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Memories - RTC3
Random Thoughts on Crosswords Cryptic and Concise + Recherché Times Crossword Clues Considered
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I occasionally mourned the death of "direct quotation" clues, particularly because they sometimes led me back with pleasure to some half-remembered piece of prose or verse. Last week, however, an ordinary, non-quotation clue started me off down paths I probably hadn't visited for some years.

"Get back into good shape in resort (6)" = REPAIR in last Monday's Times Cryptic (No. 24,826) caused one commenter on the Times for the Times blog entry to cite the usage of "repair" in the first line of Francis Thompson's poem At Lord's:
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though my own red roses there may blow;
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though the red roses crest the caps, I know.
For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run-stealers flicker to and fro,
To and fro: -
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!
Until I repaired to Google to find the text of the poem, and came across the wikipedia article on Cricket poetry, I hadn't actually realised that the poem had more than this first verse. Indeed most versions posted on the Internet omit the other verses, and I can understand why (see Footnote).

The first line of At Lord's provides an example of "repair (to)" (= "resort (to)") in its sense of "to proceed or go (to)" (they can also both mean "to have recourse (to a person or thing for aid, guidance, etc)", which is the sense I used it myself above). However, the example that springs more readily to my mind is in the traditional song Brigg Fair, which Percy Grainger collected from Joseph Taylor (listen to him here, possibly preceded by an advert - sorry about that!), and from which he produced his own arrangement (listen to it here with Ian Bostridge as the tenor soloist):
It was on the fifth of August,
The weather fine and fair,
Unto Brigg Fair I did repair,
For love I was inclined.
I'd known Francis Thompson's poem The Hound of Heaven from an early age, since my (much older) brother used to be fond of reciting its wonderful opening lines:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
But I hadn't come across At Lord's (perhaps because my own roses are white) until someone wrote a clue to SPECTRE BATS along the lines of "Mammals identified by Hornby and Barlow long ago". (I think the author might have been Ximenes, in which case the clue would no doubt have been a lot more elegant, but I hope my version conveys the drift of the wordplay.)

I'm not sure how well At Lord's is known these days. However, almost 30 years ago, when Edmund Akenhead retired as Times Crossword Editor, I suspect it would have been familiar to most of the finalists in the Times Crossword Championship. At any rate Roy Dean (who was the first Times Crossword Championship in 1970, and who won again in 1979 when he beat John Sykes by six minutes) felt able to quote the final line, "O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!", in a speech he gave in tribute to Edmund, and to speculate that in years to come someone might look back on the early days of the Championship and say: "O my Akenhead in London long ago!"

Two more cases where the author should have stopped after the first verse. Firstly:
There was a young curate of Kew
Who kept a tom cat in a pew;
He taught it to speak alphabetical Greek
But it never got further than mu.
The original author continued with a second verse (not worth quoting, IMO, but you can find it in Verse and Worse). However, I find from the Internet that The Rev. A.D. Clarke, headmaster of The Church Institute School, Bolton, unwisely continued with several verses of his own.

And secondly:
There is a fine stuffed chavender, a chavender or chub,
That decks the rural pavender, the pavender or pub,
In which I eat my gravender, my gravender or grub.
This version (contributed by a commenter on Big Dave's Crossword Blog) is closest to the one I've come across before, but it and all the other versions I can find on the Internet stop there. However, the version I'm familiar with continued for many more dreary verses, none of them a patch on the first one.

Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: reminiscent

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