So, I suppose we have to admit that the cricket season is over and the football season has begun.
A little known fact – at least I’ve never heard Alan Hansen allude to it on Match of the Day – is that the earliest use of the word “soccer” recorded in the O.E.D. is in a letter from the ‘nineties poet Ernest Dowson, dated 1889:
“I absolutely decline to see socca’ matches”
The O.E.D. is tantalisingly bare of context – was he, perhaps, more of a rugga’ man? – but it does not appear that (unlike his fellow decadent Francis Thompson) he was very fond of cricket. The only reference I can find to the game in his letters is the following, written from Bognor –
“I have I fear to be another ten days in this inexpressibly horrid plage – full of English Mlls and Varsity men who play cricket with them on the sands.”
So not, apparently, an enthusiast.
But – once we have sent our little books out into the world – we have no say in how they are used. So, to me, this – his most famous poem – is about the cricket season.
Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.