In Competition No. 2904 you were invited to take as your first line ‘There’s a breathless hush on the centre court’ and continue for up to 15 lines in the style of Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem ‘Vitaï Lampada’.
There is just space to congratulate the winners and to commiserate with unlucky losers John Whitworth, who submitted a charming tribute to Christine Truman, Robert Cross, Sid Field and R.M. Goddard. Those printed below are rewarded with £25 each. Bill Greenwell hoists the championship trophy and nabs the bonus fiver in the process.
There’s a breathless hush on the Centre Court:
Seventeenth deuce after championship point —
The crowd is tense, as the first serve is short.
Is this the time? Is there one to anoint?
And it’s not for the glory, or national pride,
Or the thrill from a tip that’s been turned to a bet:
The second serve touches the great divide.
Play on! Play on! And play a let!
The Kalashnikov’s jiggered, Apaches are down,
The mission is teetering — failure, success —
An emergency surgeon puts on a blue gown,
And the chaplain confesses he’s under duress;
The journalist waits with his fingers half-bleeding,
Time slows to zero. Can this shot still be met?
But the voice of an umpire smooths the proceedings:
‘Play on! Play on! And play a let!’
There’s a breathless hush on the centre court —
Two sets all and no service breaks;
With another match point now to be fought
The utmost effort is all it takes.
For it’s not for the sake of a silver cup,
Financial gain or renewed acclaim,
It’s his country’s honour buoys each man up
As they strive to win at this royal game.
The flags and the painted faces are still
And the silent excitement is just as keen
Where the young fans cluster on Henman Hill
As the end draws near on the giant screen.