Week 505: At Lord’s, by Francis Thompson

I am not sure why I should find this piece of cricketing nostalgia by the Victorian poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907) so evocative, given that I have never really got on with ball games in general and cricket in particular. I mean, so many rules to remember, compared with running where ‘don’t start before the gun goes’ pretty much covers it. I was playing football recently against my two young grandsons, and while I admit that my understanding of the offside rule has always been tenuous at best, I wish someone would explain to me how I could have constantly been ruled offside when I was the only player on my team. I did in fact presume to query this, but was told very firmly ‘my ball, my rules’, so that was the end of that.

Still, it’s good to think of the tubercular, angst-ridden, opium-addicted Thompson finding solace in such an innocent pastime.

I take Hornby to be Albert Neilsen Hornby (1847-1925), a famous Victorian sportsman who captained the country at both rugby and cricket, and Barlow to be Richard Gorton Barlow (1851-1919), a well-known all-rounder. Readers may wish to update the references to something more modern like, say, Hutton and Bedser (note: my knowledge of the game’s heroes may not be entirely up to date).

‘repair’ in the sense of ‘to go to’, nothing to do with mending.

‘red roses’: presumably referring to the emblem of Thompson’s home county Lancashire; Thompson was born in Preston.

‘Southron’ an old or Scots word for ‘southern’.

At Lord’s

It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though my own red roses there may blow;
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though the red roses crest the caps, I know.
For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run stealers flicker to and fro,
To and fro:–
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!

Francis Thompson


1 thought on “Week 505: At Lord’s, by Francis Thompson

  1. There always seem to be such a lot of standing around in cricket.
    Here’s an off side for you on this cricket topic, try the song When The Old Cricketer Leaves `The `Crease, by Roy Harper, complete with brass band accompaniment.

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