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Links Between Golf and Life

Robert Chambers was a Scottish author, poet, journal editor and publisher, born in 1802. He was the anonymous author of the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, published in 1844  and described as bringing together,

“various ideas of stellar evolution and progressive transmutation of species governed by God-given laws in an accessible narrative which tied together numerous speculative scientific theories of the age. ” (from Wikipedia)

Chambers, who was also a golfer, wrote a number of other books including one titled, A Few Rambling Remarks on Golf. Also, he and his brother William for many years edited CHAMBER’S JOURNAL of POPULAR LITERATURE,L SCIENCE, AND ART. One entry in 1877 titled “The Royal Game of Golf” included the following,

The fascinations of the game have enlisted in the ranks of its votaries men of all classes, many of them famous on other fields, who have made their reminiscences of their beloved pursuit mediums for many a bright word-picture in prose and verse.

Robert Chambers was clearly one of these men.

Late in his life, Chambers moved to St. Andrews where he enjoyed a “luxurious and  ‘learned leisure.’ All task-work was at an end.” While living in the shadows of the Old Course, Chambers envisioned a series of “half-comic, half-moralizing sonnets, which were intended to be nine in number,” one for each of the first nine holes. He completed only three before he died in 1871. However, his son and a friend added the other six. The entire poem, “The Nine Holes of St. Andrews in a Series of Sonnets” can be found in Robert Clark’s book Golf: A Royal and Ancient Game. Below is the first hole sonnet written by Robert Chambers.

I. THE FIRST OR BRIDGE HOLE.

Sacred to hope and promise is the spot —
To  Philp’s and to the Union Parlour- near,
To every golfer, every caddie dear —
Where we strike off — oh, ne’er to be forgot.
Although in lands most distant we sojourn.
But not without its perils is the place ;
Mark the opposing caddie’s  sly grimace,
Whispering :”‘He’s on the road !”  “He’s in the burn !”

So is it often in the grander game
Of life, when, eager, hoping for the palm,
Breathing of honour, joy, and love, and fame,
Conscious of nothing like a doubt or qualm.
We start, and cry :  “Salute us, muse of fire !”
And the first footstep lands us in the mire.

[Philp was Hugh Philp a still famous club maker with a shop near the first hole and the Union Parlour was the clubhouse at the time.]

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