Full Steam ahead

Transport Museum York
I have just spent the weekend in York, and I can see now why Dick Turpin was in such a hurry to enjoy it’s pleasures. One of those pleasures is the National Rail Museum and the magnificent iron beasts it houses. The experience is a romance with a capital R, encompassing as it does 200 years of rail travel. Surely one of the best ways of seeing a country, and a lot easier than a horse! Poets, or course, have long had a thing about the railway, probably the most famous poem being Night Mail by W.H.Auden. Thomas Hardy and Sir John Betjeman both wrote several poems on the subject, Great Central Railway: Sheffield Victoria to Banbury by Sir John Betjeman is one of my favourites, as is Philip Larkin’s, The Whitsun Weddings. If you’re a cat lover, and I am, then T.S.Eliot’s, Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat is a must. Recently I came across a charming poem by Christine Weatherly, which I hope she won’t mind me sharing with you.

The Song of the Engine
When you travel on the railway,
And the line goes up a hill,
Just listen to the engine
As it pulls you with a will.
Though it goes very slowly
It sings this little song.
“I think I can, I think I can,”
And so it goes along.

But later on the Journey,
When you’re going down a hill,
The train requires no pulling,
And the engine’s singing still.
If you listen very quietly
You will hear this little song,
“I thought I could, I thought I could!”
And so it speeds along.

Christine Weatherly

Sheer Poetry

I went to Lords on Monday afternoon. Middlesex were playing Kent. A quintessential English scene. Sitting in this idyllic setting, with the sun shinning, I was reminded that there were a lot of cricketer/poets and even more poems about cricket. Lord Byron wrote about cricket at Harrow, Siegfried Sassoon about the varsity match at Lords. P.G. Wodehouse and Alfred Cochrane both wrote poems about catching. Cochrane’s, The Catch, about one heroic catch that saved the day, and Wodehouse – Missed! – about a bungled catch that lost the game.
Edmund Blunden wrote about the opening of the season. A.A. Milne (Hymn on Tompkins’ Action) and John Betjeman (Cricket Master) are two good poems. The list is endless. Perhaps the most famous cricket poem of all was written by Sir Henry Newbolt - There’s A Breathless Hush In The Close Tonight - with its unforgettable line, Play up! Play up! And play the game! Unfortunately it seems that many modern Britons have forgotten the line – and what it means.

If you’re interested in cricket writing, prose as well as poetry, there’s an excellent anthology by Christopher Lee entitled Through The Covers, published by Oxford University Press. There are also several good websites .