(Poem #946) Vitaï Lampada
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night -- Ten to make and the match to win -- A bumping pitch and a blinding light, An hour to play and the last man in. And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat, Or the selfish hope of a season's fame, But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote "Play up! play up! and play the game!" The sand of the desert is sodden red, -- Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -- The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead, And the regiment blind with dust and smoke. The river of death has brimmed his banks, And England's far, and Honour a name, But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks, "Play up! play up! and play the game!" This is the word that year by year While in her place the School is set Every one of her sons must hear, And none that hears it dare forget. This they all with a joyful mind Bear through life like a torch in flame, And falling fling to the host behind -- "Play up! play up! and play the game!"
The glorious game of cricket has inspired its share of prose writers, from Neville Cardus and P. G. Wodehouse to Woody Allen and Stephen Fry... but poets? Oh yes; "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" , and one of those things is this week's Minstrels theme: poems about or inspired by or at least tangentially related to those "flannelled fools at the wicket" , cricketers. Newbolt is not, unfortunately, a poet with whose ideology I sympathize; he's too much the imperialist, buying into the "white man's burden" argument without displaying the sensitivity to other cultures of, say, Kipling or even Tennyson. That said, he does have a knack of coining memorable phrases: the refrain of today's poem, the opening lines of "Drake's Drum", the entirety of "Ireland, Ireland". It's not enough to ever elevate him from minor poet status (the third eleven, so to speak), but it's sufficient for him to be remembered. And what more could anyone ask, really? thomas.  Bill Shakespeare  Ruddy Kipling [Minstrels Links] Sir Henry Newbolt: Poem #731, A Ballad of John Nicholson Poem #41, Ireland, Ireland Poem #456, He Fell Among Thieves