Footnote: Gray’s “Elegy” Inspired a Second Golf Parody

Could there be more than one golf parody of Gray’s “Elegy?” Surprisingly, the answer is yes, and, therefore, a “footnote” to this week’s Post. (And being a footnote, it is not required reading.) [Read more…]


If [Thomas] Gray Had Been a Golfer

Gray's Churchyard

A Country Churchyard

This post introduces an unusual but historically interesting golf poem called “If Gray had been a Golfer” by Samuel E. Kiser (1862-1942), a newspaperman, poet and humorist. Kiser’s poem of nine stanzas is a parody of a much longer poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” written by the English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771) and first published in 1751.  

Gray’s poem has been described as “one of the greatest poems in the English language,” and as such was often a candidate to be parodied. Also, two lines from the poem have inspired movie titles: “The paths of glory lead but to the grave” and “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.”

One of the themes of the poem, as embodied in the stanza below, is that poverty or other barriers prevent many talented people from fully exercising their capabilities.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air. 

Kiser adopted this theme for his poem memorializing the “golfless” poor.   [Read more…]


Early Golfers: “The Best People” and the Poor


Charles “Chick” Evans, Jr. (1890-1979), the great amateur golfer, writing about the beginnings of golf in American in the June 1922 issue of Vanity Fair, said,

“Across the water [golf] came and our best people took it up. They had discovered it in their travels abroad. It is true that poor people played it in Britain, but it seemed very sure that they would not do so in America. … To say that you played golf, however badly, and Heaven knows most of the early golfers played very badly, was in a manner of declaring yourself a member of the best American society. The right sort of people were playing golf…”

The American woman poet, Sarah N. Cleghorn (1876-1959), a peaceful but committed activist in reform movements ranging from anti-lynching to opposition to child labor, looked at the new game from a different perspective. A stanza from a work called “Through the Needle’s Eye”  has become famous as a statement against child labor:

            The Golf Links

The links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

These lines were first printed in The New York Tribune on January 1, 1915.


Attitudes Toward Women Golfers in the Early Days (Part 2)

Women golfers, circa 1900

Women golfers, circa 1900

As I noted in the last Post, women began playing golf in larger numbers in England, the U.S. and other countries such as Australia, around the turn of the 20th century. However, as Murray G. Phillips points out in an article in the May 1989 issue of Sporting Traditions – Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History,

“Golf was considered a suitable ‘ladies’ sport because it complemented the cultural image of women that was essentially passive, non-aggressive and non-competitive.”

Phillips goes on to say that

“[the] acceptance of golf as a suitable sport for women was also made possible because it did not pose a serious threat to male golfers. To many male players, female golf was nothing more than ‘a gentle counterpoint to tea and gossip’.”

And yet organized women’s golf began, major amateur tournaments were organized and held, and over the years things have improved. And as seen in last week’s Post, some poets did take the women’s side. Below I offer two more examples. [Read more…]


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


From old Life Magazine, 1900 (Life Publishing Co.)

From old Life Magazine, 1900 (Life Publishing Co.)


The period of about 1880 to 1900 marked the first major expansion of golf interest and play among Englishmen. This golf boom was sparked in part by the publication of The Badminton Library: Golf written and edited by Horace G. Hutchinson. Most of the new players were men. However, women’s golf received a boost during this period when the first British Ladies Championship was held at Lytham St. Anne’s in 1893.

Nevertheless, Lord Wellwood may have expressed the prevailing attitude of his fellows when he wrote in Hutchinson’s book,  “If [women] choose to play at times when the male golfers are feeding or resting, no one can object…at other times…they are in the way.” Hutchinson, himself, was even more direct, when he was quoted as saying, “Constitutionally and physically women are unfit for golf.”

In the U.S., the first women’s amateur championship was held in 1895 at the Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, N.Y. But when golf began in America, the general attitude toward women golfers was anything but supportive. Consider a 1900 cartoon (above) showing a caddie on a knees ostensibly looking for a lost ball but actually looking at a shapely woman golfer nearby. The caption says “ADVICE TO CADDIES – You will save time by keeping your eye on the ball, not on the player.”

Golf poetry, when the subject was a woman golfer, also often focused on the girl and not the golf. Here is an example from Lyrics of the Links, an anthology of golf poems collected by Henry Litchfield West and published in 1921.

[Read more…]

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