The Heckling of TS Eliot

I have mixed feelings about this poem, it’s kind of fun, but for me it also represents the point at which I sensed the law of diminishing returns was setting in. That’s partly why I ended the project. But it still belongs to the project so here it is. I can’t find any evidence of TS Eliot playing cricket online, but here is a picture of Virginia Woolf rocking a forward defensive, taken from Open Culture, and that’s close enough.

woolf-and-sister-playing-cricket

The Heckling of TS Eliot.

When TS Eliot joined the Innisfree Bards
and found it impossible to score in double figures,
entering the last match of the season with
an average of two, the long wave radio commentary
team for Radio Ten Ten developed the
habit of heckling the batsman with his own words.

Carried on a breeze, these radio hacks,
these second rate imitations of the Benaud, the Boycott,
the Blowers, took every opportunity to
send the batsman back to the pavillion with a parody.
Trading in the spontaneous euphoria of
the commentator’s inner child for the cynically planned,
crafted one liner, it started with a shout of
‘Wallala leilala, wallala lei-le. How-was-zat, how-was-ee!’
Eliot’s next innings ended with a stumping
and a cackling exclamation of ‘Ohhh. Just outside off stump,
He can connect nothing with nothing.’
The third time out, Prufrock was invoked as Tom’s demise
was re-rendered in the vernacular as
‘He grows old, he grows old, He’s just seen his stumps be bowled.’
And finally, as Eliot carried his bat
under his arm again, the static crackled with a fiery cry of
‘This is the way his innings ends.
This is the way his innings ends.
This is the way his innings ends.
With a mistimed lob to midwicket.’

Even when, in a final innings of the season,
Tom scored a surprisingly fluent fifty against the admittedly
flagging efforts of The Great Composers bowling,
the acceptance of his skills was begrudging, slightly churlish,
unenthused. What is a commentator to do?
Talk of Michaelangelo? And how he is jealous that
Leonardo DaVinci gets a spot on the
engineer’s team, but there isn’t any team for the artists.
The Guardian’s match report gets the point
about Eliot; he’s sometimes hard to love, but he’s quotable.

Simon Travers (c) 2015

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