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.)

Some background: The Midlothian Country Club, located 18 miles southwest of Chicago, was founded in 1898. Its membership included “the elites of Chicago society.” To accommodate members and their families who stayed in cottages near the clubhouse for extended time periods during summers, the club replaced horse drawn wagons with its own railroad (three miles of track, 14 trips daily) to connect the clubhouse to the closest Rock Island Railroad station. No shortage of cash then!

The link with Gray’s “Elegy” is found in a 52 page book, Midlothian Melodies by Edward C. Potter, “Poet Laureate, by Appointment of the Midlothian Country Club.” The book was published in 1900 but was “for private circulation only.” It consisted of 13 poems, some of which had been prepared for club functions. One of these, “Elegy on a Country Golf Links —  Lines written for the Harvest Home Dinner at Midlothian, October 14, 1899,” is yet a second parody of “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard.” Could there for a third?

The poem is as follows. The numbers refer to the stanzas of Gray’s original which had a total of 32.

1. The ‘bus-gong tolls the knell of parting day,
The slow steam-roller crawls athwart the lea,
The caddie homeward wends his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

2. Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the golf-ball wheels its whirring flight,
And muttered cuss-words float across the wolds.

4. Beneath those spreading elms, that burr-oak’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in the bunker where his hopes were laid,
The hopeless duffers of the golf-club sleep.

5. The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-build shed,
Boss Cock’s shrill whistle, or the megaphone,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

6. For them the echoing shout shall ring no more,
Nor busy barkeep mix the high-ball rare;
No caddies run to wonder at the score,
Nor envious friends their glory strive to share.

12. Perchance in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once fired with hopes his skill beyond;
And many a record that he might have made
Came all to nothing when he tried the pond.

14. Full many a ball of whitest hue serene
In dark unfathomed depths that pond doth bear;
Full many a shot that should have reached the green
Is wasted effort in the mud down there.

15. Some village Bristol, who with dauntless breast
The Colonel Bogie of the links withstood;
Some mute inglorious Morron here may rest;
Some Russell, guiltless of his partner’s blood.

19. Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never yearned for more
Than chance to taste the sweetest things in life—
To hear “Link” Turner tell about his score.

25. Haply some hoary-headed “pro.” may say:
“Oft have I seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with eager feet the dews away
To practice putts upon the upland lawn.

26. “There at the foot of yonder spreading oak,
That scarce could screen him from the sun so hot,
A cuppy lie profane remarks provoke,
And wonder why he topped his brassey shot.

27. “Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies, he would rove;
Now drooping woeful-wan as one forlorn—
He’d sliced his ball, nor wist not where he drove.

28. “One day I missed him on the ‘customed knoll
Along the green and in his favorite nook
At last I found him, reaching with a pole
And dredging with a dip-net in the brook.”

32. No longer seek their merits to disclose,
Or draw their frailties from their dread abode.
There they alike in trembling fear repose,
For divots mark the path they once have trod.

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