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Golf Poetry from the Captain of the Leven Thistle Golf Club, 1886

In last week’s Post, I included a poem from a book, Divots for Dubs. The book  can be found in only four libraries in the U.S. Last Monday, I received a book in the mail called Golf Songs and Recitations that I bought from a book seller in England. No libraries carry this book!

What I actually bought was a 1988 reproduction of the original which had been published first in 1886 and then printed again in 1895. This very small (6 1/2″ x 4″) 32 page “book” was written by David Jackson, then Captain of the Leven Thistle Golf Club.  In the book’s Introduction, Jackson says he composed the songs and verses in the book because he had,

heard very few Songs in honour of the Game, and [he] … often thought it a pity that such a popular recreation should be so little celebrated by the Poets.

The first poem in the book is called “Ode to Golf.” In it Jackson describes his love of golf in words that still resonate more than 120 years later. I am including the complete poem since I don’t believe you will find it any where else on the web or in any other book. I think you will enjoy it.

ODE TO GOLF

Oh, Golf, thou art a pleasure dear,
That cheers us on from year to year;
That soothes the heart, and cools the brain,
When stirred with grief, or seared with pain.
Whene’er the wintry snows are over,
Around the Greens we fondly hover;
All blythe of heart as busy bees,
We swing our Clubs, and seek our tees,
The smiling sea, the sunny sky,
The song of larks that heavenward fly,
The flowers that spring to meet the eye
Proclaim the Golfing season nigh.

To Swing, then Drive, To Putt, and Hole,
To some may seem absurd and droll;
To me it is a joy, a pride—
Worth twenty other games beside.
Where is the rival to the game
Of royal and of ancient fame;
Or what is such a cheery houff
As just a friendly match at Gouff?
And when at last, in good old age,
No more at Matches we’ll engage,
We’ll turn to memory’s page and fain
We’ll fight our battles ower again;
And leave to youth the active sport,
The miss, the drive, the miles, the short,
The sclaff, the foozle, the weel sent hame,
The ups and downs of this dear game.

Then fill a bumper, fill it high,
Hurrah for Golf, may Golf ne’er die,
But still from age to age increase—
A game of friendship, love, and peace!

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A Rare Golf Poetry Book

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Those of you who have been following this blog know that most of the poetry is from old golf books and magazines. Part of the fun of writing the blog is finding new (old) books which provide me with new material.  Brian Siplo (co-author of a wonderful book about Harry Vardon’s first trip to the U. S., called The Vardon Invasion) recently told me about some old golf poetry books. With a bit of luck, I was able to buy one of them called Divots for Dubs through Abebooks. The 96 page book was written by J. Ellsworth Schrite who self-published it in 1934.

The book  explains in verse, how to play golf. The author makes this very clear in his charming introduction,

Divots for Dubs

“DIVOTS FOR DUBS” explains in verse,
How to play golf, better or worse;

The history, the course, the clubs to choose,
The stance to take, the swings to use;

What to wear, and where to look,
How to slice, and how to hook;

Things that on each course are seen,
Things you need to play “Nineteen”;

A bit of humor, a bit of sense,
Some alibis for self defence:

Get your “Divots”, take a look,
You miss a “par” if you miss the book.

If you want to read on, however, you will be challenged. According to WorldCat only four libraries in the world have it! But that’s also part of the fun I have: bringing inaccessible golf poetry back to life in this blog.

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Golf Widows in Prose and Poetry (Continued)

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The May 1920 issue of The American Golfer included an article with the title “Yes, I’m a Golf Widow.” It was written “By One of Them.” It begins,

It’s my lot to be the wife of a week-end golfer who from early April till late in November permits nothing to interfere with his weekly pleasure. …  I know he works hard during the week and deserves some pleasant recreation on Saturday and Sunday. He can’t get this by sticking around the house. I was first to discover that he needed something in the athletic line in the open air. I suggested golf to him and he finally got interested, but I am sorry now that I every heard the word.

In the April 1917 issue of The American Golfer, The Rev. John B. Kelly wrote an article with the title “The Moral Value of Golf” in which he counseled,

Let the golf widow not bemoan her lonesome fate, but be glad in her solitude. Her husband may be dead to her when he is embalmed in the allurements of golf, but he will be alive and strong to protect her many years after her neighbor is keeping her stay-at-home husband’s memory fresh in the immortelles she places on his grave.

Those are pretty strong words! James J. Montague, an American poet and writer, and  penned an equally strong message in his poem “Lines to a Golf Widow” which appeared in the November 1921 issue of the same magazine.

Lines to a Golf Widow

If you had said eight months ago
When January blizzards blew,
And all the greens were deep with snow,
That I must give up golf or you,
I might have stayed the fatal step,
I might before it was too late,
Have vowed that we should never sep-
Arate.

If, even in the early Spring,
When we were playing winter rules,
When mud flew thick on every swing,
And balls fell “chug!” in casual pools,
You’d been disposed to raise a row
And talked of leaving me again,
I might have listen to you now
And then.

Indeed along in mid July
When sultry blew the listless breeze,
And temperatures ran rather high—
Say ninety-two or -three degrees,
Had you the riot statute read
Till I agreed to quit, I might—
I can’t be sure—I might have said:
“All right!”

But now, when greens are hard and fast,
And fairways like an emerald floor,
When I have got the swing at last
And confidently bawl out “Fore!”
Your threat to part may be a bluff’
Or you may really pack and go,
But I shall not be home enough
To know !

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Golf Widows in Prose and Poetry

Mrs. Pastern was a woman with an air of bereavement, who 20 yrs. ago would have been known as a golf widow. Mr. Pastern was the brigadier of the golf club’s locker room light infantry, who would shout: “Bomb Cuba! Bomb Berlin!”

This quote is from a description of the story “The Brigadier and the Golf Widow” by John Cheever that appeared in The New Yorker in November 1961.

Actually the term “golf widow” goes back to at least 1890 where an illustration titled “A Golf Widow” appeared in Horace Hutchinson’s famous Badminton Book Golf.

Montrose (a town in Scotland) is … the site of the first recorded ‘golf widow’. She was ‘sweet Mistress Magdalene Carnegie’ who married the son of the 4th Earl of Montrose, James Graham. His diaries record that he played golf with his future brother-in-law, the Laird of Lusse, on the 9th November 1629, the day before his wedding,and then a few days later he sent to St Andrews for new clubs and repairs to his old ones as well as playing more golf. However his controversial lifestyle caught up with him in 1650, after he had become 5th Earl himself, when he was hung, drawn and quartered in Edinburgh at the Grassmarket as a traitor, when he backed the wrong side in the English Civil War.

In June 1915, Grantland Rice published a poem, “The Golf Widow Speaks” in The American Golfer.

THE GOLF WIDOW SPEAKS

You have kicked in with a serum for the Great White Plague;
You have uppercut the Typhus on the jaw;
You  have copped an anaesthetic
To relieve the diptherethic
And the rest of it you’ve cut out with a saw
But tell me, gentle doctors, ere the mortal coil is off,
Is there nothing you’ve discovered in the medicated trough
That may curb the raging fever of the game called “goff”?

You have cantered into Gangrene with a knock-out punch;
You have hammered Scarlet Fever to the ropes;
You have even found the answer
To a mild degree of Cancer,
And you’ve killed the drug enticement of the dopes.
But tell me, learned doctors, is there nothing you can do
For hydrophobic horrors in the heads of husbands who
Can only rave of Stymies and a Perfect Follow Through?

More next week.

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Golf Poems on Twitter: Golf Twines

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Golf Course of Rhymes, through  golf stories linked to golf poetry, is intended to give golfers a different kind of golfing experience.  And since most of the poetry was written by previous generations of golfers, the verses also serve as a bridge to link today’s golfers closer to golfing’s past.

I have been using Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about new Posts .  But reading Twitter Power by Joel Comm I have learned that announcements aren’t enough.

So I have a new idea. Beginning today I am adding occasional Golf Twines to my Twitter time line.  Golf Twines are two line poems that meet Twitter’s 140 character limitation. The two lines can rhyme or not. For example,

To hit a ball both straight and long/Just try to hum a little song. (LSW)

A Wie win/Would be big. (LSW)
(You have to say this one out-loud in a Scottish accent to make it work.)

Some of the Golf Twines will come from the golf poetry I have collected. Often a poem, as a whole, may not work, yet it could have a couple of great lines – a publishable Twine. Other Golf Twines will hopefully come from my “pen.” In keeping with Twitter brevity, attribution , if any, will be by initials, as in the examples.  Needless to say, the Twitter site are open for your Golf Twines as well. And if the idea catches on, we might start a community of Golf Twiners.

So let the Golf Twining begin.

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The Epic of a Chronic Slicer (Continued)

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The previous Post (October 26th) introduced the epic of  “Frenzied John.” The poem, a painful description of a chronic slicer, was left unfinished by Bert Leston Taylor, maybe for good reason. It was included in an article in the June 1926 issue of The American Golfer. The article also included a proposed ending. In addition, readers were asked to write their own endings and submit them to possibly win a prize. The ending that was included is as follows:

FRENZIED JOHN (proposed ending)

And Then

He tried the left side pivot,
Although he found it pained;
He turned his knee in from the tee
But still the kink remained.

He thought of weight and balance,
By toe and then by heel;
With shifting stance he did his dance,
But still they heard him squeal.

He sought a new instructor,
And seemed to be O. K.
But left alone, they heard him moan—
“I’m off again today.”

He bought a spoon and mashie
To help correct the ills;
They both felt great, but sad to state
They would not whang the pill.

His neighbors fled in panic
When he came off the course;
His wife in tears was game for years
And then grabbed a divorce.

He tried a slight pronation,
And said—”I’ve got it now”—
But by next day it went away
And furrows creased his brow.

“Perhaps,” he said, “I’m dipping
My shoulder down too far”:
He held it up, but missed the cup
And never got a par.

“I’m through,” he yelled in fury;
“I’m through for good—You’ll see”;
He quit a week, then grabbed his cleek
And hustled to the tee.

He tried the upright system.
Until I heard him curse;
And yet his game was not the same,
For it grew worse and worse.

In my view, Taylor’s unfinished poem is long enough and just needs maybe two more stanzas to bring it to a close. With that in mind I composed the following. (Note that the first stanza is Taylor’s last and then my two follow.)

My Proposed Ending

He laid the club-face forward,
He laid the club-face back.
His face grew thin, his chest fell in,
His mind began to crack.

He slumped but then remembered.
There was one other book.
He read it quick, and grabbed his stick
Ye gads no slice, a hook.

The moral of the story,
Grasp it ‘fore it’s too late.
Off the tee, ‘tween you and me,
It’s hard to hit it straight!

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