"Play Up! Play Up! And Play The Game!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The title of Sir Henry Newbolt's poem "Vitaï Lampada" means "the lamp of life." The poem is also called "Play the Game." The repeated refrain "Play up! play up! and play the game!" is at first the cheer at a school cricket match when the team, though trailing, is still determined to win. The important point, the poet says, is the spirit of the game, as "it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,/ Or the selfish hope of a season's fame." The refrain is repeated next as the rallying cry after the "sand of the desert is sodden red," and the gun is jammed, and the colonel dead. The future looks bleak: "The river of death has brimmed its bank. . . ." But the voice of a schoolboy with his cherished heritage says, "Play up! . . ." The poem opens with the following stanza:

There's a breathless hush in the close to-night–
Ten to make and the match to win–
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"