Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Parker’s Piece, May 19, 1891
By James Kenneth Stephen (1859–1892)
 
TO see good Tennis! what diviner joy
Can fill our leisure, or our minds employ?
Not Sylvia’s self is more supremely fair,
Than balls that hurtle through the conscious air.
Not Stella’s form instinct with truer grace        5
Than Lambert’s racket poised to win the chase.
Not Chloe’s harp more native to the ear,
Than the tense strings which smite the flying sphere.
  When Lambert boasts the superhuman force,
Or splits the echoing grille without remorse:        10
When Harradine, as graceful as of yore,
Wins better than a yard, upon the floor;
When Alfred’s ringing cheer proclaims success,
Or Saunders volleys in resistlessness;
When Heathcote’s service makes the dedans ring        15
With just applause, and own its honoured king;
When Pettitt’s prowess all our zeal awoke
’Till high Olympus shuddered at the stroke;
Or, when, receiving thirty and the floor,
The novice serves a dozen faults or more;        20
Or some plump don, perspiring and profane,
Assails the roof and breaks the exalted pane;
When vantage, five games all, the door is called,
And Europe pauses, breathless and appalled,
Till lo! the ball by cunning hand caressed        25
Finds in the winning gallery a nest;
These are the moments, this the bliss supreme,
Which makes the artist’s joy, the poet’s dream.
  Let cricketers await the tardy sun,
Break one another’s shins and call it fun;        30
Let Scotia’s golfers through the affrighted land
With crooked knee and glaring eye-ball stand;
Let football rowdies show their straining thews,
And tell their triumphs to a mud-stained Muse;
Let india-rubber pellets dance on grass        35
Where female arts the ruder sex surpass;
Let other people play at other things;
The king of games is still the game of kings.
 
 
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