Heritage as Hope

I saw the cricket scene in evening light,
In Windsor light with calm men moving through
The evening air and dressed in cricket white.
Long centuries are contained beneath the blue
Of evening sky which folds the chestnut blooms
In its embrace as two teams play by rules
No sky could ever dream.  These men are grooms
Of royalty we call tradition.  Pools
Of beauty are these matches set in green
And white and blue.  They tilt—the future, too
Should England last as long as glories seen
Should linger, glories that are rigid, true.
__When we who live have gone to other bounds,
____Let there be chestnuts still—and cricket grounds.

 

Benison

The first of our own daffodils spread out
Today and maybe that bright yellow will
Reach wider since the sun is now about
And shining on the brilliance. It will fill
The air around it with its trumpet hope,
Perhaps, that is if only sunlight shines
On long enough, asking it to elope
With him to happiness. The flower aligns
Itself with springtime passions, cooler though
They are than most. They rise up saffron strong
In color and in promise. Petals glow
In optimism. They know how to long.
__A winter, like disease, is passing now.
____The brass bell and the petals rise—and bow.

 

Phillip Whidden is a poet published in America, England, Scotland (and elsewhere) in book form, online, and in journals.  He has also had an article on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” published in The New Edinburgh Review.

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30 Responses

    • C.B. Anderson

      Charlie,

      Really?! I thought these poems were thick with wrenched syntax and lackluster diction, not like anything you’d have written yourself. And the meter is suspect in many of the lines. What gives here?

      Reply
      • Charles Southerland

        C.B. — Read them aloud and listen to the sound. Just the sound. Take your time and hear– not what they say, but the sound alone. Sometimes we pay too much attention to the meter alone and not enough to the rising and falling of the sounds. It is what quantitative poetry is all about. While these poems are qualitatively written, they are closer to the Greek or Latin to the ear. The only negative critique I have is all caps at each line, which slows me down unnecessarily. I have to recalibrate for that fact.

        C.B,– you must train the tongue and the ear simultaneously for poems like these. Step out to the wild side and write some hendecasyllabic or some Alexandrines or even a sapphic stanza and it will take you out of the monotones of iambics. Instead of the clip-clop of a plow horse, you’ll get the Lipizzaner stallion. Trust me…

    • Phillip Whidden

      Thanks, Charles Southerland. Thanks most notably for your positive responses but very much for defending the poems. I don’t think they need to be defended but you do it well and elegantly. It seems that you care more about the nuts and bolts of poetry than most people do. I much appreciate your intellectual and practical input. By “practical” I mean your advice to experience poetry by reading it aloud.

      Reply
  1. J. Simon Harris

    Both poems are well done. The first poem, “Heritage as Hope”, is really beautiful (even though I’m an American with almost no exposure to cricket, I understand the sentiment, and the poem is beautiful nonetheless).

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      An American relative of mine hated the original version of the cricket poem because it was about sport. Her father had taught her to despise sport (baseball) because he was so fanatical about it. She couldn’t get past the fact that the poem’s apparent subject matter was sport. Of course I gently pointed out that in the most important sense the poem is not about sport at all. I’m not sure this clarification impressed her. Your comment makes me think that you understood perfectly well what the sonnet was actually about. A long-term friend of mine who loves poetry always reads it pretty much only for the esthetic (aesthetic) impact of this and that poem. In as sense, she doesn’t care about the “sense.” (Yep. I like that paradox.) She wants it to be “poetry,” not so much for it to make the sense of fine prose.

      Reply
  2. James Sale

    A marvellous use of enjambement in Heritage as Hope creates a seemingly effortless flow of images and ideas – love it. Actually, unlike J Simon Harris I am English and so can’t avoid exposure to cricket: the only game I rate as more pointless than golf! There I have said it – but the poem is wonderful.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      James Sale, thank you for your continuing positive reactions to my poems. I love the fact that this one cricket poem strikes you as having an effortless flow. Luckily for both you and for J. Simon Harris (and for me) cricket hardly matters at all in the poem, since it is really about heritage and tradition. I think it might be wise of me not to take sides on the merits of cricket per se since that discussion is outside the scope of the actual focus of the sonnet.

      Reply
  3. James A. Tweedie

    “England and America should scrap cricket and baseball and come up with a new game that they both can play. Like baseball, for example.” Robert Benchley

    Seriously, I once sat through one day of a test match between Australia and West Indies and found the experience quite enchanting. almost poetic with the white uniforms against the green of the pitch, the endless periods of slow motion punctuated with a fleeting blur of a bowler’s arm, the crack of a bat, the silent, bare-handed snatch of the tipped ball by the silly mid on followed by a most un-genteel roar from the otherwise staid and genteel crowd.

    Heritage and Hope captures all of this and more for me in a way that would not have been possible had it been written in prose.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      And yet, in the above paragraph, you captured that essence quite beautifully as well, James!

      Thank you, Phillip, for these. They are each lovely–especially the ending couplets!

      Reply
      • Phillip Whidden

        Amy Foreman, I wanted to praise that same wonderful paragraph by James, but I saw that you had already praised it perfectly. I suppose I could praise it also, but, frankly, it is so good that any other praise I might offer could seem pale. Your praise is just right about it. I gather that you love the “essence” of cricket, too. Another reader (one not on this site) really loved the poem but especially the couplet at the end of “Heritage as Hope,” even though he is an American and finds cricket to be impenetrable and boring, so a transatlantic consensus seems to be developing.

      • Phillip Whidden

        Thanks, James Sale, for upholding James A. Tweedie’s great short piece of writing about cricket (above). I think we’e all in agreement about that paragraph.

    • Phillip Whidden

      I think I’m in love with your mind, James A. Tweedie. I like its contents and its workings. I am pretty much convinced that I would enjoy it more than I could ever delectate a cricket match. “I think that I shall never see/ A cricket match as lovely as the mind of James A. TweedIE.” (That bit of verse was written by Ogden Nash, I think.)

      Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      David Paul Behrens, you seem to be in perhaps indeliberate disagreement with an earlier comment made by someone else who said the poems “were thick with wrenched syntax”. I hope that most readers will react (silently or out loud) with you about the flow, color (colour) and beauty of them.

      Reply
  4. David Hollywood

    Very lovely poetry and ‘Heritage of Hope’ brings back the whole spectrum of the village green and the communal competition that represented all of the rivalries and successes of great and proud camaraderie. I really enjoyed this. In ‘Benison’ I felt a forlorn yearning for the moment that has past to memory and thank you.

    Reply
    • David Hollywood

      Just noticed, my final words should have been ‘passed’ to memory…..

      Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      This poem seems to have struck the golden chord with cricket fans, and even with some of those not fond of the game. I hope that says something positive about the sonnet. Of course for you (and other readers who have experienced real live cricket, as distinct from having only watched it on screens) the verses bring up the whole match experience even though they do not actually allude to the wider social context of a game being played. Yearning is a big time part of poetry and has been for thousands of years. Talk about tradition and heritage, yes?

      Reply
  5. Monty

    Cricket and SCP: two entities which I never imagined I’d see on the same page, let alone in the same sentence! What a delicious surprise (for me, anyway, being one who still holds a deep affinity with the sound of ‘willow on leather’).

    And to hear cricket and its traditions described in such (seemingly) strongly-felt words; together with the plea that cricket-grounds will last as long as chestnuts . . I’m quite touched. Especially as my fear is constantly increasing that traditional cricket (played by rules no sky could ever dream) is slowly being pushed aside in favour of the brutality of 20/20.

    Tell me, Phil: would it be over-presumptuous of me to deduce that your words could only’ve come from one who was raised in Britain?

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Monty, I think it says something positive about the editor of SCP that he wanted the cricket poem, being an American as he is. Let’s turn the viewpoint around from him and other Americans, though. I want to adopt that approach because what I particularly love is that the lovers of cricket love this sonnet. That to me is the acid test. One of the authors of a standard college textbook in America, a book about how to write, remarked that the most important rule about writing, one that is hardly ever mentioned, is that great writing must absolutely be true. If it is false, insincere, or incorrect in its content or attitude, it will never be great. This sonnet almost veers into that dishonesty we call sentimentality, but not quite (at least I “hope” not).
      I moved to Britain in 1978. Well, Edinburgh to begin with, but, hey, cricket is played there, too. I have been a resident of Britain (yes, including England) for almost forty years, far longer than I have lived anywhere else. Is that maybe good enough, Monty?
      What I am going to say now is NOT meant to be taken by you as a negative comment. It is more an expression of an obvious fact. Cricket is played and loved in many places other than Britain and perhaps more fervently (even fanatically) than in Britain. A sterling poem about it might rise absolutely naturally from Australia, or India, or Pakistan, or Sri Lanka or….. Probably many such poems have indeed been written by citizens of other parts of the world. I am too ignorant to know for sure, though.

      Reply
      • Monty

        Methinks ya may’ve misread my question, Phil; ya certainly don’t have to ask me whether where ya’v lived is “good enough”! Good enough for what? For whom? I surmised that ya may live in Blighty not ‘cos of yer obvious empathy with Bat an’ Ball; but ‘cos of the image (Cumberland, now Cumbria) which accompanied yer offering.

        I’m a comparative newcomer to SCP: and as such, I ain’t yet sussed whether one can choose their own accompanying image . . or whether one gets what one’s given by SCP. Thus, I formed (unfoundedly, admittedly) the romantic notion that ya may’ve been a native cumbrian, and Carlisle CC were yer local team; hence the image was yer own. In hindsight, I may’ve been guilty of flagrant daydreaming; but I’m firmly not guilty of having a mind so shallow as to deduce that one with a love of cricket probably lives in Blighty.

        I’m 55, Phil: I’ve watched cricket all over the globe. No one senses the globality of the game more than me . . and that extends to the Himalyas. For the last 10 years, I’ve been living in Nepal for 3 months every year, during which time I’ve witnessed their national team rise from near obscurity (only 5 years ago) to (earlier this year, and for the first time) reaching the qualifiers for the next ODI world-cup.

        So, to quote ya from yer previous reply: it really was “an expression of an obvious fact”. Far too obvious for my willowed psyche (Oscar Wilde once said: ‘A poet can see everything.. except the obvious’).

        I’m sure yer right in suggesting that “many” cricketing poems have been written in other parts of the world; of which I can certainly vouch for the Caribbean. There was some heartfelt cricket poetry eritten on those shores in the 60’s and 70’s; some of which I’ve devoured.

        Well, I’m still none the wiser, Phil, as to whether the above image was from yerself or SCP: but either way, I consider it to be a treasure. I still can’t stop looking at it. At fear of sounding sensationalistic: it may be the most revealing english cricket-image I’ve ever seen! The costume.. the primitive marquees.. the sparsity of concrete in the background.. the naked river.. and PLAY . . . all under the auspices of a castle. It’s as old-english-cricket as it gets. If it subsequently transpires that SCP supplied it . . I may be rendered speechless.

        p.s. It occurred to me just now that although Carlisle Cricket Club is not a County Cricket Club: it’s still able to attribute the letters CCC to it’s name.

    • Phillip Whidden

      Monty, there’s no Reply button after your second comment. Clearly I too don’t understand SCP’s blog and how it works.

      The editor (editors?) at SCP tend to choose whatever illustration he/they want to accompany this or that poem by me. I did not choose the illustration they put in above “Heritage as Hope.” I think maybe I am not the one to comment on the illustration, though I’m glad it really got your juices flowing. The one I wanted them to use was not used. The one used is not a pic of Windsor, the place which “inspired” the sonnet. (Clearly I’m not telling you anything at this moment that you don’t already know.) I do hope you are not speechless, or if you are, that the affliction is short-lived.

      Just as clearly you are much, much, much more acquainted with cricket and its following around the world than I am. For instance, I know nothing at all about Caribbean poetry about cricket and have never witnessed cricket there or in Nepal.

      I’m shocked that I managed to strike the right tone about cricket so far as the lovers of cricket who have read the poem are concerned. In a sense this is beside the point. For me the sonnet is not about cricket. It is about heritage–in this instance, British (mostly English) heritage. A person I was talking to yesterday (a middle-class Englishman) said firmly to me that the cricket is mostly (to him) about middle-class English heritage. What can I say?

      Reply
  6. David Watt

    A poem concerning cricket was also a pleasant surprise for me.
    I particularly like the final couplet of ‘Heritage as Hope.’

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      David Watt, I also was pleasantly surprised when the editor at SCP chose to publish this sonnet. I think he (almost certainly correctly) perceives that most of the readership of this blog is North American so it is wonderful that in spite of America’s general lack of interest in cricket he found the poem sufficiently authoritative to be presented to his site’s perceived audience. Of course he knows that some of the readers and contributors of verse to the SCP are in Britain, but I do not think that fact would have been the overriding reason why he chose to publish “Heritage as Hope.” (I’m only guessing on this point.) By the way, he was big enough to publish a sequence of poems about the English composer Sir Hubert Parry earlier this year in spite of the editor’s belief that most Americans might be unacquainted with Parry, his life, and works. That was magnanimous–perhaps even daring. I say all this by way of encouraging you and others to continue sending in material to SCP, comments and poems that are non-American. I say this straightforwardly and not with any prejudice against things American. (Americans know what heritage and hope are. Yes. Many Americans are some of the most fervent royalists in the world, too.)

      Reply
  7. Leo Yankevich

    I enjoyed these formal sonnets very much. The substitutions used show a poet who has gone to school with the great poets of the past.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Leo Yankevich, they are indeed formal although some (I think) find the scansion in them less formal (drum thumpingly regular) than the usual iambic pentameter that is the basic pattern of sonnets. I will have to leave it readers to pass judgment (judgement) on the rhythmical quality (or otherwise) of my sonnets. Of course I’m glad that these sonnets (regular and formal or not) gave you enjoyment. Thank you for saying so, out loud. For what it’s worth, I was introduced to fine poetry from a very early age by my father and by the time I was, say, fourteen I was voluntarily and secretly reading book-length poems for solitary pleasure. Yes, I know that makes me an odd one out.

      Reply
  8. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    Heritage as Hope is reminiscent of Modernist Rupert Brooke. The phrase “No sky could ever dream,” seems almost Cummings-esque. My favourite phrase is “They tilt—the future, too…” Mr. Southerland’s contention that your poems are “closer to the Greek or Latin” and Mr. Sale’s observation “cricket: the only game I rate as more pointless than golf”, written in reference your enjambed sonnet, brought to mind Hellenist Andrew Lang, with his fondness for colour and his Scotch Ballade of the Royal Game of Golf.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      B. S. Eliud Acrewe, your wide range of reading and knowledge of poetry strikingly includes poetry I am not acquainted with, so sometimes your comments are above my head. That is good. Thank you.

      Reply
    • Monty

      Wouldn’t ya agree, B.S., that a statement as bold as “reminiscent of Rupert Brooke” is worthy of an explanation? I’ve been trying to connect the two but, alas . . . So, could ya kindly reveal the similarities that ya see between the two?

      Reply

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