And now, A Runner’s Delight is getting slightly literary for the day.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how runners and athletes can make an impact on the world without ever intending to, and about those that go forth with the intention to create change. It occurred to me that sometimes, the best thing an athlete, or anyone, can do for a cause or for bettering others or the world might actually be to pass away. This poem encapsulates that feeling nicely, particular with the sentiment, “Smart lad, to slip betimes away/From fields where glory does not stay.” Not only will the “smart lad” be embolden with glory, he very well may stand as a mascot for others to do good in his memory. And now, without further literary/running musings, here’s To an Athlete Dying Young:
To an Athlete Dying Young
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.