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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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Golf Poetry – Who Wrote it; Who Reads It (Part 2)

In 1886 David Jackson, the Captain of the Thistle Golf Club in Scotland, published a 32 page tract of poems and songs at the “repeated request of many members of my own and other Clubs.” Earlier in 1833, George Fullerton Carnegie privately published a long poem called “The Golfiad” which he dedicated the “Members of all Golfing Clubs, and to those of St. Andrews and North Berwick in particular.” They were his readers.

In the first 30 years or so of the 20th century, the audience for golf poetry expanded. The poetry appeared in golf magazines in both the United Kingdom and the United States and in a few newspapers as well.  A number of (real) books of golf poetry were also published But after about 1930, golf poetry lost its place as a part of the literature of golf and all but disappeared. As Grantland Rice saw it, “…good poets suddenly disappeared and readers for some reason lost the old poetic zest.” It may also be that movies, radio and other sources of entertainment began to attract audiences away from poetry in general.

Today poets struggles to attract an audience and golf poetry has few serious adherents. But we can, with the help of the internet, libraries and the digital reprinting of out-of-print books, rediscover the golf poetry of the past, which is what I have attempted to do with this Blog and my book Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages. And happily a number of readers have responded.

With the help of WordPress.com, my Blog host, I can tell you that golf poetry today enjoys a wider audience than ever before. Poetry on this Blog has been read (and hopefully enjoyed) by readers in more than 70 countries. Leading the list are the countries most associated with golf’s history, the United States (54% of the page views), the United Kingdom (21%), Canada (6%) and Australia (3.3%). But all of the continents have contributed viewers and the Blog has even had four page views from Iceland and two from Belarus! Page views in total for the three plus years of this Blog have passed 67,000.

Reading and even more so, reciting golf poetry is a new experience for most of today’s golfers. So, if it’s new for you, why not begin by reciting the last four lines from one of David Jackson’s poems, “Gouff Dings A’” loosely translated as “Golf Surpasses All,”

Then, let us swell the mighty throng of Princes, Lords, and Kings
Who have enjoyed the game of Golf above all other things
And wish success to every one, let him be great or sma’,
Who loves the jolly game o’ Gouff–for Gouff dings a’. 

 And sometimes poetry dings prose.

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Golfpoet.com’s Top Ten

First, I would like to thank all of you for supporting golf poetry by visiting golfpoet.com. We have passed the three year mark and you have registered more than 60,000 page visits. Together we have made golf poetry, mostly poems written before 1920, a little more visible to the golfers of today.

Response to the Blog also encouraged me to complete my book, Golf Course of Rhymes — Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages with a Foreword by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

The Blog now has more than 120 Posts. Of that number, I though it might be interesting to list the Top Ten at this point. They are as follows:

1.  Golf Ball Poetry

2.  A Golf Poem You Can Relate To

3.  Doug Sanders’ British Open Miss for the Ages

4.  An Old Golf Magazine and a Poem for Old Golfers

5.  Lying in Golf Poetry

6.  Golf Ball Poetry Continued

7.  If Johnny Cash Had Been a Golfer

8.  Attitudes Toward Women Golfers in the Early Days (Part 1)

9.  The Importance of Golf – A Sentimental View from the Past

10. Twines — Two Line Golf Poems from Twitter

If any of these titles look interesting, please take a look and enjoy.

Finally, I would encourage you to send links from this Post/ Blog to any of your golfing friends who might enjoy the experience a reciting golf poetry. Thanks.

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New Book: Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages

 

 

Written with the help of golfing poets such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Fullerton Carnegie, Grantland Rice and Billy Collins. Laid out as a golf course with Holes (chapters) such as “St. Andrews,” Agonies and Frustrations,” “Advice,” “Politics and War,” “Links with the Devil,” and “The Women’s Game.” The text and poems provide humorous tales, historical dramas and personal accounts that will touch the hearts and minds of golfers universally. Much of the material comes from inaccessible books and magazines published in the U.S., England and Scotland before 1930. The Foreword is by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

More than five years in the making. Written to offer today’s golfers poetic snapshots of the game as described by keen-eyed golfers of the past along with a good number of historical vignettes.  Golf Course of Rhymes is available at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble and also Amazon.UK. I hope you will take a look.

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“Golf Dings A'”

This year  may not have been the greatest for golf, professional and otherwise, but it was a great year for golf poetry.  This Blog got more than 20,000 page views and the subject of golf poetry was featured in a May Wall St. Journal article.

Hopefully, 2011 will be an even bigger year with the publication of my book, Golf Course of Rhymes — Links Between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, by Golfiana Press.

Some of the golf poetry of old was written by Scottish golfers who read or sung their poetry at club meetings. One of those golfers was David Jackson, Captain of the Thistle Golf Club, in Levin. He published his “songs and recitations” in a short book of 32 pages in 1886. Last August I wrote a Post that featured one of his poems. Jackson and the other club house poets wrote about golf with an enthusiasm, love and respect and a kind of innocence that was unique to that time. Jackson’s “Gouff Dings A'” loosely translated as “Golf Surpasses All” is a good example. Subtitled, “Sung at a Convivial Meeting,” here, to begin with, is the Chorus:

For Gouff dings a’, my boys, Gouff will aye ding a’
With joy we’ll swing our Clubs and Cleek, and drive the bounding Ba';
Then over bunkers, braes (hills), and bent, we’ll gang (go) out twa (two) by twa,
With hearts elate and mind content–oh, Gouff dings a’.

And here are a few of the stanzas. Remember this was sung in the 1880’s:

Oh, hoo (how) are ye a’ the nicht (night), my friends? I hope I see ye weel (well),
Yer Clubs a’ in guid (good) order; yer Cleeks and Irons like steel.
I’ve just looked in for half-an-hour to ha’e a joke or twa
About our jolly game o’ Gouff–for Gouff dings a’.

…..Chorus

The Gouff belongs to Scotland, but its spreading sure and far;
You’ll find a Golfing-Course, my boys, wherever Scotsmen are;
In Africa,in India, in America, ’tis the same,
Australia and our Colonies pay homage to the game.

…..Chorus

King James the Fourth, he loved the game; but had to put it down,
In case his men forgot the way to fight for King and Crown.
No wonder that he banned it, boys–if a’ that’s said be true,
They played the game through a’ the week, and on the Sunday, too.

…..Chorus

I met a chap the other nicht, he was looking unco (strangely) blue;
Said I, “My boy, what can annoy a lively lad like you?”
“‘Tis a’ about the Golf,” he said, while tears ran ower his cheeks,
“The wife and I have had a row, and she’s burnt my Clubs and Cleeks.”

…..Chorus

Then, let us swell the mighty throng of Princes, Lords, and Kings
Who have enjoyed the game of Golf above all other things
And wish success to every one, let him be great or sma’,
Who loves the jolly game o’ Gouff–for Gouff dings a’.

So next Friday night when you “take a cup of kindness yet,/ for auld lang syne,” take one as well for  David Jackson and the game he describes so lovingly.

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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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At the Docks to Send Off Ouimet in 1914

Ouimet's ship to England

Ouimet’s ship to England

Suppose you lived in Orlando and wanted send Tiger off to the 2009 President’s Cup matches. Chances are you would not have known where to go or when. Things were different 95 years ago.

If you lived in Boston and the date was March 29, 1914, then in the late afternoon you might have decided to go down to the harbor where the steamship Lapland was docked. You’d have gone there to wave goodbye to Francis Ouimet, the current U.S. Open champion, who was off to England for the Amateur and Open championships. At the dock you would have been “surrounded by a hundred and more golfers who risked the loss of a good Sunday dinner in order to be on hand and give a rousing cheer when the ocean liner started on its way across the deep.”

The quote is from an article in the May 1914 issue of Golf Illustrated. Also included is a song about Ouimet written by “the golf poet-laureate of Boston, Joseph A. Campbell…” that a few of his friends might have sang on board ship before it sailed.

Oh! He wasn’t known in Europe till last Fall,
But they know him now in far off Hindustan,
In Bombay, in Baroda, in Bengal
He’s known to ev’ry blooming Englishman.

He had read about this Vardon and of Ray,
But they didn’t seem to feaze the lad at all,
He just simply kept on playing,
Did not mind what folks were saying,
And proved himself the topper of them all.

Chorus:

Oh! Francis, Francis Ouimet,
You’re a golfer through and through,
You rose to the occasion
When our last hope was in you;
May your good luck never fail you,
May your shots be always true,
God bless you, Francis Ouimet,
All our caps we doff to you.

Oh! He’s always on the job when Duty calls,
He’s the golfing pride and glory of the Hub,
He’s modest and his modesty enthralls,
And a deadly shot he is whate’er the club.

He knows we like to hear the Lion roar,
And to see the knots a’tying in his tail
And Johnny Bull he’ll show once more
What he showed him once before,
That the golfer who is best must prevail!

Ouimet along with his sailing partner Arthur G. Lockwood, 1903,1905 and 1906 Massachusetts State Amateur Champion, landed in Dover, England on April 6th. Unfortunately, both golfers faired poorly at both the British Amateur and Open. Ouimet would later write in his book, A Game of Golf, first published in 1932, “My trip to England was a horrible failure from the competitive point of view…” (p. 62)

So neither the golf trip nor the song turned out to be memorable. But had you been at the dock, you would have had a good story to tell.

(Note: After Francis Ouimet returned to the U.S. , he did win the 1914 Amateur Championship, becoming the first career winner of both the U.S. Open and Amateur Championships.)

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Some Four Line Observations on Golf

Short poems have their place as well. This week I offer a few four liners in hopes that one or two may linger with you for a while.

From a 1901 issue of Golf Illustrated, an observation made more specific many years later by Bob Toski’s question: Where would you rather be on your drive, in the rough, or 15 yards shorter but in the fairway?

Good people of every sort
Come listen to my song,
‘Tis better to be straight and short
Than to be crooked and long.

From an 1891 issue of Golf, a timeless truth,

Golf without cessation
Brings naught but vexation;
Golf in moderation
Is pleasant recreation.

From a poem, “The Wicked Fairy” by Reginald Arkell,

I hit the ball as clean and true
As any decent pro would do;
I mark the line, I watch it fall —
And then it isn’t there at all.

Two four-liners written by Bert Leston Taylor (1866-1921), an American columnist, humorist, poet, and author. who wrote a column for the Chicago Tribune from 1901 to 1903 and then again from 1909 until he died.

RAIN

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on turf and tee;
But I don’t care how wet I get—
I made that hole in three.

WHOLE DUTY OF GOLFERS

A golfer, when he plays with you,
Should speak when he is spoken to,
And keep his score card free from fable;
At least so far as he is able.

And four lines offered anonymously, in the form of a stanza from the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, that take up where Taylor’s four lines left off,

GOLFAIYAT

Some take a Brassey when they play the Game
Or with a Cleek carve out the way to Fame;
And some there be who but a Pencil Stub
Have used, and yet have Got There just the Same.

(From Lyrics of the Links by Henry Litchfield West, p. 58)

Finally, four lines that I wrote in answer to all those Titelist ball ads,

BEST BALL

The Pro V-1 from Titleist
The pros who play it do insist
With length and spin it beats them all—

Except for someone’s Nike ball.

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Does Golf Improve Health? – A Turn of the Century (20th) View

PlayGolfForHealth

Before I begin, please note that this Post is not an argument for adding Golf to the President’s Health Care Reform Bill!

According to Murray G Phillips, an Australian sports historian writing in the May 1989 issue of the Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History, around the beginning of the 20th Century,

“Golf’s major justification rested on the belief that sporting participation improved one’s health. The game was lauded for its ability to aid in health-related matters. Consider the testimony of the English champion of 1902 [Sandy Herd] who was successful at 53 years of age. To him it was ‘golf and golf alone that kept him of the youthful side’.”

Philips goes on the quote a review article on golf in Australia written around 1900 in which the writer claims that,

“There is no other form of sport which is so recommended by the medical faculty.”

Interestingly, some of the golf poetry of the time echoed this theme. For example, from a 1906 issue of Golf Illustrated,

There is an old person of Bickley
Who for sixty long years had been sickly;
.       Since taking up golf
.       His ailments are off,
He’s renewing his youth very quickly.

Here are a quick four lines from an 1893 issue of Golf,

To drive the Golf ball on the ground,
To spoon it o’er the hill,
Will keep both mind and body sound,
And save the doctor’s bill.

And in another issue of Golf, later the same year, a poem “A Song of Golf” included the following healthful and colorful stanza:

When doctors fail to cure you, and you go from bad to worse,
Your head just like a toy shop, and existence but a curse,
You need not knuckle under, be it fever, chill, or cough,
Just take your clubs and caddie, and then whack away at Golf.
.                Then whack away at Golf,
.                Then smack away at Golf,
You can banish pills and potions if you whack away at Golf.

(These verses all come from an unpublished collection of poems put together by the late Joseph S. F. Murdoch, the renowned golf book collector and bibliographer. I was extremely fortunate to receive a copy of this collection from one of his close friends.)

It is interesting to note that today, at least in the U.S., the health benefits of golf are often lost to golf carts, unwalkable golf courses and cigars. Meanwhile, many professional golfer prepare to play golf by adhering to rigorous exercise routines designed by expert trainers. Golf isn’t the source of their improved fitness, it’s the driver.

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Where Have All My Good Drives Gone?

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From the Minute Books of the Bruntsfield Links Golf Club:

“Bruntsfield Links, 28th Sep. 1839

During the evening the Secretary sang the following impromptu:—

Come, all you Golfers stout and strong,
Who putt so sure and drive so long,
And I will sing you a good song,
About old Captain Aitken.”

I will spare you the remaining verses.

The Scottish and English Golf Clubs have always included songs in their rituals. For example a song called “The Golfer’s Garland” included in Robert Clark’s book, Golf: A Royal and Ancient Game, was said to be “composed for the Blackheath Golf Club, and often sung with great spirit …” Clark includes other songs in his book.

These golfing songs were often poems that where written to be sung using the melodies of familiar tunes. With that in mind, I penned the following song to be sung to the tune “Where have all the flowers gone?,” in hopes of continuing the tradition at some existing golf club. Those of you who remember the tune are encouraged to sing along. [Read more…]

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