The greatest sport poems
Poetry and sport may not seen like natural bedfellows, although it’s worth remembering that several poets, including Rudyard Kipling and G. K. Chesterton, to say nothing of Tennyson’s son, were part of the Allahakbarries, J. M. Barrie’s Edwardian cricket team (who were appallingly bad at the sport, but numbered some of the greatest writers of the age). And poets down the ages have put into words the magic and wonder of sport, whether it’s a game of cricket, a football match, or a spot of tennis. Here are five classic poems about sports of various kinds.
Francis Thompson, ‘At Lord’s’. It’s often tempting to look back, nostalgically, at a golden age of sport, or to recall a sportsperson when they were playing at their peak. Harold Pinter once sent a short poem to Len Hutton which read, ‘I saw Len Hutton in his prime, another time, another time.’ (When, upon receiving no response, Pinter wrote to Hutton asking what he thought of the poem, Hutton shot back that he hadn’t finished reading it yet.) Francis Thompson (1859-1907) remembered seeing Hornby and Barlow bat at Old Trafford in their heyday, and when he was invited to watch Lancashire play Middlesex at Lord’s, Thompson declined to go. Instead, he stayed at home and wrote At Lord’s, recalling those glory days of English cricket. Read the rest of this entry
From rainbows and glorious cerulean blue during the day to blackness and bright stars at night, the sky has provided poets with plenty of inspiration over the centuries. Here are five of the very best sky-themed poems.
William Wordsworth, ‘My heart leaps up’. This simple nine-line poem describes how the poet is filled with joy when he sees a rainbow, and that he has always felt this way, since ‘my life began’; he hopes he will always keep that sense of enchantment with the natural world. The poem contains Wordsworth’s famous declaration, ‘The Child is father of the Man’, but it’s also noteworthy for its joyous opening line about the way one’s heart skips a beat when one encounters something beautiful or sublime in nature. Read the rest of this entry
It’s been suggested many times that there’s a fine line between the poet and the madman, and sometimes, perhaps, no line at all. And so it’s of little surprise that poets down the centuries have written so frequently about madness, mental turmoil, and other disturbed psychological states. Here’s a selection of the very best poems about madness of various kinds.
Anonymous, ‘Fowls in the Frith’. This poem, which is around 800 years old, is ambiguous: the speaker ‘mon waxë wod’ (i.e. must go mad) because of the sorrow he walks with, but what causes this sorrow? The last line is ambiguous, too: does ‘beste’ mean ‘beast’ or ‘best’? The spelling reveals nothing, and in the context of that final line it could be either. If the sorrow is a result of the ‘best of bone and blood’, it could refer to a woman (who is the best living thing in the world, according to the poet) or, as has also been suggested, Christ (a divine being in human form). So, the poem can be read either as a love lyric or as a religious lyric. ‘Fowls in the frith’, by the way, means ‘birds in the wood’, though the latter sounds less haunting and beautiful. Click on the link above to read the poem, along with nine other short medieval poems. Read the rest of this entry