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Two Similar Poems About Cricket And Dogs [Jan. 30th, 2017|12:38 am]
...and the stains drip between fingers...
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I've been reading through this amazing collection of short fiction by Wodehouse, and found an interesting similarity between two poems.

How M'Dougal Topped the Score by Thomas A. Spencer
Joe by P.G. Wodehouse

M'Dougal is a classic Australian poem published in 1906. The cricket team of Piper's Flat are not very good, but they play a match with Molongo. Old M'Dougal is the ace in the hole for Piper's Flat - as he owns the sheepdog Pincher. When Piper's Flat tumbles down with nine wickets for seventeen with fifty to win, M'Dougal takes the bat. Pincher the sheepdog runs away with the ball and as a result Piper's Flat makes up their runs and wins the match.

M'Dougal's legs were going fast, Molongo's breath was gone—
But still Molongo chased the dog—M'Dougal struggled on.
When the scorer shouted “Fifty!” then they knew the chase could cease;
And M'Dougal gasped out “Drop it!” as he dropped within his crease.
Then Pincher dropped the ball, and, as instinctively he knew
Discretion was the wiser plan, he disappeared from view.
And as Molongo's beaten men exhausted lay around.
We raised M'Dougal shoulder-high, and bore him from the ground.

We bore him to M'Ginniss's, where lunch was ready laid,
And filled him up with whisky-punch, for which Molongo paid.
We drank his health in bumpers, and we cheered him three times three,
And when Molongo got its breath, Molongo joined the spree.
And the critics say they never saw a cricket match like that,
When M'Dougal broke the record in the game at Piper's Flat.
And the folk are jubilating as they never did before;
For we played Molongo cricket—and M'Dougal topped the score!

PG Wodehouse's poem Joe was published in May 1907, Pearson's Magazine (United Kingdom). The men of Chickenham-infra-Mud face Pigbury-super-Splosh in cricket. Their score is nine wickets for fifteen with seven to win. Then old Joe, the good dog, runs away with the ball and allows Chickenham-infra-Mud to score the runs they need. Wodehouse's poem is much shorter, but the plot is exactly the same and the setting similar (Australian vs British 'lower class country').

It rose in the air, and we shouted “Run!” and a fieldsman started in chase:
But as he was running we thought we saw a curious look on his face;
And then he stopped, and we wondered why, for the feller looked quite scared.
And there was old Joe on top of the ball with his teeth all white and bared!

Well, they ran and ran, and the fieldsmen yelled, but that didn’t disturb old Joe.
He sat on the ball as much as to say, “Am I downhearted? No!”
And, just as they’d finished the seventh run, he rose and he winked at us,
And he trotted away with a sort of blush, like he didn’t want no fuss.

Oh, he ain’t a Serciety beauty with a lovely silky coat:
One of his ears is torn a bit. There’s a scar or two on his throat:
No, he ain’t the sort of dog, maybe, as ’ud win a prize at a show,
But for tact and sense there isn’t one as is in the race with Joe!

I believe the cricket rules have updated since that time, making both these poems and their exploitation of the loophole dated. My guess is that Wodehouse was at the very least "inspired by" Spencer's poem. To me, the poems are similar in a way that makes me lionise Wodehouse less. Perhaps there was a "dog related misadventures in cricket" zeitgeist that was very popular at the time? Or perhaps there are other theories.

[User Picture]From: heliopausa
2017-01-29 02:00 pm (UTC)
Oh! I know M'Dougal well - very well. My dear dad used to recite it, and thanks to that I can recite chunks of it now; it has such very very very fond memories for me. And I think it's the better poem and the better humour, by quite a long way. Wodehouse's seems a bit patronising of the villagers and the farmer, whereas Spencer's (I never knew who'd written it!) feels more just someone wryly observing his own community.
I especially liked the tiny glimpse of Mrs Mac, who was good-hearted enough to bowl for M'Dougal's practice, but "couldn't run at all" - the whole of a long unromantic rock-solid and totally lovable partnership seemed to me to be evoked in that. "Couldn't run at all" - no, I bet she couldn't! But still if the old chap wanted someone to bowl she'd indulge him by giving up an hour or so after the day's work. (Who? Me? Reading in? :) Possibly.)
Oh, and I liked Big Jim Brady, who was always slow to speak. I love the way you can.. one can!... pace that line to bring out his character.

Thanks for this! Most unexpected and pleasant. :)

Apart from Wodehouse's possible lifting of the poem, that is.
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[User Picture]From: blueinkedpalm
2017-01-29 02:22 pm (UTC)
I definitely think you're right that Wodehouse's poem is patronising! I think Wodehouse isn't normally as patronising as this, at least not for long periods. The line And we batted above a bit:
We’d run up a total of thirty sometimes. Yes, and not think much of it!
is surely exaggerated and quite mean spirited. I thought the poem was quite different to Wodehouse's other works in that regard.

I like how Spencer's poem has all the different characters - I'd love to read more about Mrs Mac! (Perhaps this is a future Yuletide fandom.)
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