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Wednesday, 08 July 2015

Vitai Lampada

A faded clipping and poignant note from the Flange archive . . .

Red poppy
lest we forget

Written in 1897 by Sir Henry Newbolt, the poem ‘Vitai Lampada’ recalls the Battle of Abu Klea in Sudan in January 1885 during the unsuccessful expedition to rescue General Gordon, a footnote of imperial history that Flange was more than familiar with.







Vitai Lampada
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 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!"


On the back of the poem, a brief comment from Flange, written from the lofty viewpoint of late 19th century imperial hubris -  ‘Thank God we won’t have to go through all this again!'

Published: November 10, 2010


Have your say

How very poignant. Wonderful stuff.

Posted by Mike Harrison on 12 November 2010 at 10:23

So touching.

Posted by katy turner on 12 November 2010 at 06:50

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