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Robert H. K. Browning’s “The Pilgrims’ Progress” Revisited

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Robert Browning (1812-1889) was a famous English poet. Robert H. K. Browning (1884-1957) was a scholarly golf historian from Scotland who became prominent as the editor of Golfing, the premier British golfing periodical, from 1910 to 1955. H.K. Browning’s major claim to fame is his book, A History of Golf, which the late Herbert Warren Wind described as “…far and away the finest one-volume history of golf.”

Like his namesake, Browning was also wrote poetry, though he always weaved golf themes into his subject matter (as far as I know). However, has poetry did have standing. In an earlier Post (January 10,2011), I quoted what Samuel L. McKinlay, another noted Scottish golf writer, wrote in the Afterword to the Classics of Golf’s edition of Browning’s golf history book:

“One good critic thought Browning’s light verse among the best of his
generation, but it was so widely scattered a month different periodicals
as to defy any attempt at collection.”

McKinlay singled out “The Pilgrims’ Progress” as one of Brownings longest and best poems. McKinlay writes that the poem “describes in rhymed couplets the exploits of four London golfers who set out ‘to golf all August around the North.’” He then provides what he describes as “some lovely lines” from the poem:

Then off through Dirleton, cool and shady,
To Muirfield, Archerfield, Aberlady.
They golfed at Gullane, on ‘One’ and ‘Two’
The played Longniddry and Luffness New.

And at  St. Andrews, they

Laughed in the ‘Beardies’, despaired in ‘Hell’,
But played the first and the last quite well.

McKinlay, being a West of Scotland man, cites his favorite lines,

Troon and Prestwick — Only and ‘classy’
Bogside, Dundonald, Gailes, Barassie.

Since publishing these lines, I have searched the Internet from time to time in the vane hope of finding the intact poem. No luck. However, recently, totally by chance, I happened on a website called pasturegolf.com and there I found the following,

Troon and Prestwick — Old and “classy”
Bogside, Dundonald, Gailes, Barassie.
Prestwick St. Nicholas, Western Gailes,
St. Cuthbert, Portland — memory fails —
Troon Municipal (three links there)
Prestwick Municipal, Irvine, Ayr.
They faced the list with delighted smiles—
Sixteen courses within ten miles.

The eight line were described in the Blog as a “Local Scottish rhyme” with no mention of Browning. 

So in almost six years, I have now been able to add six lines. And though they clearly complete one section of the poem, we are still left with the task of searching for the remaining missing lines. If any one who reads this can help, please leave a comment. I will, of course, continue my search as well. 

I tell people that I do research in golf poetry and they laugh. My fun lasts longer.

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