Children we deemed you all the days
We vexed you with our care:
But in a Universe ablaze,
What was your childish share?
To rush upon the flames of Hell,
To quench them with your blood !
To be of England’s flower that fell
Ere yet it break the bud !
And we who wither where we grew,
And never shed but tears,
As children now would follow you
Through the remaining years ;
Tread in the steps we thought to guide,
As firmly as you trod ;
And keep the name you glorified
Clean before man and God.
Hornung, the author of Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman, was an occasional versifier. Most of his verse was inspired by the Great War. Oddly, in the light of the ambivalence (verging on cynicism) of the Raffles books towards the idea that cricket was the embodiment of the Englishman’s moral code, he began by writing some fairly awful War-as-the-Great-Game-type stuff, for instance –
The Schools take guard upon a fierier pitch
Somewhere in Flanders.
Bigger the cricket here; yet some who tried
In vain to earn a Colour while at Eton
Have found a place upon an England side
That can’t be beaten !
His son Oscar, who had played cricket for Eton, had written from the front, comparing the War to “putting your left leg to the ball at cricket” or playing in a house match “only the odds are not so much against us here and we’ve more to back us up.” He was killed in July 1915. His Father volunteered to work at the front, manning a canteen run by the YMCA and organising a small lending library for the troops.
(The pictures are of the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Newark.)