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

Inspiration

Sunrise 25 11 15
Sunrise

This piece is by Tessa Thomson, a member of our group who’s poetry is truly outstanding.

 

Inspiration  (noun; the act of inspiring; stimulation by a divinity; a genius, idea or a passion).

A writer finds inspiration everywhere. Putting it down on paper is the difficulty. Sometimes I hear a phrase, maybe a couple of people chatting will say something I can use, or just being out in the garden can give inspiration for a piece of work.

Usually, inspiration comes during waking hours at night. That’s when I remember that I forgot to put the notebook and pen back beside the bed. But then a friend recently said she was frightened of being sent by the well-meaning family into a nursing home. Inspiration!

I’m frightened did I hear you say, of being all alone

Of being sent so far away to someone else’s home

To some grand house to sit around with others of your age

Like gilded birds of paradise inside a gilded cage

 

Recently I was watching my husband working in the garden, getting it ready for winter. Inspiration!

 

I’ve cleared all the leaves from the garden,

I’ve planted some bulbs in the beds.

I’ve rescued the tenderest flowers,

And cut off the dead flowering heads.

 

Our own memories probably provide the best inspiration but can sometimes provide the saddest.

My own poems can be very dark, but they are my stories. In the end, whether it’s a story or a poem, how it’s told and how it touches the individual is what makes good writing. Inspiration is the starting point; it’s what happens next that takes the reader beyond the imagination.

Recently someone wrote in a thank you note to me “our shared love of your daughter will ensure we meet again very soon”. Whilst I found the sentiment unsettling it did provide inspiration.

 

You say you seek a shared love with someone I hold dear

But how can that be possible; the obstacles are clear

The love I have is borne of pain; of risk and much besides

Of waking nights; of memories; of tears, I always hide.

 

My love is tough and gentle too but never harsh to bear

It’s that which gives such grace and joy and content to my heir

By this great love, her life is traced from childhood up to now

But you would seek to feel that love; to harness it somehow.

 

As Samuel Johnson remarked in 1799

 

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure

 

Tessa Thomson

The love of words.

Reflections in water of reeds and a duck
Reflections

This post is by Tessa a wonderful poet and a member of our Whittlesey Wordsmiths writing group, look out for her work it is outstanding.

I love words. I love how they sound most of all. I was born too soon for children’s stories on tapes but when my daughter came along we would sit in bed with an ear piece each and listen to books read mostly by actors. I love the timbre of the words. How different they sound depending on who is reading them.  Some stories I prefer to have read by the author, some not. I love how single phrases said by different people can have a different inference. “I need you now”; can sound demanding, romantic or just plain whiney depending on who is saying it.

Most of all I love words that rhyme. Poems are my favourite thing. Writing them sometimes seems trivial because the words come easily. But then I can get stuck on a single word and change several lines and make new rhymes.

The spoken word only becomes harsh to me when spoken not in an accent but irreverently. English is glorious when spoken well. I hate slang, I hate don’t, didn’t, whatever. I hate “did yourself know that” Who are these people who think it is fine to change the English language.

My grandmother always said you could tell the quality of a person by the shoes on their feet and the words in their head. My grandmother knew a thing or two.

Tessa Thomson