Favourite poems

hunts cyclists 1
Before it all started “Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.”

As an excercise our U3A writing  group members each wrote a short piece about their favourite poems and included the poem or poems in the piece. Over the following months we will be publishing the contributions on this blog.

The first piece in this series is by Val Fish, it seems a strange time of the year to use this example but we are approaching spring, a time of renewal, new growth and the hope for better things. We can only have spring after winter the sun can only rise after it has gone down.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Inspiration for ‘For The Fallen’

Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written.

The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, its rearguard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5 and 9 September 1914.

Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women.

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces, but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

 

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

Laurence Binyon 1869 – 1943

For the Fallen
For the Fallen we will remember them.

Postscript

I was privileged to perform on the stage at The Broadway Peterborough in 2014, in the ‘Sing for Life’ ladies’ choir, to raise funds for a new wing at Sue Ryder’s Thorpe Hall Hospice.

On the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, we sang an adaptation of ‘For The Fallen’ by Rowland Lee.

In the final few bars, we were as stunned as the audience as poppies came falling from above onto the stage. It was a moment I’ll always treasure.

 

Valerie Fish

I Love Writing Because…

Writing 2This piece is by Val Fish one of our talented Wordsmiths.

I’ve had a love of words and stories since my school days; my primary school report said ‘Valerie has a good imagination’, and a fantastic English teacher at grammar school was a great inspiration to me. English Language was one of only two subjects I was any good at (the other being French).

I was a big Blue Peter fan in my youth, every year I would get the annual as a Christmas present and was lucky enough to win two Blue Peter badges in their competitions.

As I grew older, I entered the world of consumer competitions, having to complete slogans that usually started something like ‘I shop at XYZ because’, in 12 words or less.

I won hundreds of prizes over the years, little and large, among them a few holidays; my biggest successes were the much sought after prize car; a Mini Metro, and a conservatory worth a massive ten thousand pounds.   One of my prizes of least value, but providing much amusement, was a frozen chicken, worth a measly £1.50 at the time. The winners had to go to the store to collect their prize, and we were photographed all holding our chickens aloft.  I did feel rather silly and particularly self-conscious as I was eight months pregnant at the time.

I could go on and on about the wondrous things that I won, but that’s another story to be told.

Although of course, the prizes were great, for me it was more the composing of the slogans that brought me pleasure. Trying to be witty in so few words and to stand out from the hundreds of others was a challenge I’d always relish. Maybe that’s why these days my forte is flash fiction.

As this type of competition began to die out, it seemed a natural progression to turn to creative writing.

So these days my words are somewhat longer, no big prizes to be won; in most cases, it’s simply seeing my efforts posted online, which gives me just as much pleasure

 

I couldn’t imagine not writing; it’s good therapy for me, all my cares and woes are temporarily forgotten. And an added bonus, it keeps those grey cells ticking over, much needed at my age. I like to think I’ll l be writing as long as I’ve still got my faculties, however long that may be.

 

Please give me a Prompt!

Statue at St Pancras Station
Statue at St Pancras Station What is their story?

 

My biggest problem is what to write in the first place. Given a free rein, told to ‘Write what I like’ and I’m lost, the page as blank as my mind.

I have tried the notebook / people watching/ eavesdropping ideas with varying results.

I travel fairly regularly by train and two incidents spring to mind.

My first encounter was, sitting across the aisle from me, a girl with long flaming red hair, she was so striking, I enjoyed conjuring up a character profile for her, and this developed into ‘The Girl Across the Aisle’

I once had the pleasure or misfortune; I’m not quite sure which, to be sitting opposite another girl on a train, on her mobile phone discussing who was going to donate their kidney to her, which she was in desperate need of. Believe me, I got every gory detail. She was either oblivious to me sitting there, or more than likely just didn’t care ( It seems to be the norm nowadays that people are happy to have what I would call private conversations in public, for all and sundry to hear).  My story; ‘The Girl with the Kidney’ is still waiting to be written.

Fortunately in my local U3A Creative Writing group, at the end of each meeting we are given that month’s homework. Even with that much needed prompt; I struggle for ages before coming up with something half worth developing. While my fellow wordsmiths are posting their valiant efforts, the deadline getting nearer and nearer, still nothing.

And then finally ‘Eureka’; more often than not, at three in the morning when my brain has been unable to switch off.

The funny thing is once I’ve started, that’s it, I simply can’t stop, frantically scribbling, editing, re-editing, never quite one hundred per cent satisfied which what I’ve done.

But in the end I have to let it go. My finger hovers over the ‘Send’ key before making that final decision to let it go.

And then spend the next few hours worrying about what everybody’s going to think of it!

 

Valerie Fish