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The Lay of the Troubled Golfer -- Edgar Guest

(Poem #496) The Lay of the Troubled Golfer
His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,
And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.
I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,
And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:
"I'd an easy five for a seventy-nine -- in sight of the golden goal --
An easy five and I took an eight -- an eight on the eighteenth hole!

"I've dreamed my dreams of the `seventy men', and I've worked year after year,
I have vowed I would stand with the chosen few ere the end of my golf career;
I've cherished the thought of a seventy score, and the days have come and gone
And I've never been close to the golden goal my heart was set upon.
But today I stood on the eighteenth tee and counted that score of mine,
And my pulses raced with the thrill of joy -- I'd a five for seventy-nine!

"I can kick the ball from the eighteenth tee and get this hole in five,
But I took the wood and I tried to cross that ditch with a mighty drive --"
Let us end the quotes, it is best for all to imagine his language rich,
But he topped that ball, as we often do, and the pill stopped in the ditch.
His third was short and his fourth was bad and his fifth was off the line,
And he took an eight on the eighteenth hole with a five for a seventy-nine.

I gathered his clubs and I took his arm and alone in the locker room
I left him sitting upon the bench, a picture of grief and gloom;
And the last man came and took his shower and hurried upon his way,
But still he sat with his head bowed down like one with a mind astray,
And he counted his score card o'er and o'er and muttered this doleful whine:
"I took an eight on the eighteenth hole, with a five for a seventy-nine!"
-- Edgar Guest
No, I have never played. My introduction to golf has been an altogether
kindlier and gentler one - the inimitable stories of P. G. Wodehouse, which
have given me a keen appreciation of the many tragedies and heartbreaks that
litter the golf-courses, and the inevitable amusement they afford a

Today's poem is in much the same vein. All the standard elements of a good
golf story are present - the fanatically dedicated golfer, the game hung in
the balance, the tragically bad hole and the almost de rigeur spate of rage
and profanity (always referred to, of course; never quoted). Truly not a
game for the timid :)

Of course, the 'standard elements' comment could be seen to cut both ways,
and this is certainly not a poem whose originality rests in the 'plot', but
to expect it to do so is to miss the point entirely. Like many other good
humorous poets[1], Guest takes an utterly trivial and commonplace incident,
and immortalises it with a great poem.

[1] this practice is not, of course, limited to humorous verse, but it does
seem to flourish there, since the very act of dignifying such trivialities
can be seen as funny (note the use of 'lay' in the title, for instance).


Heptametric couplets, grouped into verses of six lines. As longtime readers
know, I am always glad to see good heptameter - it has a lovely swing to it
that carries the poem along effortlessly, making it much favoured by
narrative poets.

The other noteworthy device is the repetition - a device that needs no
explanation if you've ever had to listen to someone whine about something :)


  Born in Birmingham, England, on August 20, 1881, Edgar A. Guest settled
  with his family in Detroit in 1891. Starting in 1895 as a copy boy at the
  Detroit Free Press, Guest worked his way up as police reporter, exchange
  editor, and verse columnist. His first, weekly column, "Chaff," began in
  1904 and eventually became the daily "Breakfast Table Chat," which was
  ultimately syndicated to 300 newspapers throughout the United States. His
  fourth volume of poetry, A Heap o' Livin', reputedly sold more than one
  million copies. He broadcast weekly from Chicago on NBC radio from 1931 to
  1942. (For example, in the 1937-38 season his program, "Edgar Guest in
  Welcome Valley," was sponsored by Household Finance on Tuesdays from 8:30
  to 9:00 p.m. and ran on 18 stations.) In 1951 NBC broadcast his "A Guest
  in Your Home" on television.

  On June 28, 1906, Guest and Nellie Crossman married. They had two
  children. Guest was a Mason, a member of the Episcopal church, and a
  lifelong golfer. Late in life Guest was given several honorary degrees,
  notably by the University of Michigan in 1955.

  Guest authored over 20 volumes of poetry. At his death on August 5, 1959,
  he was affectionately called "the poet of the people" because he wrote of
  everyday family lives with deep sentimentality. He was thought to have
  penned over 11,000 poems in his lifetime, many of them in fourteeners,
  which have been neglected by major poets for centuries. An index to all
  his poems exists in the Seattle Public Library. Academic anthologies
  usually omit his works, possibly because in them he unashamedly wears his
  heart on his sleave and leaves little room for multiple interpretations.
  Possibly his best-known poem is "It Couldn't be Done." His Collected Verse
  appeared in 1934 and went into at least 11 editions.



Speaking of Wodehouse, see the very similar poem "Missed": poem #179


p.s. An unprecedented event - a Guest poem submitted by me :)

19 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Bob and Peg said...

Hi Mr Guest. I have just come across your poem "The Lay Of The Troubled Golfer' You may not be a be, as you say, a golfer, But you hit the nail on top of the head. so often have I been in that situation. The poem itself is a cracker. My problem is though, at the age of seventy two I think I maybe running out of time to crack the seventy nine---lol----Thanks----Bob Borer--New Zealand

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