Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Complete Verse of SJD

(A poet un-honoured and unsung)


Lengthening Shadows
(Cairo December 1942)

The shadows lengthen on the lawn;
the veils of tears are gently torn
from our tired eyes for one last sight,
in the kindliness of fading light,
at the crumbling loveliness
of a whole world's tenderness.

Disillusioned and weary
we see all very clearly,
gauntly a-sprawl in the shadowy view
a ruin deserted, damp with night-dew;
just a shell of a place, tattered by time,
which still shows some vestige of the sublime.

Past our garden, a little beyond,
utterly desolate, nearly gone,
we see the passing, near-spent glory
of what made once a wondrous story.
This is the dusk of our great civilisation
- great above all in the arts of fine destruction!

Once this was splendid and even yet
when it is finished and night beset
there still remains some pathetic charm
as the ruin rots in the shaded calm.
But that is all; there will be no dawn
and the shadows are spreading on the lawn.

And sadly we think
as the final link
with our day strains to snap
in the jaws of our trap,
of the quintessence of refinement
this age could have reached and bravely spent.

But our own culture took another direction,
terribly apart from such consecration;
newspapers shriek of splitting the atom
to construct – a more devastating bomb.
Consider the cunning of this generation
- skilled above all in dreadful destruction!

And now it is just too late
to withdraw our clever hate.
Even as we gaze at the ruins here,
our hearts a-quiver with frightful fear,
there'll be a sharp shock and all will be not;
and the world that failed will soon be forgot.


Fragile Flames
(Damascus February 1943)

Life and love and happiness
- things so deep with tenderness -
are scattered and various
and sadly precarious,
like fragile flames a-fluttering,
like candles dimly guttering,
and small brightness, by darkness daunted
in a wide wilderness, wind-haunted.

These our hopes and higher desires
are all softly flickering fires,
surrounded by storm, forever in peril,
yet lustrous and lasting as chrysoberyl;
and if the flames endure the dreary night
the new dawn shall fulfil our dear delight.


When
(Cairo November 1942)

When I shall stand beside you, dear,
and touch your hands and see your smile,
and shiver because I feel you near,
yet do not speak or move awhile -

When I find the You that once I knew
laughing again with your lips on mine,
I'll know that everything real and true,
lovely and precious and fragrant and fine -

are merged in one and they are You.


Tinkling June
(Damascus January 1943)

A dreaming boy's first love
is ever his worst love.
Although with the years he may grow
wisely cynical, he will know
that no later loves can pain
so deep as that first again.

Though his high ideal may fall
he yet will always recall,
that budding bitter-sweetness
of bewildered tenderness.

Nothing that follows can possibly
possess that same precious quality;
nothing can be so strange and new
though his last love be twice as true.

And if some tinkling tune made the theme
of his incoherent boyish dream,
then ever across the years
when he's aged beyond his tears,
the silly song which was once so haunting
will come with double it's erstwhile taunting.


The Land of Lost Dreams
(Western Desert, Libya February 1942)

The desert is such a vast and empty space,
That it's deepest heart may hide some secret place;
In a magic land of green, soft-kissed with dew
There is room for the dreams that never came true.

A high lark would carol the sweetest story,
And the best day dawn there in golden glory;
There would be the fine vision that had to fade,
And Youth; and the splendid thing I never made;
Colourful gardens of many-scented flowers,
All quietly swaying through long drowsy hours.
And a girl would be there, in a dark green dress,
Red ribbon in her hair of soft silkiness.
I'd see copper beeches in woods beyond a wall,
Willows by a river and lines of poplar tall.
So I'll find an English summer there again;
New-ploughed earth and lush grass, washed by English rain;
Queer little sulky ponds with whisp'ring sedges
And English aimless lanes between thorn hedges.

Yes, there's room for the dearness so far apart
Somewhere in the dreary desert's deepest heart.
Here in a wilderness I make my foolish schemes
But – I know I'll never find my land of lost dreams!


To Our Fallen Friends
(Western Desert November 1942)

I sometimes think our English dead
- our fallen comrades – live here still
in the passing moods of we who stay,
quietly waiting to fulfil
their greatest hopes and fancies gay.
For often our chance words bring them near,
or someone sings a song they sang;
they live as we laugh and drink our beer,
and when we do not give a damn,
or say the things that once they said.

They are all such ordinary men,
who died beneath the desert sky;
we don't call them “our glorious dead”
they're simple folk like you and I,
they're Jock and Taffy and Dick and Ted.
To most we gave no monument
but a three ply cross stuck in the sand,
yet they know well and rest content
that we'll carry their dreams to England;
in our hearts they shall come home again.


No Such Place
(Cairo December 1942)

Old tales say that when
a sailor leaves the sea
to live on land again
for good; they say that he
take's the ship's anchor on his back
and then stumbles inland with no halt
along the first enticing track
'til he finds a stream that is not salt.
And there he builds a home; at last
he knows the worst of life is past.

But as for me, when this war is done,
I'll tramp far into England's heart,
and behind me I will drag a gun
until I find some remote part
where strangely peaceful folk are seen,
whose placid minds don't understand
the purpose of the grim machine
standing silent beneath my hand.
(People who've never seen a gun?
Are there such, under this sun?)

I will not train them how to Kill;
I'll let them show me happiness.
The gun I brought shall stay quite still,
decaying into kindliness,
with sparrows nesting in the breech
and green moss growing on the trail
and rabbits mating, each with each,
within their warren by the wheel.
Spiders shall spin silk webs like fates
while that damn gun disintegrates.

This is but dreamer's fantasy,
there's no such place in all eternity!


Regimental Rhyme
(Western Desert March 1942)
The title “E.Y.” used to signify “Essex Yeomanry”

Very long ago, when the war began
each Essex Yeoman was an Essex man.
There were ruddy men from Harlow way
came to the colours that autumn day,
and simple Stock and Hatfield Broad Oak
in threes and fours gave of their folk.
The town of Colchester raised a troop,
and Southend-on-Sea another group.
A hundred or more came from Brentwood;
each part of Essex gave all it should.
Sailor's sons from Maldon came;
clerks from Chelmsford – all the same.
They joined from inland Braintree
and from Bradwell-near-the-Sea,
from damp, fenny Purleigh
and hilly Danbury.
They even came from Steeple Bumstead,
the straggling Rodings, and high Halstead.

All the Essex parts
all the Essex hearts
were at first represented;
Essex bred and Essex led.

But the Harlow men went away very soon
transferred to the Second line we'd met in June;
and many were too young for war
and anyhow we wanted more.
But the Regiment still survived
for a draft of new blood arrived.
Mostly these men came from the North,
from Liverpool to Firth of Forth;
and even before we made a start
we were only Essex at the heart.

And thus we rode out to the wars
to fight for England because
- well, just because -

Some of us were wounded or fell sick
and were posted away – a dirty trick;
and some left their own mob
through getting a Base job.
Sans feet or arms a few went home
Salute to them! - and of course some
went in the bag and others died
and the Yeomanry was scattered wide.

Now in the place of those we lost
began to grow another host -

The Welshmen came from Wales
to follow wider trails;
sing-song voiced Taffy came away
from Blitzed Swansea to have his say;
far from the valleys and hills they loved
dark-eyed Welshmen battle-wards moved.
And Caledonia sent her Jocks
from northern shores, from Glasgow docks,
from Paisley and Wick and Fife and Perth
they flooded out here to prove their worth.
The sons of a country undefeated
intended that history should be repeated.

And ever England sent more men;
from lakeland fell and Lincoln fell,
from the clean Sussex downs
and smoky midland towns
from Somerset and further west
England gave us of her best.

And still they poured
a swelling horde
from Brum and Leicester, Leeds and Kent,
from Atherstone and Stoke-on-Trent;
and lastly great London woke it seemed
and crowds of her children eastward streamed.

Now, a cosmopolitan crowd are we
of lotus-eaters far over the sea!
Yet we're still the Essex Yeomanry
in the old Royal Horse Artillery!


Full Circle
(Cairo January 1943)

The earth revolves in a circle round the sun;
for ever round and round 'til it's course is run.
Here is the tale of a common sort of man
whose life revolved upon a similar plan.

His parent, weary, went to bed
early, to save the gas;
thus when nine dreamy months had fled,
a baby of the lower class
was born in a slum in a town.

His young mother was fretful and frail,
and his gaunt father was right down
at the bottom of the social scale.
He would tramp the streets restlessly or lurk
furtively by lamp posts, fag in lips,
for he was a factory hand out of work,
whose only hope was the dole, and tips.

And yet the child somehow survived
and grew up healthy in his alley,
until the natural day arrived
when at fourteen, quite casually,
he became a worker, making bricks
for a weekly wage of nine-and-six.

Ten years slid past with no returning;
Ten years went while the earth kept turning;
Ten years gone and his heart not yearning;
Ten years lost and his weekly earning
had risen to nothing more than
sixty bob as a semi-skilled man.

Now he felt a sparkle of sudden romance
for a girl he picked up at a shilling dance;
both felt the swift surge of urgent desire,
and they loved one winter night in the mire
of a plot of waste land just off her street,
by two sorry shrubs where they used to meet.
This night put her in the family way,
but he married her before the day
of her trouble, with a ten bob ring;
which completely altered everything.

Their parents were dead (they die young in the slum),
but they had each other and the kid,
and were happy, not caring what was to come.
Although unrefined and poor they did
love very well in their simple style,
this working man and his low-class wife
and so were contended for some while
with their struggling, humble, humdrum life.

Steadily, rapidly, the earth swung on;
and that last fated year was nearly gone.
All the dance bands were gaily swinging
“Loch Lomond” and “Comin' through the Rye”;
All the small folk were gaily singing
“Wish me luck as you wave me good-bye”.

They say to each of us is given
one day more wonderful than the rest;
the zenith time, when we're nearer heaven
than we'll be again; our final crest.
In such case then, this man's highest hill
was surely ascended on an August day,
when he and his love sought out new thrill
by catching a bus and riding away
into the greenery, far from the heat
and squalor and noisy squawking,
that was typical of their home street.
Now they heard birds softly calling,
as they lay in long grass without a word,
loving as country sweethearts love;
and a single poetic instinct stirred
in the man, and he looked above,
puzzled by the blueness and slowly said,
“Doesn't the sky seem big out here?”
They heard birds then, but not the steady tread
of death-ward tramping feet quite near.

This was their day,
and they were gay;
they laughed and their hearts leapt...
and afterwards they slept.

When they felt the evening dew
kissing their faces, they awoke,
and wandered back home, these two,
being unimaginative folk.
And their little trip to heaven
for eleven fragrant hours
had cost only five-and-seven;
she came home carrying flowers...
About this time, some great men they never knew
got together and said they'd have a war;
they started their war and the holocaust grew
and the working man's land and several more
unhappy nations marched into hell.
So all the great men prospered indeed
(they had many bombs and shells to sell)
and satisfied their colossal greed.

The world's loudest roar was the roar of the gun,
while the crooners were crying, “Run rabbit, run.”

At first the workman didn't go – the swine!
but soldiers were conscripted for the line
and he left his boy and worried wife
to fire a rifle and risk his life;
he left his home and his native land
for reasons he didn't understand.

“War is ninety percent boredom,
and one percent terror,” a clever man said,
who'd never fought himself. But this sum
was beyond a private soldiers' stupid head.
What he thought – if he thought at all -
one cannot tell, for when he came back
he spoke not of the things he saw;
perhaps his intellect lacked the knack
of describing such sights,
and dubious delights.

But one gathers he did not find
war too glamourous or dramatic,
especially, since it made him blind
his findings may have been erratic.

The earth revolves in a circle round the sun,
and it never gets anywhere, just the same;
And now this common man's course was nearly run,
and he'd never get anywhere, blind and lame.

For a month or so he limped and fumbled
around the ruins where his two dears
had once lived, before the whole slum crumbled
under a torment of bombs four years
after he'd gone away.
He knew there was nothing more to do
and so, one foggy day
he borrowed and begged and scrounged a few
pennies for the meter in his room,
closed the door and window and turned on the gas
and there died desolate, in the gloom;
perhaps he thought, though blind he'd find his lass.

When both ends finally meet
the full circle is complete.
Round-about and round-about
back to the start without a doubt.

His parents, weary went to bed
early, to save the gas...
thirty years later their son was dead
but 'ere his soul could pass
because he wasn't very brave,
he spent what they had tried to save.


“Auf Wiedersehen”
(Damascus January 1943)

A rainy night, and the town's main street
was slushy with tramping soldiers' feet:
the end of a wintry English day,
and English infantry going away.

A mile to march to the long troop train,
and fifty miles by rail to the coast;
a mile to march through the drizzling rain,
the last mile of English streets, for most.

They'd been stationed here
nearly half a year,
but now they had to go
(and fight against the foe!)

On they went, by well remembered ways
that brought quick thought of happier days;
past the cinema and “the Red Cow”,
past the old canal bridge and “The Plough”.
As they went to war, they passed the war memorial,
(mentioned each November in the news editorial).
But on they clattered by the railed-in park,
and sometimes a shout came from the dark,
perhaps, “All the best, boys!” or “Good luck Joe”,
showing that someone had seen a friend go.

Now they were approaching the house of a girl
whom a soldier had met in a gay waltz whirl...
Coat sad-rain sodden
road heavy trodden...
Would she be? he wearily wondered,
Could she be?... he drearily blundered.
They went right past but it was a rotten night,
and through the blasted black-out, there'd be no light.

Around a corner and they were there,
passing her house and she didn't care -
... Yes! She was standing dimly by the gate,
and quickly he knew it was just too late.
Somehow he felt this to be a strange moment
and, far-visioned, realised what it really meant.
It was the finish of all his youth,
and the beginning of things uncouth;
he could never, ever, again be this,
with his lips still feeling a young girl's kiss.

How swift they passed,
here at the last!
Chaotically, incoherent,
as youth was ripped out by the roots,
at the end of all refinement,
while the thudding of soldiers' boots
carried him past inexorably,
he cried out suddenly, desperately,
“Auf Weidersehen my love!”
and heard her softly call
“Auf Wiedersehen” above
the sullen footsteps' fall.

And then she was gone
and everything done.

What mysterious instinct
had made him cry
in that flickering instant
as he marched by,
“Till we meet again” -
in a foreign tongue,
as he went towards the troop train,
this soldier un-battled and young?

He should not have said,”Auf Wiedersehen,”
for they were never to meet again.
He should have said, “My dear,
I've got to leave you here;
You have been so very sweet
though our love was not complete,
but especially you gave the colour
and a certain gallant glamour
to my last weeks in my own land;
and you were always laughing and new,
but now, good-bye and thank you,
and I hope you understand.”

But he didn't. Common folk don't say
such lucid things on their parting day.
They say, “I'll be back soon,” or “Cheerio,”
“Look after yourself,” and “well, I must go.”
And this boy spoke a puzzled lie
which only made his sweetheart cry.


Far Horizon
(Damascus February 1943)

Our dear elusive paradise
unfolds before our eager eyes;
the witching wonder we hardly knew,
that which erst was almost akin
to the un-reachable rendezvous
where a rainbow seems to begin -
love and love, and truth and truth,
and laughing life, and spring, and song,
the gallant galaxy of youth
which fled our weary world so long,
- is sighted now and gaily we go
forward to this our great crescendo.
But careful! my sweet, on this splendid day,
lest your tremulous feet slip on the way.


To My Lady
(Damascus February 1943)

- And finally drifting down into
the dark deepness of remorseless blue -

You, my lady, and you alone,
are a fragile, fragrant flower,
a scintillating precious stone,
and the gayest dancing hour
I ever knew.
All these are you.
You are high-rising, clear fountains;
you are everything
- like sudden storm in drear mountains -
that can make the blood sing;
and a sacredness to gods denied,
all-solemn, strange and stirring;
yet also a little fireside
kitten placidly purring
is you – and something more;
you are my strongest straw.
Foolish rumours assert
that as dear life deserts
a drowning man in savage seas,
he will in desperation seize
anything, anything,
the teasing sea may fling
to the victim as he gives up hope,
and while fate's firm fingers gauntly grope
Yes, even the slenderest straw,
if that were what his eyes last saw.


Wheels
(Sidon March 1943)

First, turbines, non-erratic;
wheels emphatically static.

Then force flows slowly and a wheel
a symmetrical wheel of steel
moves, moves gently,
relentlessly.

Motors humming prouder
drive wheels drumming louder
momentum increasing,
dynamic unceasing
strong power pouring
song of steel soaring
from dimuendo
towards crescendo;
and shafting skitters past,
and wheels revolving fast.

With movement of shafting shift
change, the range will swiftly lift
and leap
as steel bites deep
grinding and grating
disintegrating;
drills descend and settle
metal blends with metal.

This is the fine hour
of metallic power
when wheel races wheel
and steel slaughters steel.

This is the paean
of the great machine,
while each wheel, to axis bound,
flies for ever round and round.


Vista (Views from a hospital bed)
(Sidon March 1943)

Now I am tired, I know;
But lying here on my bed
I can comfortably see,
Without moving eyes or head,
Easily and sleepily,
A house on top of a hill;
At the sky line all alone,
Tranquil, perpetual, still,
With strong walls of creamy stone;
It is framed in my window.

This must be true idleness;
To lie here and slowly gaze
At a far horizon house,
Through slumberous summer days,
Ineffectual as a mouse;
Dreaming of those who may pass
Through the door, out of my sight;
While I study the green grass
'Til each day drifts into night;
This must be true laziness.

Below the roof of rusty red,
There are seven slender trees;
And two squat trees, plump and rare,
All a-tremble in the breeze
That probably blows up there.
In the walls I am able
To see eight windows; and another one
Is set in a tall gable,
And takes a sparkle from each setting sun,
As each spent day is gently sped.

And I wonder who lives there?
And what they all think and do?
And what can they see when they
Look out through the windows too?
- Right beyond the hill their way?
Of course, there are many more
Trees and windows on that side,
And naturally a door;
But this view I am denied,
And I do not really care.

It is enough that I can find
Peaceful things to stare at, pondering
Placidly on the rooms that lie
Within the windows, or wondering
If many birds perhaps fly by,
Or nestle twittering in a tree,
Beside that house, against the sky.
I am contented with what I see,
And all this surely shows that I
Shall find again my quiet mind.


Regimental Rhyme: Epilogue 1943
(Sidon February 1943)

Even as the insidious ivy
will ruin the tallest forest tree,
so has this once beloved regiment
been wrecked in dreariness and discontent.

This Regiment
of which we were once so proud
is at ignoble twilight bowed
in shame and misery and hate;
and never now can love create
that spirit which once live, was born
in Essex, that September morn.

This Regiment
is not the Essex Yeomanry
except in long-dead history.
And even a glorious memory
can be slain by endless futility;
so, as nothing remains but a ragged root -
To the dead Essex Yeomanry – Salute!


Avalon
(Sarafend April 1943)

When there's an end to this agony,
And silence succeeds the noise of dying,
Together my love and I will flee
Out beyond the sound of countless crying.
Through the wistful grey light we'll go our way,
Tired yet eager, hand in hand,
By lonely roads, till we suddenly stray
In to a fantastic fairy land.

Where no drums splutter -
Except in our blood in ecstasies;
And no flags flutter -
But only the leaves, on wind-kissed trees;
Where no hearts bitter break -
But only waves of merry seas upon the sand;
And dreamers never wake -
Except to dearer dawnings in Dream's own land.

There let us linger, while the years slip by
Like shadows in fields from the clouds that fly
Like blossom dust drifting on the breeze
And like homeward racing argosies.

And because of our sad remembrance,
A daughter shall come to this radiance,
And we shall surely christen her
With the lovely name of Fleur;
For, knowing so many laughing hours
She will be akin to winsome flowers.

But we must never, never have a son;
They would take him away from Avalon.
Even as golden corn, the tenth part tithe,
Flourishes to fall 'neath the mower's scythe,
He would only ripen to go and fight
And die, in the next war for man's delight.


Sonnet
(Sarafend June 1943)

This, our once dear world of shadow and light,
And gossamer and rock, and vivid flame,
Is merged in dull greyness of misty night;
For the fires that flared are quenched in shame,
The loveliness is colourless and dim,
And nothing now lingers but a sadness.
Fled past remembrance is the romance
Of lonely reaches on a river darkling,
All drenched with dew-wet flowers' fragrance.
Lost is the welcome of lit windows sparkling
Through gusty rain at night. Gone are memories
Of deeply tranquil skies at noontide; of a few
Streams of sunshine slanting through old trees,
- And all the sudden sights of paradise we knew.


Fragment
(Cantara August 1943)

Through the brooding desert twilight
the Red Cross train rushed on
towards Egypt and the moonless night;
and waiting, I was sure,
as dreamers sometimes are,
that the picture I saw
(south of the citrus, fig and vine)
was my last glimpse of Palestine...

I saw a dun grey field, slow-rising
to a tree-less line against the sky,
dim and dustily unsurprising,
and then – in the blinking of an eye -
the view was dappled black and white,
as a milling mass of goats and sheep
swirled into sudden vivid sight
beside the railway track a-leap,
running and turning and stupidly sprawling,
all intermingled in a block
with Bedouin women driving, and calling
homewards their husband's bleating flock.

The earth seemed tilting sharply about
the dazed flock and women, blown in rout.
There was a feeling of weeping and wailing
and savage storm, in this last scene
before the night flung her dark veiling
over the splash of life between...

The carriage lights flickered brightly on,
and Palestine's final flash was gone.


We have lost the stars
(Cantara August 1943)

When we become a little old,
with our keen sensitivities
dulled, and our deep believings sold
to pay the rent of deities;
most of our strong ambitions foiled
in tangled maze of petty schemes;
and all our clean ideas soiled,
and all our hopes turned into dreams...

Then – even then! - there'll be mystery
in remembering the time when we
were like young gods of golden years;
when on the wind, wild music soared
in laughter light and trembling tears.
All dancing from our treasure hoard
we'll see that distant spring again,
when magic seemed the rainbow stem
born of the sun's mad stratagem
wed to the caprice of the rain.
We'll sight our beacons blazing still
triumphantly on each dark hill;
and climb amid stars to that far peak
where wonder once touched us on the cheek.

But swift the sea of wistfulness
must rise to flood in dim distress,
for highest beauty is the key
that holds the gate to tragedy;
thus is all our greatest gladness
sublimated into sadness.

So grey fades that gay memory;
and our eyes shall sparkle softly
when we think of our youth and weep,
knowing that we have lost the stars,
and all our living, dagger-deep,
now lingers but in ancient scars.


A Bay near Tobruch
(Gosforth April 1944)

There's a bay enclosed by rows of rock,
Where the devil's Khamsin never roars;
But the sea's wet breezes come and knock,
And scurry back from the desert's door.

The sea slaps soft at the stony walls;
Cerulean blue is the bay's deep floor;
The ripples run slow, tide spreads and falls
Quietly outside the desert law.


Wake not the Night
(Cantara August 1943)

The blessed flight of mail planes
The fleecy clouds scattering;
Staccato throb of road drills,
Not machine guns, clattering.

The hurried eager tramping
Of returning worker's feet,
Instead of soldiers marching
Through the ruined city street.

The carolling of church bells,
Not for war, but a wedding;
In their homes and in their hearts
The common people singing.

Farm carts and holiday cars
Coming down the summer lane,
Once rutted by the tank tracks -
Hush - oh hush! - it's dawn again!


The Riders
(Cantara August 1943)

The lady Romance and her knight,
A simple man who courted her,
Rode among the trees at last light,
When all the colour began to blur,
Melting slowly into grey;
Only their shadows, running before,
Were remnants of the dying day,
Falling faint upon the leaf-strewn floor.

And as they rode the forest awoke,
With rustlings and whisperings intent,
And a cool breeze stirred the evening smoke,
And aroused the drowsy forest scent,
'Til the woods were held in soft suspense,
Waiting the moon to reach the sky;
Aware of this un-strange audience,
The lady and her knight rode by.

The woodlands trembled and then were still,
While tranquility settled deep,
Brooding on the vagrant, fleeting thrill
That had shaken their long, calm sleep.
But the riders rode fast on the downs beyond,
Cantering straight in the moonlight's track,
Nor turning aside for hedge, or brook, or pond,
Not swerving or stopping or looking back.

They followed the moon as a will-o'-wisp,
And their going echoed all around;
Sometimes on stones, the hoof beats clattered crisp,
Sometimes on turf, drummed with hollow sound;
Their shadows belated followed after,
The man only knew his lady was fair;
That his heart was full of careless laughter,
And that the wind madly ruffled his hair.

Forward they flew on their headlong quest,
Along the white path where the grass shone wet,
Until they rose on a far hill crest
And were held by the moon in silhouette;
For a moment they hung suspended, still,
Then the moon was alone in the night;
The riders had vanished over the hill,
And gone, untired, beyond all sight.

'Tis said she was bewitching, and could bring
Ten million lovers to her beckoning;
That her followers would never flout her,
And that most folk knew little about her;
'Tis said she came in the afternoon,
And rode with her favourite towards the moon;
That her lover was often seen agen,
But was nevermore dull, like other men.

Thus they went galliard in the long ago;
Through today and tomorrow's afterglow;
Romance and the man who loved her true'
Is this you, my friend? Or you? Or you?


Watersway
(Cantara December 1943)

An English river takes careless life
From rain, and snow, and the wind's high strife;
But it swells out of more simple things,
Like pools by the draggled hedge forlorn,
And woody banks where the wet moss clings,
Or green meadow grass dew-damp at dawn;
From puddles in the ploughman's furrow,
From the weed-wild ditch where water gleams,
From channels by the rabbit's burrow,
Comes a scattered score of sobbing streams,
Dancing downwards between sad trees
Which lean in weeping; born of these,
The river forever sweeps away,
Because the sky, long ago, was grey.


To my Mother Mary
(Cantara November 1943)

To my mother Mary, I send this dream
Of a fireside, and a Christmastide,
In a lonely house by the River Leam,
Where a lost wind sighed through the trees outside...

... Now the beech logs gaily glow,
And the grey ash drops down slow;
And the shadows slip sleepily,
All about our tall Christmas tree;
The fire flares on your flushed face,
Like a blessing on great grace;
It winks at he who last night helped you mend
The emptiness of stockings at bed's end;
It glitters among the books and toys
In the childish hands of your three boys...

... The Past is past; but there shall be
Four men around your hearth once more,
Wishing you health right merrily,
At Christmas nineteen-forty-four.


To a Dead Dreamer (Revision of “Sonnet”)
(Great Burstead, Essex May 1945)

This, his once dear world of shadow and light,
Of gossamer and rock and vivid flame,
Of devotion and toil and dreams of fame,
Has merged in the stillness of splendid night,
Mist-swathed, enveloping, with no star sight;
For the fires that flared were quenched in shame,
And flickered to nothing when evening came,
And dwindled to listless ashes white.

Fled past his knowing are the summer days,
Through noon-fields a-dance in shimmering haze,
By twilight reaches of a river darkling;
Lost is the welcome of lit windows sparkling
Through gusty midnight rain. Gone are the few
And sudden sights of happiness he knew.

Surrealistic Picture
(Cantara September 1943 Great Burstead June 1945)

Maestro facing gallant daybreak,
Tensely raises fiddle and bow;
Waiting to call the world awake,
He looks on chaos, wreck and woe.

A gross pig rolls in torn rose petals;
Smoke mantles the ruins of a stately city;
From a wilderness of giant nettles
The stifled flowers cry for pity.

A well-fed crow luxuriates
Above a flooded field of wheat,
And when the salt sea tide abates
He'll swoop, to search for human meat.

That ruptured kitchen table and that airman's shattered head;
All this last night was ours, all this was of our making;
That splintered cross of three ply, that disembowelled scarlet bed -
But now the night is over and an arduous dawn is breaking.

For now the maestro's hand must sweep,
And draw an orchestra from sleep,
Into a long, sad, surging cry,
Of music reaching to the sky.


Fragment discovered in 1983, describing the first journey back to a London office in 1944, during an air-raid period.
Great Burstead July 3rd 1944

Inward-sweating people pressed
tightly in the airless Tube;
thrusting crowds in Piccadilly;
clammy rain and broken glass.


Another fragment – undated:

Backward reaching thoughts are running
Ever down the narrowing
Avenues of memory.


A Soldiers' Search (Revision of “No Such Place”)
(Great Burstead Essex July 1944)

When war's red yarn is fully spun,
I'll tramp far in to England's heart;
And with me, I will drag a gun,
Until I reach some sleeping part
Where strangely peaceful folk are seen,
Whose quiet eyes don't understand
The purpose of the grim machine
That stands so silent 'neath my hand.

I will not train them how to kill;
But they shall teach me happiness;
The gun I brought shall stay quite still,
Decaying into kindliness;
With sparrows nesting in the breech,
And green moss growing on the trail,
And rabbits' mating, each with each,
Within their warren by the wheel.

The people there shall never know
The metal thing that crumbles slow;
And when the strength of steel is spent,
It will remain a monument
And I'll dwell there among the wise,
Courting the secrets of their eyes;
And smile, and sing, and meditate,
And watch that gun disintegrate,


More Fragments and Jottings...


***

I believe in human dignity.
I believe that an individual is the ultimate fact of life, not a means to other more perfect creations.

Today, the world is drifting to a condition in which the individual is subservient to economics; towards centralised authority; towards large groups of people instead of small ones; towards a time when all people, everywhere, will be told what to do and when and how to do it, for the good of the State.
Yet, an individual, not the State, is the final fact of life.
We are drifting into becoming nationalised, disciplined, regimented, docketed, card-indexed units of the State organism; into becoming blindly obedient automata governed by an oligarchy. Yet the State exists to serve the people – that is, several million different individuals – the people do not exist in order that they may serve the State.

I believe that this drift is an evil one and contrary to human dignity and therefore we should resist this.

***


“Suddenly the wind dropped, the curtains ceased flapping, the moon light seemed to focus in a stilled and breathless glare upon her face.”

“... and immediately happiness blazed between them...”

“ day had been hot, and pockets of warm air lingered among the fast-cooling shades”

“the train wandered through the English countryside with an air of utter vagrancy, like cattle browsing or a woman polishing her nails”

“pleasant to look out of the carriage window on field and farmstead, the early morning, the lonely roads disappearing into a hazy distance... no sound when the train stopped save that of the brakes creaking off the wheels and the breeze rippling the grasses in nearby fields”

“the air was warm, blended with scents of hay and flowers and the tree hidden village looked tempting even at the end of a long road. Withdrawn into the hedge, a broken signpost stood, surrounded by nettles”

“a fluff of wind blew a line of hollyhocks towards him”

“of the men in the pubs, with their faces, shy over mugs of beer – old couples outside their cottages on summer evenings, silent and close, yet in that silence and closeness felling all there is in the world – a pedlar unlatching a gate with slow steps towards a lonely house – farm workers at midday asleep under trees – a little rod over the hill, curving here and there for no reason at all”

“she and that dark thought were now an intrusion on his dream”

“ahead the sparse woodland sloped away toward the darker valley where the towns' lights and the hellish glow of the mills were made artificial by the moon's grey swathe”

“the flame sneered and shot it's yellow spears again into the moon grey sky... the flames rose like music... Wistfully watching the flames paper ribbons flutter up into the sky”

“The words of the song were of a pattern cunningly made, beginning with a picture of mountain-height and forest and the deep beauty of the land-locked fiord. It began in a passionless quiet, dawn-cold, and cloaked with the wide white silence of the snow on which the sunrise came: “Rose-red the dawn; rose-red the mountain snow”
And then suddenly it swept southwards with the long ships. And the flame of war leapt sudden and swift and high. The song rose to a mad berserk fury and noise of strife. It soared in a clamour of words and the last defences failed and the Northmen stormed the captured town:
“Stockade! Stockade! the steel-edged axes hew.
Washeil! Washeil! the wing-helmed ranks are through!”
And then it sank to sudden stillness, and dawn moved once more upon the coldness of Norwegian heights: “Rose-red the dawn! Rose-red the mountain snow”

“The wind howled in a low and melancholy manner through the leafless shrubs and bushes and a pale moon waded among drifting clouds which seemed to threatened rain”

“bitter but brief... but in the dawn of the morning it rose and I met it in the desolate garden”

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