If you search this Blog using the word “elegy” you will find three poems linked to the famous poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” written by Thomas Gray and first published in 1751. Two of these poems are parodies. And now I have found a third titled “An Elegy on the Links” written by Francis Bowler Keene. (Last November I published another poem by Keene called “A Golfer’s Monody, After the First Snowfall.”)
Keene’s poem is similar to Gray’s in structure, form and mood, but only the first verse can be tied closely to the original. The poem or lines from it could be used in a tribute to a golfer that has played his final round.
An Elegy on the Links
The sunset slowly tells the death of day.
At last deserted in each sand-strewn tee.
The caddie homeward wends his weary way.
And leaves the links to silence and to me.
The shadows lengthen on the grassy slopes
Where nibbling sheep still dot the scene with white.
They fade away, like fleeting earthly hopes,
And melt into the shades of coming night.
All silent, save for sounds of bleatings faint
That float to me upon the evening air;
Or, from the darkening wood, some twittered plaint
Of birds that seek nocturnal shelter there.
Upon these close-mown greens, this fading field,
Where hazards full of hidden dangers lie,
The warriors of peace their weapons wield,
And in the friendly contest daily vie.
No more to-day, with shouts from happy lips,
They send their greetings on the ambient air,
And tingle to their very finger-tips,
Enchanted by this game beyond compare.
For them no more the faithful caddie slings
The well-worn bag his youthful shoulder o’er,
Or polished clubs to them, unbidden brings,
Or helps record the all-important score.
Not all who tread these greens can win success,
But few can hold the cups and medals bright.
Yet all may gain that priceless blessedness,
The ruddy health that makes all burdens light.
Let not ambition blind the devotees
Who worship at golf’s grassy temple green.
It is not only they that rule the tees
Who summits of athletic joy have seen.
Full many a man may play a modest game
And feel a joy unclouded, heaven-sent.
No anxious aims entice him on the fame,
He’s free from care, and with his lot content.
For such as this, when golfing days are o’er,
And death’s angel putts the winning hole,
And those above sum up his life’s full score,
Write thus his epitaph, and seek his goal.
Here rests a manly man, beloved by all.
True sportsman. Golfer. His example take.
Good luck or ill might guide his cheery ball,
He always played the game for play’s own sake.
Though small his skill, yet strong his frame well-knit.
Of nature kind and patient, slow to wrath.
His heart was large, and genial was his wit;
All nature smiled along his sunny path.
Seek not between these lines his faults to read,
He lacked success, yet happy was his fate.
A legacy of sunshine is your meed,
If you his cheery virtues emulate.
Keene’s poem is from his book Lyrics of the Links, published in 1923.