Sir Henry Newbolt

(1862 - 1938 / Bilston / England)

Vitaï Lampada - Poem by Sir Henry Newbolt

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 about Vitaï Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt

  • (10/5/2018 8:19:00 AM)


    Sorry the female robot voice has no feeling and lacks the gravitas needed
    It is a man's poem about men with their back against the wall holding the line, waiting for death they know will come for them
    A poem honours them and as such should to be read to covey the emotion and meaning of what the poem
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  • (6/26/2018 3:16:00 PM)


    For a modern day example refer to the last 50 over of England against Australia and Jos Butter's innings to enable England to win. This brought back memories of having learned it at a young age of under 12 (Report) Reply

  • (5/15/2018 8:02:00 PM)


    As a12 year old secondary school student in the U.K some ‘70 years ago This was a poem we had to memorize, ! This should be required today & perhaps we would not have such big egos in much of our sports so called celebrities & entertainment industry (Report) Reply

  • (4/15/2018 9:44:00 AM)


    This is some serious nostalgia. (Report) Reply

  • (3/25/2018 11:48:00 PM)


    You need to get a better voice to read this poem...someone with a bit of empathy in their voice (Report) Reply

  • (3/11/2018 2:39:00 PM)


    I think the first verse of this poem speaks volumes about how life should be lived. Whilst we all want to win, winning should be done fairly and with integrity, not like most of today's so called sports stars do it. They would do well to read this beatiful poem and digest the meaning. (Report) Reply

    (3/26/2018 2:49:00 PM)

    In light of recent events in Sth Africa, I couldn't agree more.

  • (12/14/2017 4:29:00 PM)


    To describe the sentiments in this poem as 'unfashionable' and 'politically incorrect' is a bit weak: it would be better to describe them as what they are: a lie. It's a delusional fantasy, an argument that violent death is joyful, and that invading other people's countries is glorious. (Report) Reply

    (4/5/2018 7:13:00 PM)

    From the brave Horatio the captain of the gate, There is no better way to die than facing fearfull odds, for the ashes of your fathers and the temples of their gods.

  • (5/27/2014 12:26:00 PM)


    .............life is truly a game.....enjoyed this wonderful poem.. (Report) Reply

  • 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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (3/9/2005 5:15:00 PM)


    the sentiments may be unfashionable, but they are true enough still. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: school, red, river, hope, death, light, night, son



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Friday, August 26, 2016


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