La Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso
The pleasures of skating were well enough known in the 16th century for this Italian epic poet to use it as an analogy for an old sage with magical powers who appears to walk on water – “As o’er the Rhine, when winter its broad tide / Has in smooth chains of solid silver bound, / The village girls in crowds securely glide, / With long swift strokes, in many a playful round.”
The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Wordsworth recalls the winter games of his childhood among the lakes, and recaptures the intoxicating sense of speed: “When we had given our bodies to the wind, / And all the shadowy banks on either side / Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still / The rapid line of motion”.
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
The Pickwickians take to the ice with varying degrees of skill. Bob Sawyer “described circles with his left leg, and cut figures of eight, and inscribed upon the ice . . . a great many other pleasant and astonishing devices”. Sport is interrupted when Pickwick himself disappears through the ice, but he is rescued and hot punch is administered.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Levin goes to the skating ground in the hope of finding Kitty. He is a bundle of nerves and watches as “All the skaters, it seemed, with perfect self-possession, skated towards her, skated by her, even spoke to her.” But then . . . “Put on skates, and let us skate together,” says the lovely Kitty. “They set off side by side, going faster and faster, and the more rapidly they moved the more tightly she grasped his hand.” Ecstasy!
White Boots by Noel Streatfeild
Brave, impecunious Harriet takes up skating and meets ice champion Lala Moore, whose parents were famous skaters who died after falling through the ice on a pond. Harriet becomes brilliant, and Lala is seized by jealousy. In the end, friendship prevails and Harriet gets super white skating boots from Lala for her birthday.
“Skating” by EE Cummings
Cummings’s celebration of winter has only one thing in mind as the season’s singular pleasure. “Gleam of ice, and glint of steel, / Jolly, snappy weather; / Glide on ice and joy of zeal, / All, alone, together.”
Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever
In Cheever’s novella Lemuel Sears leaves the city to go skating on Beasley’s Pond. His delight in nature and his pleasure in his own body are reawakened by skating, which has “the depth of an ancient experience”. But the local mafia will turn the pond into a dump.
“Woman Skating” by Margaret Atwood
Atwood makes a spinning skater an enactment of some miraculous human triumph over time. The poet’s own parenthesis tells us that this woman, “jacket sudden / red against the white, // concentrating on moving / in perfect circles”, is in fact her mother, remembered on an outdoor urban rink.
The Skating Party by Marina Warner
A group of friends and family skate down a frozen river in the Fens – a perfect occasion for chilly intellectuals. The bliss of icy velocity releases all the latent tensions, as we find out about the misdeeds of anthropologist Michael Lovage and the frustrated ambitions of his wife, Viola.
Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller
James Dyer, 18th-century protagonist of Miller’s novel, cannot feel pain. Supposedly, his character has been formed by his conception. His mother went out skating on a frozen river at night and there had sex with a stranger. Naturally, the son born of this cold coupling would have all his feelings frozen.