Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Herbert Asquith (1881 - 1947) – British poet, writer and lawyer

Herbert was the second son of Herbert Henry Asquith, the British Liberal politician, First Earl of Oxford, and his wife Helen Kelsall Asquith, nee Medland. Herbert junior wa born on 11th March 1881.  He had the following siblings:
Raymond (1878 – 1916), Arthur, b. 1884, Helen Violet (1887 – 1969) and Cyril (1890 – 1954).  Herbert senior’s first wife Helen Asquith died in 1891. 

Herbert Asquith senior was the British Prime Minister from 1908 until 1916 when he became ill following the death during the Somme Offensive of his eldest son Raymond. 

After the death of his first wife in 1891, Herbert senior married Emma Alice Margaret Tennant, known as Margot, in 1894.  The couple had a son, Anthony (1902 – 1968), who became a film director, and a daughter Elizabeth (1897 – 1945), who became a writer and poet.
In 1910, Herbert junior married Cynthia, daughter of Hugo Richard Charteris, the 11th Earl of Weymss.  Cynthia was also a writer.

Like his brother Raymond, Herbert junior became a lawyer.  They both served with the Royal Artillery during the First World War, Herbert junior reaching the rank of Captain.
Herbert junior died on 5th August 1947.

The Hon. Herbert Asquith’s First World War poetry collections were:
“Poems 1912 – 1933” (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1934

“The Volunteer and other poems” (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1915)
“The Volunteer and other poems, 2nd edition with new poems added” (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1917)

And his poems were published in 21 WW1 anthologies.

“The Fallen Subaltern”

The starshells float above, the bayonets glisten;
We bear our fallen friend without a sound;
Below the waiting legions lie and listen
To us, who march upon their burial-ground.

Wound in the flag of England, here we lay him;
The guns will flash and thunder o’er the grave;
What other winding sheet should now array him,
What other music should salute the brave?

As goes the Sun-god in his chariot glorious,
When all his golden banners are unfurled,
So goes the soldier, fallen but victorious,
And leaves behind a twilight in the world.

And those who come this way, in days hereafter,
Will know that here a boy for England fell,
Who looked at danger with the eyes of laughter,
And on the charge his days were ended well.

One last salute; the bayonets clash and glisten;
With arms reversed we go without a sound:
One more has joined the men who lie and listen
To us, who march upon their burial-ground.

Sources:
https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-fallen-subaltern/

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York 1978)

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