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“We Who Are All Players”: Constructing Early Modern Tennis

“We Who Are All Players”: Constructing Early Modern Tennis


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“We Who Are All Players”: Constructing Early Modern Tennis

By Winfried Schleiner

Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, Vol.22:1 (2004)

Introduction: I will start with two stanzas of a personal poem on tennis, not my own, but one by someone who felt just as old playing the game, although he was only forty-five-apparently a ripe age in the 15 th century. It is by one of the highest French noblemen of the time, Charles d’Orleans (1391-1465), taken prisoner for ransom by the English at the battle of Agincourt, after which he was forced to live in England for decades (from 1415 until 1440, when he was released). Since he seems to give his age as 45 in the poem, we can boldly claim it for English literature.

I have played so much tennis with Age
That now I am [or have the score of] forty-five.
We play for good bets, not for nothing.
I feel quite strong and powerful
To keep my game until now,
Nor do I fear anything but Worry ….

Old Age irritates with pain
Because the game takes so long,
And says in her nasty language,
That from now on she will
Mark [count?] the chases, to be unpleasant to me;
But I don’t care, I defy her
Nor do I fear anything but Worry.

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