National Republic Radio has invited various poets to compete in a poetry contest to go along with the 2012 Olympics and will feature their work each week with the readers voting to see who will be crowned (with a laurel?) the winner. See original NPR article here.
London Olympics, athletes and poetry – all of which brings to mind (quite naturally) A.E. Housman’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.