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

  • Lt Col Sumant Khare (4/16/2020 12:43:00 AM)

    I served in the Indian Army and later, in the corporate world. My father, also an Army Officer had read this poem to me when I was a cadet and it has remained with me to this day. Mind you, my father grew up in a village and was a teenager when the British were leaving India and not once did he think it to be racist or any such thing. For a moment, if one were to only pay attention to the message, I think it is quite meaningful and inspiring even today.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Douglas Winterborn (2/16/2020 9:50:00 AM)

    These are the words of a Black Country man and may well be the motto of this great Black Country. Do thing for your fellow man (whether a team school or country) not for personal gain or fame! ! ! !(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Jude P. (2/4/2020 8:28:00 PM)

    I remember reading this poem in an English Literature class in the 1970s. The whole class found the combination of cricket and public school jingoism abso! utely hilarious. Then again, the class (myself included) was mainly female and we attended a comprehensive school where games were, for many of us, a form of weekly torture. I find it less amusing now and more distastefully jingoistic. Then again, I'm only part English and don't understand cricket.(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Joe cave (1/14/2020 6:41:00 AM)

    When I was 14 I was chosen to recite this poem on empire day in front of the whole school. 1954(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • j brown (10/15/2019 12:28:00 PM)

    it is English and English we will stay my father used to recite this poem at least once a week there is no one plays the game these days …..(Report)Reply

    Evan MacMurray(12/5/2019 9:13:00 PM)

    To say that you are true to 'your blood'; the blood of your ancestors and clan - Today is considered 'racist' by the shallow word-censors. For they say that no family's line is any more ethical or capable than any other family's line. These are the lies they teach our children in the public schools. evelynsdtratyahoo

    Evan MacMurray AT evelynsdtryahoo.com(12/5/2019 9:12:00 PM)

    To say that you are true to 'your blood'; the blood of your ancestors and clan - Today is considered 'racist' by the shallow word-censors. For they say that no family's line is any more ethical or capable than any other family's line. These are the lies they teach our children in the public schools.

    Evan MacMurray AT evelynsdtryahoo.com(12/5/2019 9:05:00 PM)

    Truly said. And these days it is forbidden to say that you are true to 'your Blood'; the blood of your ancestors and clan. Today this is considered 'racist' - for the speech-censors say that no family line is any more ethical or capable than any other family line. These are the lies that they teach our children in the public schools.

    2 person liked.
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  • Patrick (9/8/2019 10:38:00 AM)

    There is tonight! 4th Test at Old Trafford(Report)Reply

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  • Tony Gwynn-Jones (7/17/2019 8:47:00 AM)

    I learnt this poem by heart some 80 years ago. It meant a lot to me and my schoolmates then. A little outdated now but still carries a message!(Report)Reply

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  • Florence Gevanderpoke (4/19/2019 5:50:00 PM)

    I think it is a poem of wonderful meaningless nonsense.(Report)Reply

    T.Greenaway, I t(11/21/2019 6:10:00 AM)

    A sad commentary by a sad person, so common today, especially among our politicians

    Patrick(9/8/2019 10:44:00 AM)

    Wonderful, yes. Meaningless, no. It carries a message of loyalty and devotion. Natural human qualities, seen in causes both bad and good... or " meaningless" , like a sports match (I'm writing this late on the 5th day of the 4th Test at Old Trafford, Manchester, Ashes 2019) . I guess from the noise that the crowd would understand Newbolt.

    3 person liked.
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  • J Porter (2/20/2019 5:42:00 AM)

    The sentiment in the poem is simple, it advises that there are far nobler causes than " self" . Tragically, we now live in a society where " self" is everything, a sense of entitlement is the fuel and personal responsibility non-existent. Significantly mental health is generally much worse.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • R Williams (2/4/2019 5:17:00 AM)

    Patriotism and remembering history is no longer the done thing unless you happen to be American or North Korean Very sad state of affairs(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • GRPalmer (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(Report)Reply

    Shrek''s slave(1/17/2019 10:42:00 AM)

    well spoken comrade

    8 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Peter Davies (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 person liked.
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  • Joan Holmes (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

    5 person liked.
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  • M. Montgomery (4/15/2018 9:44:00 AM)

    This is some serious nostalgia.(Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Bill Fussell (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

    5 person liked.
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  • Peter Mullett (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

    Norman Eades(10/28/2018 5:01:00 PM)

    You have missed the point.It is about privilege wealth and control and exploitation of our suppressed colonies who we enslaved.

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

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

    9 person liked.
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  • bernard slattery (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

    Barney Carroll(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.

    11 person liked.
    23 person did not like.
  • * Sunprincess * (5/27/2014 12:26:00 PM)

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

    24 person liked.
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  • Thomas Vaughan JonesThomas 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

    59 person liked.
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  • 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

    83 person liked.
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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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