Vitaï Lampada Poem by Sir Henry Newbolt

Vitaï Lampada

Rating: 3.7


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 a 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!

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Malcolm Baird 22 December 2006

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.

88 14 Reply
John Haycraft 01 March 2006

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.

79 13 Reply

I understand you. May you emerge from this tragic loss. Time is the great healer. There are things in life that are difficult to understand, less to accept. May you be blessed with long life

0 0 Reply
Michael Carmody 09 March 2005

the sentiments may be unfashionable, but they are true enough still.

68 14 Reply
Micheal Dust 17 June 2021

wow truly a thought provoking comment. thank you for this, i'm gonna go think about some stuff. xx

0 0 Reply
Tony Airey 30 August 2022

This poem is widely considered to be a satire of the public school system which bred 'Captains of Empire'.

0 0 Reply
Proud Australian 19 December 2021

This blind devotion to god king and country is not only outdated but dangerous.

2 2 Reply
man THE SECOND! ! ! ! 17 June 2021

*sniff*

0 0 Reply
man THE SECOND! ! ! ! 17 June 2021

liclk

0 0 Reply
man THE SECOND! ! ! ! 17 June 2021

onaabdv

0 0 Reply
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