was her due)
To settle all disputes, with dan and kyu.
Interminable byo-yomi was her bane -
And though Ing's timers caused her to complain,
In Canterbury she found to her dismay
With hourglass and sundial we would play!
A pair of SAILORS next enlarged the throng
(Bringing at least a dozen bags along).
Though new to Go, their progress had been fast,
So much so, other players cried, "Avast!"
The lady sailor lessons took, like doses;
Her husband picked up his Go by osmosis.
Our sailors were a fine and hardy pair,
He had a bushy beard, and she long hair;
They both had lively minds, and heads for figures,
And if your ship lacked sails, they'd gladly rig yours!
Their plan was to amass a small nest egg
Then sail around the planet, leg by leg,
Stopping in likely ports of call for Go
(Or where the natives spoke Esperanto).
To earn their cache they programmed to the banks
(Less fun, but better pay than at think tanks);
They laboured long and hard for their employers
And met with endless managers and lawyers;
The database they'd built would soon see use.
And they'd be liberated; on the loose.
One iron-clad rule they wisely never spoiled:
Not to invest their nest-egg where they'd toiled.
That way the couple never would be faced
With fear their currency would be dBased!
The two had formed a circle at their bank
(Though all the players were of lowly rank);
Of losing to each other they'd grown weary;
This circle soon developed an odd theory:
Since none sensed any progress, round to round,
They opined that they were dragging all else down.
All Go play would regress from bad to worse:
Like a black hole, collapsing universe!
Bob was Membership Secretary of the American Go Association.
He came to Canterbury in 1992, but died in a rafting accident in January 1993.
More BGA history