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Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

The holiday on November 11th, originally called Armistice Day,commemorated the end of World War I. Now in the U.S., the holiday is called Veteran’s Day and more broadly honors all war veterans. In other Posts I have included First World War related golf poetry. In this entry I include one by Rudyard Kipling from my book Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages.

Rudyard Kipling, the famous English author and poet born in Bombay, India in 1865, was also a golfer. He wrote many famous poems including “Mandalay” and “If . . .” In the following dramatic First World War poem, “Mine Sweepers,” he includes a reference to golf. The “Foreland” in the poem probably refers to headlands between Dover and Margate on the southeastern coast of England, overlooking the English Channel.

The Mine-Sweepers

Dawn off the Foreland—the young flood making
Jumbled and short and steep—
Black in the hollows and bright where it’s breaking—
Awkward water to sweep.
“Mines reported in the fairway,
“Warn all traffic and detain.
“Sent up Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.”

Noon off the Foreland—the first ebb making
Lumpy and strong in the bight.
Boom after boom, and the golf-hut shaking
And the jackdaws wild with fright.
“Mines located in the fairway,
“Boats now working up the chain,
“SweepersUnity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.”


Dusk off the Foreland—the last light going
And the traffic crowding through,
And five damned trawlers with their syreens blowing
Heading the whole review!
“Sweep completed in the fairway,
“No more mines remain.
“Sent back Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.”

(According to Alastair Wilson, a Kipling expert, the “golf-hut” in the second stanza might have been the club-house at Royal St. George’s Club at Sandwich, in East Kent.)

If you would like to listen to a dramatic reading of this poem, click on the following link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4Ahz5ykIEM

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World War I, Golf and Golf Poetry

 

Robert Stanley Weir

 The First World War began 100 years ago this month. With this in mind, I would like to devote at least the next two Posts to links between the War, golf and golf poetry. Previously I published a Post called “Golf and the Great War” (http://bit.ly/1kZL9n2). These Posts will add more stories and information to the subject.

While doing research for my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, (now available on Amazon in Europe for lower prices 6.50 pounds, 7.82 Euros), I discovered a Canadian poet-golfer named Robert Stanley Weir, 1856-1926, who wrote an impressive war-related poem at the beginning of World War I. Let me quote from my book:

“Robert Stanley Weir, a Canadian, wrote a poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” published in the April 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated and Outdoor America. Weir, a Montreal judge, writer and poet, was most famous for writing in 1908 the first English lyrics to O Canada, Canada’s national anthem. Today’s official English lyrics to the anthem are based on Weir’s original version. A little digging also shows that Weir was a golfer and frequent contributor to Golf Illustrated. He wrote book reviews and several articles on swing mechanics. One titled “Braid or Vardon, Which?” focuses on the swings of these two champions and ends with the thought:

 ‘Whether we essay the mighty Vardonian sweep or Braid’s whip-like, corkscrew-like snap, let us beware of adopting one theory to the denial of any other possible one. It is a great satisfaction and advantage to be able to recognize and adopt both.’

 Clearly the Judge was a student of the game.

The title of Weir’s poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” refers to a plateau just outside the wall of Quebec City where a famous battle was fought between the British and French on September 13, 1759. The British won this pivotal battle; however, the British commander, General James Wolfe, was mortally wounded and died on the battle field. The French commander, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, was also mortally wounded and died the next day. From 1874 to 1915, Cove Fields on the Plains of Abraham was the site of the Quebec Golf Club. This background is needed to understand the setting for the poem. The poem, written at the beginning of the First World War, is a strong and heartfelt statement against war.

The Plains of Abraham

Here, where so long ago the battle roared
Sore frighting Dawn when, trembling, she arose
And saw the precious blood of Wolfe out-poured
And France’s hero sinks to long repose.

The grass, they say, is greener for the red
That drenched these plains and hollows all about;
And those thrice fifty years or more have spread
Much peacefulness on glacis and redoubt. [defensive fortifications]

Yes, Mother Nature, grieving, hideth soon
All trace of battles, ravage, death and pain.
The birds began to sing that afternoon—
The dusty, trodden grass to rise again.

And many a year the Citadel’s gray walls
Have seen the quiet golfers at their play:
Passing old ramparts, rusted cannon-balls,
And sighting gunless ships the river way.

Thrilled with the peace of golf the players said:
“Those cruel wars can ne’er again have birth;
The living shall no longer mourn their dead
Untimely gathered to reluctant earth.”

“The tribes shall rest—nor nearer conflict come
Than when a friendly foursome play the game;
The roaring voice of Wrath is stricken dumb
O better brotherhood than battle-fame!”

But, hark, the roaring of unnumbered guns
By salt Atlantic breezes hither blown!
And bitter cries from countless weeping ones,
While Peace is wringing her cold hands alone!”

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