Sunday, 30 November 2014

Robert Bridges (1844 - 1930) - British



Bridges was the British Poet Laureate during the First World War, having been appointed in 1913, and was the father of one of the Female Poets of the First World War – Elizabeth Daryush.

Robert Bridges was born on 23rd October 1844 in Walmer, Kent, UK.   Educated at Eton College, Bridges went up to Oxford to Corpus Christi College, where he met and befriended the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

After Oxford, Bridges studied medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (“Barts”) in London and once he had qualified, he worked at the Great Northern Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children.   Bridges retired from his work as a physician in 1882 due to ill health and began writing full-time.   His first collection of poems was published in 1873.

In 1884, Bridges married Monica Waterhouse, whose father, a Quaker, was Alfred Waterhouse the architect who designed Manchester Town Hall and London’s Natural History Museum among other buildings.  Their daughter Elizabeth was born in 1887.

Bridges was appointed to the post of Poet Laureat in 1913 on the death of Alfred Austin who held the post before him.  So far, Bridges has been the only poet with qualifications in the medical field to become Poet Laureate.  Bridges remained Poet Laureat until his death in 1930.

Gustav Holst, Hubert Parry and Gerald Finzi all set some of Bridges verses to music.

Source:  Wikipedia

Saturday, 29 November 2014

John Masefield (1878 - 1967) - British


I have known and loved Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” for many years yet it never occurred to me that he might have been involved in the First World War.

John Masefield was born on 1st June 1878 in Ledbury, Herefordshire, UK.   His parents were Caroline and George Masefield.   Masefield’s mother died in 1885 and his father in 1891 and the Masefield children were brought up by their elderly aunt.

Masefield was educated at King’s School Warwick (now called Warwick School) and at his aunt’s insistence, he was sent to HMS Conway. The "Conway" was a nautical school for the training of Merchant Naval officers founded in 1859. The beautiful, wooden sailing ship was anchored at Rock Ferry in the River Mersey near Liverpool until it  was moved to the Menai Straights during WW2 due to the bombing suffered by Liverpool.  In later years, Masefield was asked to write a song for Conway, which he did but they did not like it and never used it, preferring instead one written by Cecil Roberts some years later.


During his first sea trip, Masefield became ill and had to return home.  His next journey was to New York, where he gave up and tried his hand at a variety of jobs, writing in his spare time.  His first collection of poems - “Salt-Water Ballads”, which includes Sea Fever - was published in 1902.

In 1914, Masefield was considered too old to enlist so he volunteered to join the staff of a hospital for French wounded soldiers in Arc-en-Bois, Marne, France.  He served on the ship during the Gallipoli Campaign.

In 1915, he went to the United States of America on a lecture tour and on his return to Britain he worked on propaganda books about the war for the British Military Intelligence.  Once America entered the War, Masefield worked at the Ministry of Information organising entertainment for American soldiers billeted in Britain.

1918 saw Masefield in America again touring and lecturing to those about to go to fight in France.

John Masefield's cousin, Charles John Beech Masefield, MC, Captain I the 5th North Staffordshire Regiment, was wounded in action on 1st July 1917 and died in a prisoner of war camp the following day.  His poetry collections were 'Dislikes: some modern satires', Fifield, 1914 and  'Poems', Blackwell, Oxford, 1919 and his poems were included in three WW1 Anthologies.

After the death of Robert Bridges in 1930, John Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate by King George V, a post that he held until his death in 1967.  The only other British Poet Laureate to hold the post for as long was Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

John Masefield's WW1 poetry collections were: 

'Sonnets and poems', Chosley, Berks, 1916
'Lollington Downs and other poems', Heinemann, 1917
'Philip the King and other poems', Heinemann, 1914
'Poems', Macmillan, New York, 1935
'Collected poems', Heinemann, 1932.

His poems were included in six WW1 Anthologies.

Photo of HMS Conway at anchor in the River Mersey near Rock Ferry.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Bernard Adams - John Bernard Pye Adams (1890 - 1916) - British


John Bernard Pye Adams was born in Beckenham in Kent, England on 15th November 1890. His parents were Harold and Georgina Adams.

Educated initially at Clare House School in Beckenham, Bernard went on to Malvern College before going up to St. John’s College, Cambridge to study Classics.  He was awarded a prize for one of his odes written in Latin and gained a First Class Honours Degree.

Described by a former teacher as a “quiet and reserved” man who preferred “writing to speech”, Bernard was appointed Warden and Assistant Educational Adviser at a hostel for Indian students in Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London.

In 1914, he volunteered for service in the Army and was commissioned into the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers with the rank of Lieutenant – before Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves joined the same Regiment.

Bernard was one of the first among the writers who enlisted to publish his memoirs of service. This was written while he was convalescing after he was wounded in the arm on the Western Front in June 1916.

“Nothing of Importance – a Record of 18 Months at the Front with a Welsh Battalion, October 1915 – June 1916” was published in New York by Robert M. McBride & Co. in 1918 - the only such memoir to be published during the First World War.

While convalescing at his parents’ home in Kent, Bernard wrote about “that distant growl, that insistent mutter” of the guns in Picardy which could be clearly heard on the south coast of England.

Bernard returned to active service on the Western Front on 31st January 1917.  He was gravely wounded on 26th February 1917 while leading his men in an attack near Serre Somme.  Bernard died of his wounds the following day in a Field Hospital in France.

“Nothing of Importance” is available to read here https://archive.org/stream/nothingimportan00adamgoog#page/n63/mode/2up

Do have a look – it is a fascinating read.

Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895 - 1915)



According to John Masefield, Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967, the death of Charles Hamilton Sorley was "the greatest loss of all the poets killed in that war".

Charles was born on 19th May 1895 in Aberdeen in Scotland.  He had a twin brother    Their father was William Ritchie Sorley, Regius Professor of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen University, and his mother was Janetta Colquhoun Smith.

In 1900, the family moved to Cambridge where William took up the post of Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University's King’s College.

Educated at Marlborough College, where he was a good all-round pupil, Charles discovered a liking for cross-country running in the rain. After Marlborough, Charles was due to go up to University College, Oxford in the autumn of 1914.  However, prior to that, his father wanted him to perfect his knowledge of the German language and sent him to stay with family friends in Schwerin in Germany.  Charles then enrolled at Jena University and was there when war broke out in 1914.   He was initially detained in Trier for half a day but was released and told to leave the country.

Charles volunteered to join the British Army and was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment with the rank of Lieutenant.  He was sent to France in May 1915 and soon promoted to the rank of Captain.  He was killed by sniper fire on 13th October 1915 and has no known grave but is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial at Loos.

Similarly to Wilfred Owen, Charles sent his poems to his mother with his letters to her.  A collection of his poems was published posthumously in January 1916 by Cambridge University Press under the title “Marlborough and Other Poems and his letters were published in 1919.

The Irish composer and teacher Charles Wood set part of Charles’s poem “Expectans expectavi” to music in 1919.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Joyce Kilmer (1886 - 1918) - American Poet, Writer, Journalist, Critic, Lecturer and Editor


Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born on 6th December 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  His parents were Annie Ellen Kilmer, née Kilburn, who was a writer/composer, and Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer, a physician/chemist who worked for Johnson and Johnson Company and invented the famous baby powder.

Joyce Kilmer attended Rutgers College Grammar School, where he edited the school newspaper.  In 1904 he went on to Rutgers College, before transferring to Columbia University.

As soon as he had qualified, Kilmer married Aline Murray, a poet, who he met when they were both at Rutgers College Grammar School.   He taught Latin as well as writing poetry and working as a journalist, critic and lecturer.  Kilmer’s first collection of poetry, “The Summer of Love” was published in 1911.

When Joyce and Aline’s daughter Rose contracted Polio, they converted to the Roman Catholic faith.

By the time Kilmer enlisted in the New York National Guard in May 1917, in response to America joining the conflict, he was the foremost Catholic poet, writer and lecturer in America. 

Kilmer’s Regiment was posted to the Western Front in France, where he was assigned as a statistician to the 69th U.S. Infantry Regiment. He was soon promoted to the rank of Sergeant, refusing the chance to become an Officer.   After involvement in several battles, Kilmer joined the military intelligence section of his Regiment.   On 30th July 1918, Kilmer volunteered to join Major William (Wild Bill) Donovan in an attack.  Donovan went on to found the Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War.  This is known today as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Kilmer was killed by a sniper during the Second Battle of the Marne on 30th July 1918.  He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre posthumously.   He is buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in Picardy, France.

Kilmer’s most famous poem “Trees” was published in his collection “Trees and Other Poems” in 1914.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Guido Gozzano (1883 - 1916) - Italian writer and poet


I am indebted to Mario Malacrida from Italy for bringing the Italian poet Guido Gozzano to my attention.   Although Gozzano did not take part in the First World War due to ill health, I have included him in my commemorative  exhibition project in order to illustrate the global nature of the conflict.  Many people in the UK seem to have forgotten the fierce fighting that took place in Italy during the First World War and yet many British men and women served and died during that Campaign and lie in Italian cemeteries.  Female First World War poet Vera Brittain’s brother, Edward Brittain MC, is among those who were killed during the Italian Campaign;  Edward is buried in Italy on the Asiago Plateau.   After her death, at her wish, Vera's ashes were scattered upon her brother’s grave. 
In 1915, Italy joined the conflict on the side of the Allies, which is the name by which the three Entente Powers (Britain, France and Russia) became known as other countries joined them during the First World War.
Guido Gozzano was born in Turin on 19th December 1883, the son of Fausto Gozzano, who was an engineer, and his wife Diodata Mautino, who was the daughter of an Italian Senator. Though his health was never good, Gozzano was a keen sportsman, enjoying ice-skating, cycling and swimming.  He studied law at the University of Turin, however, he preferred attending courses on literature given by the poet Arturo Graf to the lectures on law.  Graf was an Italian poet of German origin and he greatly influenced Gozzano, encouraging him to write.
In 1907 Gozzano’s health deteriorated and he went to live on the Italian Riviera.  The same year, he began a love affair with the poet Amalia Guglielminetti.  Their love letters (1907 – 1909) were published in 1951. Gozzano’s first collection of poems “La via del rifugio” was published by the Turin publishing company Streglio.
In 1909, Gozzano gave up the study of law to dedicate himself to writing.  From February 1912 until May 1913 he travelled by boat on a cruise to India and Ceylon in an attempt to improve his health.   Gozzano composed several poems about the First World War which were, however, not a success with those who knew and loved his romantic poems.
Gozzano also wrote short stories and worked on adapting some of those for use in theatrical and film productions.
Gozzano was working on a film script about St. Francis of Assisi when he died on 9th August 1916 .
Observations on the poem “Signorina Felicita” by Mario Malacrida:
Gozzano describes a portrait of a woman in the following way:
Intorno a quella che rideva illusa
nel ricco peplo, e che morí di fame,
v’era una stirpe logoro e confusa:
topaie, materasst, vasellame,
lucerne, ceste, mobili: ciarpame 
reietto, cosí caro alia mia Musa!
About her, smiling in her Grecian dress
and Grecian dream, who came to die of hunger,
there lay a tattered and promiscuous race:
some furniture, some oil lamps, the odd hamper,
mattresses, rats’ nests, crockery: the lumber
that since it is rejected charms my Muse!
The poem from which this stanza is taken, “Signorina Felicita,” is one of the best known in the Italian language, and it shows Gozzano at his most accomplished.
The English poem that comes closest to this poem’s artistry is probably George Meredith’s “Modern Love” (1853), which describes in novelistic detail a troubled love affair. Gozzano’s poem tells the story of the poet’s love for a woman of the working class. It contains passages of condensed and elliptical dialogue and lively novelistic descriptions like the one just quoted. But what Italians like best about this long poem is its mood of refined sentimentality, its bittersweet recognition of the impossibility of recapturing a vanished past. This mood is asserted from the very opening lines of “Signorina Felicita,” which Italians can recall almost as readily as they can “nel mezzo del cammin’ di nostra vita,” the words that begin The Divine Comedy:
Signorina Felicita, a quest’ ora
scende la sera nel giardino antico
della tua casa. Nel mio cuore amico
scende il ricordo. E ti rivedo ancora,
e Ivrea rivedo e la cerulea Dora
e quel dolce paese che non dico.
Signorina Felicita, this hour
finds evening falling on your ancient home
and ancient garden. And the memories come
upon me thick and fast. I see once more
you and Ivrea and the skyblue Dora,
all that dear region which I do not name.
Sources:  Wikipedia and Mario Malacrida

Sunday, 16 November 2014

J. Milton Hayes (1884 - 1940) - British poet author and entertainer


James Milton Hayes was born in Chorlton, Manchester in 1884 and was baptized at St. Silus Church Ardwick. His father was James William Hayes, a gas fitter.  

In the 1901 Census, James Milton gave his profession as ‘Insurance clerk’.  By 1911, the family was living in Hyde Grove and James Milton was an ‘entertainer author’ writing and performed monologues which were extremely popular in those pre-television and computer days when the music hall was king.

James was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment on 31st December 1915.  In November 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross.  In 1918 he was taken prisoner and held at Mainz Citadel in Germany.  The writer Alec Waugh, brother of Evelyn Waugh, was a prisoner at Mainz Citadel at the same time as James and later wrote about their meeting.    

James, whose professional name was J. Milton Hayes, wrote the now forgotten monologue that was very famous in his day “The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God.”  He apparently originally wrote this for the actor Bransby Williams (1870 - 1961) to perform.  The monologue was widely performed and later parodied by Stanley Holloway and The Goon Show.

James died in Nice in France in 1940.


Source: Wikipedia.  

Additional information kindly supplied by Andrew Simpson – see Andrew’s weblog about Chorlton, where you will also find the words of that famous monologue: www.chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk

In “My Brother Evelyn and Other Profiles” by Alec Waugh (Cassell, London, 1967), Waugh describes James as “A North Country man’ he was nearly forty; he was brisk, assured, purposeful, with his eye on the main chance. He was the first person I heard analyse success”.

I am still researching James for an exhibition panel.  I am convinced that the photograph from Google Images is of an RAF uniform in the Second World War.  If anyone has any information please get in touch.  

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Hans Leip (1893 - 1963) - German Poet and School Teacher


The WW2 song "Lilly Marlene" was played this morning during the march past at the Cenotaph in London. Did you know that the song was in fact originally written during the First World War as a poem?  It was written by a young German school teacher.   His name was Hans LEIP and he was born in  Hamburg in 1893 the son of a former sailor.  Educated in Hamburg, Leip became a school teacher but his dream was to become an artist.

In 1915, Leip was conscripted into the Imperial German Army and served on the Eastern Front and in the Carpathians.  He was wounded in 1917 and invalided out of the army.  After the war, Leip travelled to Paris, London, New York and Algiers. He wrote novels, plays, short stories and, of course, poetry.  Leip was also a talented artist and sculptor.

The poem was called "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht" - 'The Song of a Young Soldier of the Watch' and Leip wrote it combining the names of his girl friend and a nurse who looked after him.  Leip's poem was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze and recorded in 1939 by a young German singer called Lale Andersen with the title "Das Mädchen under der Lanterne" - 'The Girl under the Lamps'.   The song was played on a German radio station and the song became a hit.  It appealed to all soldiers world wide during the Second World War and was sung in many languages.

Hans Leip died in 1963.

Photo:  Google Images - Hans Leip before his departure to the Front in 1915

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j47THUNGuIY