Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2011

Learn from the classics - poetry that challenges and inspires

My wonderful father in law reminded me of one of my favourite poems during a discussion on military tactics last night. This may sound unlikely but is a perfect example of how poetry, once learned, is never forgotten.

The poem in question is "Vitai Lampada" by Sir Henry Newbolt. Written at a time when England's public schools were producing a generation which would fight for the Empire, the poem is an mix of the reality of war ("the square that broke" ie the remains of the formation of men after the Battle of Abu Klea and the puncturing of the myth of infallibility) and the love of honour and companionship embedded in the school system. The title roughly translates as "the passing on of the light"; an idea which is echoed in the third verse. From schoolboy dreams to carnage on the battlefield, the poem is at once stirring and desperate.

Vitai Lambada - Sir Henry Newbolt

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match …