SOLDIER POETS WHO HAVE FALLEN IN THE WAR
I purchased this book some years ago and find it both fascinating and evocative. I’ve always been fascinated by what prompted these young men to go so blindly to war, and with such seeming enthusiasm. The fact that these men were also sensitive and literate poets makes it even more mysterious to me.
Although the tragic events took place just a century ago, the author paints a portrait of a Britain that has now entirely vanished. Reading the book somehow brings it back to life. And helps reveal just why they were inspired to lay down their lives for King, Country and Empire.
The full title of the book is ‘For Remembrance’, with the sub-heading ‘Soldier poets who have fallen in the war’. The book’s author, A. St. John Adcock, wrote it in the summer of 1918 – a few months before peace was declared on November 11th. The style is as you’d expect – highly patriotic and uncritical.
Adcock justifies the war as a battle between enlightened civilisation and despotic brutalism. In which English gentlemen save the world by destroying the ‘black hordes’ of the German Hun. In today’s world, it all seems ridiculously racist. But they lived in very different times. And their poetry clearly reflects this.
This poem features on the book’s frontispiece;
‘If his dust is one day lying in an unfamiliar land
(England, he went for you),
O England, sometimes think of him, of thousands only one,
In the dawning, or the noonday, or the setting of the sun,
As once he thought of you.’
Lieut. H Reginald Freston, The Gift
There’s an evocative label glued to the first page (right) which records that the book was awarded to Miss E Behan in 1918 for making 103 attendances to the wonderfully named ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Society’. (Click image to enlarge.)
A press-cutting glued a couple of pages further in describes the death of Arthur Beahan, who I’m assuming was probably her brother. Read press cutting.