Monday, October 28, 2013

Anonymous 1919 NZ cricket poem

The following humorous soliloquy based on Shakespeare’s play Hamlet was sent in to me by an Australian researcher who came across it whilst reading Papers Past at the National Library of New Zealand.
It was first published in the New Zealand Free Lance and appears to be a New Zealand cricket poem. The editor of the column published it with the following note: “The following item after William Shakespeare has not been hitherto published, but it is worth a place in my columns:--”
Cricket poems after Shakespeare are popular in cricket poetry. A Tingling Catch includes Don Neely’s ‘To walk or not to walk: that is the question;’ also after Hamlet. Don’s poem was written as an introduction to his cricket column in New Zealand Cricketer, 14 December 1970, on whether a batsman should stay or walk after appearing to have nicked a caught behind chance.
This poem is about a leg-before decision. I’ll include the anonymous writer’s poem here for your enjoyment.


Out Or Not Out

(Showing Hamlet’s latest soliloquy on being given out leg-before when
playing for Denmark against an eleven from the adjacent States)

Hamlet – Am I out, Horatius?
Horatius (batting at the other end) – I fear so, sire; methinks I heard
the man say “Chuck her up.”
Hamlet (retiring): Then must I go.
Yet ’tis a monstrous thing
That all this great and momentous issue
Should hang upon a churlish umpire’s nod.
How now, my lords? The ball had bias on it,
And, if my leg had been in front, as ’twas not,
’Twould ne’er have hit the sticks – no, not by yards.
It did not pitch straight – it was rising high –
Besides the man is bowling round the wicket;
Yes: I can summon up a million reasons
Which, on being pondered on, conspire to show
The verdict of yon purblind idiot false.
Well, well:
The thing’s an allegory,
How accident doth wait on carefulness
And all precautions used. I took one leg;
I wisely questioned if my toes were clear.
And all for this. Oh, sirs, the pity of it!
I was firmly set
As any oak tree in the sylvan glade;
I saw the bowling well; the ball appeared
To me as large as the full harvest moon
Sailing above the strawstack. I had meant
To score a hundred when that echoing yell,
Both from the bowler and the wicket-keeper,
The pre-arranged duet of knavery,
Checked me in mid-success and cut me down.
What weak-kneed umpire could resist that roar?
There’s not a doubt on’t. I was bustled out.
Give me a pipe; I’ll drown my grief in smoke.
This cricket is a passing beastly game.

(From New Zealand Free Lance, Thursday 20 February 1919, page 21)

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