BBC Sports Personality 2012 – An Edgar Guest Poem, Virgil & Courage

2012 has been such a year for sport. There’s been the Tour de France, Wimbledon, and of course the London Olympic Games (among so many more events – I’m slightly biased). This evening the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards were staged, and it was such a great way to top off the year’s successes. As with the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, someone cleverly decided to include literary references into the Sports Personality awards this evening.

BBC Sports Personality 2012 Poems, Jess Ennis
BBC Sports Personality 2012. Of course, the lovely Jess Ennis. Image from

Firstly, whilst displaying footage of the great rowing success for Britain in the Olympics, an extract from Virgil’s The Boat Race, from the Aeneid, was read by Kenneth Branagh:

They man the thwarts, their arms strained to the oars; straining, they await the signal, while throbbing fear and eager passion for glory drain each bounding heart. Then, when the clear trumpet sounded, all at once shot forth from their starting places; the mariners’ shouts strike the heavens; as arms are drawn back the waters are turned into foam. They cleave the furrows abreast, and all the sea gapes open, uptorn by the oars and triple-pointed beaks. Now with such headlong speed in the two-horse chariot race do the cars seize the plain and dart forth from their stalls! Not so wildly over their dashing steeds do the charioteers shake the waving reins, bending forward to the lash. Then with applause and shouts of men, and zealous cries of partisans, the whole woodland rings; the sheltered beach rolls up the sound, and the hills, smitten, echo back the din.

Then, the following poem by Edgar Guest was recited by Idris Elba, an actor from East London. I’ve never heard it before, but it’s such an inspiring, motivational piece. I always like to push myself, and do what I think I could not, and therefore I really should read this regularly! As part of my EMDR therapy finalisation, I had to imagine five people that strengthened me, and five memories that I was proud of. When I bring these up in my head, I cannot fail to feel strong and capable of anything I want to do. I’ve achieved a lot, been through a lot, and I’m sure that I’ll go on to achieve a lot. It’s fantastic how sport can reinforce your belief in your own capability and strength, and motivate others to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

It Couldn’t Be Done – Edgar Guest
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


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