Winter has arrived. We got about 10 inches of snow not long ago. It is melting now, but surely more is on the way. Also, in a few days, both the year and the decade end. It is definitely time to look back, time for retrospection.
Retrospection is, in fact, what W. Hastings Webling (1866 – 1946?), a Canadian writer and poet, wrote about in verses published in the magazine Golf in January 1915. Though he was only looking back to the last golf season, and though some of his words are dated, the sentiments he expresses still ring true.
I hope you will enjoy reading the poem even though it’s long. But if you fear a long poem as much as a short putt, at least read the first, second to last and last stanzas. And please feel free to share any thoughts you have about Webling’s poem or more generally about golf poetry.
by Hastings Webling
The days are short, the winds are chill,
The turf has lost its verdant hue,
And those who played the good old game
Have slowly disappeared from view.
No longer may we watch the flight
Of golf balls as they gaily soar,
Or hear the chaff of merry wit,
Or echo of some lusty “Fore!”
Ah, well! we cannot all expect
To play the game from year to year;
To hike, like some, to southern climes
And play in balmy atmosphere.
‘Tis better so; for we can rest
And reminisce, while fancy free,
Recall the games of yesterday,
Defeats, and proud-won victory.
And we can sit around the fire
And dream of things we might have done;
Of matches that we thought a cinch
And cups that well might we have won;
And then those scores of “seventy eight,”
Only missed by some short putt,
It all will tend to stimulate
Our fond desire for future luck.
And as to “birdies”—well might I
Write of these in doleful tone;
For they have caused such deep distress
More than I would like to own.
Ah! oft I held them in my grasp
With joy to think how well they’d pay
When someone “holes a ten-foot putt”
And swift my “birdie” flies away.
But such is life, and so is golf,
The things we think so really sure;
The holes we count before they’re won
Are apt to give us one guess more.
But, after all, it is for this
We seek the prizes that may be,
And find the charm both in the game
And in its great uncertainty.
My boy! if skies were ever fair,
If winds should always favor you,
And all your “lies” were perfect “lies,”
And all your putts were straight and true—
If all your drives were far and sure,
Approaches on the green were “dead,”
The joy of combat would be lost
And vict’rys charm forever shed.