Sir Henry Newbolt

(1862 - 1938 / Bilston / England)

Vitaï Lampada


There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

This is the word that year by year
While in her place the School is set
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind --
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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# 369 poem on top 500 Poems


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  • Rookie - 11 Points Thomas Vaughan Jones (1/15/2014 10:42:00 AM)

    The sense of patriotism evoked by this poem is now frowned upon as being somewhat racist. Nevertheless it brings to the reader a message that is enduring. While it does not ennoble war, it emphasises the need to stand together in the face of adversity and conduct oneself with honour and integrity. The days of colonialism are over but it is still necessary for us to maintain the ethics of loyalty and fair play. Stand tall and be proud. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Malcolm Baird (12/22/2006 8:40:00 AM)

    In Britain in the late 19th century and the early 20th century there was the powerful social phenomenon of the 'Basically Sound Chap'. Kipling was basically sound, so was John Buchan, so was Henry Newbolt and this poem might almost be regarded as the anthem of the B.S.C. There was a blind devotion to Britain and her Empire and yet there was an ethos that the playing of the game was better than winning. The stiff upper lip was his trademark. The B.S.C. was, in today's terms, politically incorrect; moreover he had no female equivalent and he often did not get along very well with women. Nevertheless he stood for something and the world is a poorer place without him, in my humble opinion. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie John Haycraft (3/1/2006 10:50:00 PM)

    As the father of a 19 year old son who was killed instantly together with his best friend aged 17 in a tragic car accident on Nov 13th 2003, this poem holds tremendous and enduring meanng, for that friendship was forged at school and on the rugby field where both boys were flankers for their team.To live together and to die together in the same split second in the zenith of youth is given to but a few and they give inspiration to all their generation through that immortal friendship.Even in today's society the heroic values of the ancient gods has not changed. (Report) Reply

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