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
Are these the greatest football poems?
Literature and football may not seen like natural bedfellows, although it’s worth remembering that Albert Camus, the philosopher and author, was a goalkeeper, and that the American football team the Baltimore Ravens are named in honour of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem ‘The Raven’. Robert Frost once said, ‘Poetry is play. I’d even rather have you think of it as a sport. For instance, like football.’ And poets down the ages have put into words the magic and wonder of football. Here are five classic poems about football by Victorian, twentieth-century, and contemporary poets.
A. E. Housman, ‘Twice a week the winter thorough’. ‘Twice a week the winter thorough / Here stood I to keep the goal: / Football then was fighting sorrow / For the young man’s soul.’ So begins this poem from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, which goes on to mention cricket, so we get two sports for the price of one in this classic poem. The power of sport in such situations is the ‘mirth’ it provides the speaker: he can keep his mind from gloomier thoughts by joining his fellow man for a football or cricket match. The power of football as a way of ‘fighting sorrow’ also chimes with the message we find elsewhere in A Shropshire Lad: that male bonding, friendship, and neighbourly solidarity are all features of rural village life. Read the rest of this entry