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Four Poets in the Second World War

“No remedy, my retrospective friend,

We’ve found no remedy

. . . for our split mind,” wrote Drummond Allison.

“No room for mourning,”

Sidney Keyes explained.

Both died in ’43, Drummond just twenty-two, at Monte Cassino in Italy,

Sidney, not yet twenty-one, in North Africa:


“And thought of the quiet dead and the loud celebrities

      Exhorting us to slaughter, and the herded refugees,”


Alun Lewis recalled—who died on the Arakan front in Burma (Myanmar?) in ’44.


“Blood, spirit, in this war. But night begins,

Night of the mind: who nowadays is conscious of our sins?”

Frank Prince, born in Kimberly in 1912, not far from the Big Hole, and where I once worked

in the Old Mint Buildings, summed up.

He survived—thanks to the god of war!

—and lived on till 2003,

expounding Milton, in Southampton by the sea.

 


Allison, “No Remedy”; Keyes, “William Wordsworth”; Lewis, “All Day It Has Rained”; Prince, “Soldiers Bathing,” in More Poems from the Forces, ed. Keidrych Rhys (1943).

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