73. The Olympic Girl: John Betjeman

Ah, the Olympics.

The Winter Games are my favorite, as they are simpler and focused: All events are required to be on snow or ice. I don’t know about ice dancing or freestyle skiing as sports (although they take much practice and dedication, here I am a traditionalist), but there is plenty of Super G and figure skating to be had.

Such events, of course, inspire plenty of mediocre poetry. I cannot say that Mr. Betjeman inspired me to move from my couch, but it is a cute little poem. And, once you get past the sing-song rhyme, it has a somewhat amorous undertone that gives it an edge. Plus, it features a strong and empowered woman, which is not a bad subject for a middle school poem.

For a more in-depth history of Olympic poetry, check out The Mediadrome. It is where I first found this poem, and the author knows his classical poets.

The Olympic Girl
John Betjeman

The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussй nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx…..would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press’d
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
“Oh! Plung!” my tauten’d strings would call,
“Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things.”
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You’d tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.


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