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December Golf

 

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My apologies for being slow to put out a new post. I have been battling the flu for a while (even though I dutifully got my flu-shot last October). I am finally starting the feel better and put together what is now my annual four-liner bemoaning Winter. Nothing new, just another observation on what separates golfers who are warmer and from those who are colder at this time of year.

DECEMBER GOLF

Golf in December, a delight for those
Not burdened by four layers of clothes;

Advice or tips no matter the source,
Of little use on a snow-covered course.

 
Two other comments. For the golfer who has everything and is interested in the history and literature of the game, please consider my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/11b2H2k) and other web bookstore locations

Also next year, if I can figure out how to do it, we will be reciting some poetry together. In this way I hope to encourage you to read poetry out loud.

Finally, I would like to wish my readers from over 120 countries a very happy holiday season and lower scores next year. Thank you for coming back to read golf poetry from time to time. There are more than 160 poems about golf on the pages of this Blog. When you have time explore a little using search words. The top 10 are fine, but there’s a lot more.

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Golf Poems about Politics and the Weather

president-taft

 

President Taft Addressing his Ball

Below are some poems from a book called “A Line o’ Gowf or Two” written by Bert Leston Tayor and published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1923. Charles “Chick” Evans, the famous Chicago amateur golfer and a friend of Taylor’s, wrote the introduction. Taylor was a newspaper columnist, poet and writer. From 1910, until his death in 1921, he wrote a daily column in the Chicago Tribune under the byline “A Line o’ Type or Two.” During this time he became one of the most widely read newspaper humorists. His book is a posthumous compilation of his golf writings and poetry taken from his Tribune column.

First is a poem to fit the political season:

 ON THE FIRING LINE

At thought of what may hap today
I’m not disturbed a bit;
And who may triumph in the fray
Perplexes me no whit.

 The doings in Convention hall
Afford me no concern;
I do not speculate at all
On how the tide will turn.

 I ask not who may hit or miss,
Who perish, who survive;
The thing that bothers me is this—
Why did I hook that drive?

 Next, a poem of similar form that must have been written during the 1912 presidential campaign in which the sitting president Taft was opposed by both (Colonel) Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson:

 ADDRESSING THE BALL

I do not like the Colonel’s camp,
Because I hate a crowd;
The language there would light a lamp,
And all the talk is loud.

 I do not like the Taftian camp,
Its atmosphere is ghoulish;
The language there is dull and damp,
And all the talk is foolish.

 I do not like a hue and cry,
I do not like a ball,
A plague on both your camps, say I—
Hey, Caddy! Watch that ball!

 And finally four lines about this time of year for those of us who see winter coming:

 Gather ye foursomes while ye may,
The old year fast is going;
And this same sky that smiles to-day
To-morrow may be snowing.

After thought:

If newspapers or golf magazines still included poetry, then after the recent brouhaha involving Ian Poulter, the British golf pro, and Ted Bishop, then the head of the PGA, you might have seen a verse such as the following,

TED BISHOP’S LAST TWEET

The current head of the PGA, himself a golfing pro,
In his Tweet to Ian P. a bias he did show;
His words included “Lil Girl” a reference better skirted,
By doing so he lost his job and left colleagues disconcerted.

LSW

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World War I, Golf and Golf Poetry

 

Robert Stanley Weir

 The First World War began 100 years ago this month. With this in mind, I would like to devote at least the next two Posts to links between the War, golf and golf poetry. Previously I published a Post called “Golf and the Great War” (http://bit.ly/1kZL9n2). These Posts will add more stories and information to the subject.

While doing research for my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, (now available on Amazon in Europe for lower prices 6.50 pounds, 7.82 Euros), I discovered a Canadian poet-golfer named Robert Stanley Weir, 1856-1926, who wrote an impressive war-related poem at the beginning of World War I. Let me quote from my book:

“Robert Stanley Weir, a Canadian, wrote a poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” published in the April 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated and Outdoor America. Weir, a Montreal judge, writer and poet, was most famous for writing in 1908 the first English lyrics to O Canada, Canada’s national anthem. Today’s official English lyrics to the anthem are based on Weir’s original version. A little digging also shows that Weir was a golfer and frequent contributor to Golf Illustrated. He wrote book reviews and several articles on swing mechanics. One titled “Braid or Vardon, Which?” focuses on the swings of these two champions and ends with the thought:

 ‘Whether we essay the mighty Vardonian sweep or Braid’s whip-like, corkscrew-like snap, let us beware of adopting one theory to the denial of any other possible one. It is a great satisfaction and advantage to be able to recognize and adopt both.’

 Clearly the Judge was a student of the game.

The title of Weir’s poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” refers to a plateau just outside the wall of Quebec City where a famous battle was fought between the British and French on September 13, 1759. The British won this pivotal battle; however, the British commander, General James Wolfe, was mortally wounded and died on the battle field. The French commander, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, was also mortally wounded and died the next day. From 1874 to 1915, Cove Fields on the Plains of Abraham was the site of the Quebec Golf Club. This background is needed to understand the setting for the poem. The poem, written at the beginning of the First World War, is a strong and heartfelt statement against war.

The Plains of Abraham

Here, where so long ago the battle roared
Sore frighting Dawn when, trembling, she arose
And saw the precious blood of Wolfe out-poured
And France’s hero sinks to long repose.

The grass, they say, is greener for the red
That drenched these plains and hollows all about;
And those thrice fifty years or more have spread
Much peacefulness on glacis and redoubt. [defensive fortifications]

Yes, Mother Nature, grieving, hideth soon
All trace of battles, ravage, death and pain.
The birds began to sing that afternoon—
The dusty, trodden grass to rise again.

And many a year the Citadel’s gray walls
Have seen the quiet golfers at their play:
Passing old ramparts, rusted cannon-balls,
And sighting gunless ships the river way.

Thrilled with the peace of golf the players said:
“Those cruel wars can ne’er again have birth;
The living shall no longer mourn their dead
Untimely gathered to reluctant earth.”

“The tribes shall rest—nor nearer conflict come
Than when a friendly foursome play the game;
The roaring voice of Wrath is stricken dumb
O better brotherhood than battle-fame!”

But, hark, the roaring of unnumbered guns
By salt Atlantic breezes hither blown!
And bitter cries from countless weeping ones,
While Peace is wringing her cold hands alone!”

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Golf Poetry at its Best

for Golfer's Discontent post

 

Robert K. Risk and Grantland Rice are two of my favorite golf poets. This Blog (and my book) contain poems by both. I think I remember reading that Rice wrote more than 6000 poems throughout his lifetime. He wrote on may subjects besides golf. His most famous lines come from a 1908 poem called “Alumnus Football” (http://bit.ly/1l7QLGe):

“For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.”

 

Risk, on the other hand, seems to have limited his poetry to golf. He was a Scottish writer, poet and drama critic. As far as I know he published a single collection of golf poems in 1919 under the title, “Songs of the Links.” The book contains 36 poems and this may be all that Risk ever published. Nevertheless, almost all are worth reading. I am particularly fond of the one that I want to share with you in this post. It describes beautifully. with humor and clarity, how golfers always seem to long for some level of play that they cannot achieve. And then ends by pointing out the disappointment that would result from playing too well.

THE GOLFER’S DISCONTENT

By Robert K. Risk

The evils of the Golfer’s state
Are shadows, not substantial things –
That envious bunkers lie in wait
For all our cleanest, longest swings;
The pitch that should have won the round
Is caught and killed in heavy ground.

And even if at last we do
That 80, coveted so long,
A melancholy strain breaks through
The cadence of our even-song –
A  7  (which was “an easy 4″)
Has “spoilt our 77 score.”

And thus, with self-deception bland,
We mourn the fours that should have been,
Forgetting, on the other hand,
The luck that helped us through the green;
Calmly accepting as our due
The four-hole which we fluked in two.

The drive that barely cleared the sand,
The brassy-shot which skimmed the wall,
The useful “kick,” the lucky “land” –
We never mention these at all;
The only luck that we admit
Is when misfortune comes of it.

And therefore, in a future state,
When we shall all putt out in two,
When drives are all hole-high and straight,
And every yarn we tell is true,
Golf will be wearisome and flat,
When there is naught to grumble at.

 

 

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A Golfer’s Lament: “If only I could …”

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“If only I could play that hole again” is the title of an e-book of my golf poetry. It is a refrain that has either been uttered out loud or at least thought about by almost every golfer after playing a golf hole badly. It is certainly a worthy subject for a poem.

 If only I could play that hole again

If only I could play that hole again
I know that I could shoot a better score
That drive I hit was rather short and right
A second chance would let me make a four.

Instead my second shot is from the trees
It traveled only fifty yards at best
And left me feeling sick and ill at ease

I’m sure if asked my teacher would agree
With all the skill I have but have not shown
I should be lining up a putt for three.

Instead I have a tricky wood to play
A side-hill up-hill lie around a bend
A perfect shot would show that I’m okay.

My swing is perfect but the ball went wide
It disappeared from sight and was not found
Nothing I can do will turn the tide.

Instead of two I’m on the green in six
My second putt lips out my score is nine
Bad luck it is that put me in this fix.

I’d really like to play that hole again
To show off all my talent and my skill
My partners think my attitude is great
But check my chance to make a par as nil.

The e-book that includes this poem and many others is available on Amazon. The link is http://amzn.to/WyVnIz. I hope you will give it a look.

 

 

 

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Waiting for the Spring Opening of My Golf Course

Chapter 17 001

 

It is about this time of year that frustration sets in if you live in a cold climate area. Spring has arrived once again as an unplayable. Where I live in Massachusetts as I write this, snow still covers half of my backyard and probably half of the local golf course. The Golf Expo has come through town, the few golf emporiums than remain are beckoning with sales and I can still do no better than to practice putting in the playroom.

The poets understood the meaning of Spring to golfers who must wait out its first weeks until the temperatures rise. Clinton Scollard in an epic poem of some 90 stanzas may have said it best more than 90 years ago. In describing the travails of a novice golfer, he concludes with three stanzas that describe the golfer’s anticipation of his second season. (Suggestion: read the three stanzas out loud and slowly; don’t worry about a few strange words; and when you finish read it once more. I guarantee you will enjoy both readings, but especially the second.)

Yes, he can wait until the vernal chord
Softly smitten, and the umbered sward
     Quickens beneath the sun’s renewing fire.
And stripling Spring is Winter’s overlord.

 Then feel his feet the tempting turf once more,
While down the distance floats his ringing “fore!”
     And he is brother to the hale desire
That is of all reviving things the core.

 Others may catch the scattered scrap and shard
Of exultation, but to them is barred
     The keen elation that the Golfer knows
When Spring’s first ball is teed and driven hard.

These last two lines illustrate once again how a poet’s few carefully chosen words can speak so personally to every avid golfer:

     “The keen elation that the Golfer knows
 When Spring’s first ball is teed and driven hard.”

[Clinton Scollard was a prolific writer and poet. For eight years he was a professor of English literature at Hamilton College in New York. The poem (in three Cantos and an Envoy) appears in a book called The Epic of Golf published in 1923. The 17th chapter of my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages includes more verses from Scollard’s poem and a description of the entire poem  ]

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A Weary Winter and Thoughts of Golf

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I’m sitting in my home-office looking out the window as the snow comes down hard again. This has not been an easy winter in New England. When not look out the window I’ve been looking for a poem for this Post. In that search I came across a song titled “The Weary Winter Weather of 1886” by David Jackson (Captain of the Thistle Golf Club, Leven) in his slight volume Golf – Songs &Recitations. Jackson’s song is to be sung to the tune of “Johnnie Cope.” (see http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Johnny_Cope)

The poem/song was composed after Winter had passed and reminds those of us who are snowed-in that we will yet cheer the coming of warmer days and a new golf season. Here is the song’s Chorus,

But hurrah! Hurrah! The Spring has come at last,
And loosened the burns, that were a’ frozen fast,
And we a’ rejoice that the Winter is past,
For we’ll get a round at Golf in the morning.

Jackson wrote in Scots which makes the song a  bit more challenging. The song has seven verses.

Here is the first verse which describes our Winter as well,

Oh, lang and dreich (long and tiresome) the Winter has been,
And mony (many) a stormy day we’ve seen,
When the frost was sharp and the wind was keen,
And nippit a’ oor noses in the morning.

The third verse brings to mind this Winter’s Olympics,

When the ice was strong, the Curlers with glee
Were busy at their game  sae merry and free;
While the Golfers would wish, wi’ the tear in their e’e,
That the ice would be thawed in the morning.

And the last two verses are what gives us hope,

But the Spring has come wi’ sunshine and rain,
And the wast (west) wind has blawn the snaw off the plain,
And the trees and the flowers are budding again,
And the lark sing early in the morning.

 And the Links are looking as bonnie, fresh, and green
As if nae cauld, frosty weather had been,
And the old and the young sae merry are seen
Awa for a round in the morning.

On a cold winter’s day, this poem allows us to form a link in common with a golfer who was playing in Scotland 128 years ago. That warms me up a little. I hope it does the same for you.

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A Tribute for a Golfer

Lyrics of the Links

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.

The Epitaph

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.

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The Joys of Life and Golf

I have now been writing this Blog for five years. I began with a discovery –  an unknown literature of golf poetry – and a thought that it would be nice to share some of the best of these poems with other avid golfers. Along the way I decided to include some of my poetry as well.

I am pleased to say that over the five years this tiny space on the Internet has attained more than 100,000 page views from more than 120 countries. I am very grateful for all of you who have come and have encouraged others to try the site as well.

In this year-end Post I would first like to share with you a short poem by Robert Frost that I enjoyed and have re-read several times. I include it as an example of how poetry like music can immediately make you feel better.

Dust of Snow
Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

After reading Frost’s poem I thought of a poem that I wrote called “On Course” where I tried to create a feeling of joy about playing the game of golf. I hope you will enjoy it.

On Course
Leon S White, PhD

Golf is a singular way
to take temporary leave
following a zigzag path
in search of a small white ball;

to abandon reality,
but stay the course,
hole after hole;

to create a new story,
always different
to be told to someone
before it’s forgotten.

An extraordinary chance
to pretend for a brief time
no matter how unskilled
that each stroke will be flawless;

to endure the pain of failure
without really failing,
and even if only once a round,

to truly enjoy
the pure pleasure
of hitting the ball rock-solid
or sinking a long tricky putt.

“On Course” is included in both of my books, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages and If Only I Could Play That Hole Again.

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“The Golfer’s Waggle” for Jason Dufner, PGA Champion and Champion Waggler

Jason Dufner

Jason Dufner, who last week won his first major, the PGA Championship, has become well known to the golfing public in the last two years for his approach to waggling his club before hitting the ball. Waggling may be as old as the game of golf itself. And an unknown poet almost one hundred years ago provided us with the most detailed analysis of this pre-shot phenomenon. The poem appeared in The American Golfer in September 1915. (The few Scottish expressions are starred and translated.)

The Golfer’s Waggle

Every golfer has a waggle—
A waggle o’ his ain—*                                           of his own
A wiggle-waggle, long and short,
Wi’ flourishes or plain.

The long and quick, the short and quick,
Long, short, and quick and slow;
The variety is infinite
That golfin’ waggles show.

The sprightly waggle of success,
Dull waggle of defeat;
The weary waggle-wasting time,
The waggle of conceit.

The waggle of the swanky pro,
Of “Far and Sure” design;
The feeble waggle of old age,
That preludes “off the line.”

The caddie’s waggle-dry asides,
That golfers whiles maun* suffer;                                   must
And worst o’ waggles on the links,
The waggle of the duffer.

The waggle shows the waggler,
Be the waggle slow or quick;
There is mair* into the waggle,                                      more
Than the waggle o’ the stick.

The poem can be found in my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages. (Available on Amazon.com.)

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