Saturday, 6 February 2021

Robert Blindenbergh (1901 – 1918) – Belgian Schoolboy poet

With thanks to Eddy Bronselaer and to Jurgen Verhulst of the Facebook Group Cemeteries & Memorials of the Great War for finding Robert for us 

Eddy says: "12-year-old poet Robert Blindenbergh consoled the Belgian soldiers in Calais with his verses. He died in 1918.

Robert Blindenbergh was a young poet. Nobody seems to have any more of the verses he wrote for Belgian soldiers who were admitted to hospitals in Pas-de-Calais during WW1. At the outbreak of war he was 12 years old and served as a scout for some service in the army before joining his parents at the Base-Rear de Calais.

The young poet died prematurely in 1918 at the age of 16. He was buried in the cemetery of Ixelles, his grave being adjacent to the square of the Belgian soldiers.  "If I cast a spell on our brave soldiers for a few moments, I achieved my goal and took my share of the fire," wrote Robert – described as a scout, lieutenant, poet.

Unfortunately, this phrase from the poet written on his grave is the only one found so far. However, there is evidence of Robert's talent in the archives of Calais in an article published on December 1, 1915 in the newspaper"La France du Nord". Here's an extract from that article mentioning Blindenbergh's accomplishments. General Cloothen, commander of the Belgian base in Calais said: 'Let's not forget 13-year-old Boy Scout Robert Blindenbergh, who, a precocious emulator of Galipaux, performed his own works with inestimable gusto and confidence. The success has crossed all boundaries.' ".   Thank you Eddy.

It would be wonderful to find copies of Robert's poems.



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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Danford Barney (1892 - 1952) – American poet

Members of the Yale Unit, 1918
Having graduated from Yale University in 1916, during the First World War Danford Barney served in France with the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit (also known as The Yale Unit), which was attached to American Army units during the battles of Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. 

After the war, Danford was associated with a group of young Yale poets that included Stephen Vincent Benét, Archibald MacLeish, Phelps Putnam, and John Farrar. Danford published a literary magazine entitled “Parabalou”, containing original poems by members of the group. Between 1916 and 1945, Danford published six volumes of his own poetry – “Dust of Stars” (1916), “Chords of Albireo” (1920), “In the Comet's Hair” (1921), “Sardonyx” (1926), “Selected Poems Old and New” (1942), and “Songs Not for Brides” (1945).

In a reviw of Danford’s collection “Chords from Albireo”, published in “Poetry” Magazine, September 1920 (p. 341), John Hall Wheelock said: “Few living poets have possessed to the same degree as Mr. Barney, with equal master)' of verbal music, the austere and inexorable spirituality which is so passionately revealed in his moments of genuine articulacy.”

From 1922 until 1930 Barney maintained a photographic studio in New York, where he made a series of portraits of authors and artists. He married twice - first to Gertrude Wells, with whom he had three daughters - and later to Dorothy Bartlett.

An untitled poem by Danford Barney published in “The Graphic”, Saturday, 16th November 1918 

We marched a down the gold-paved way;

We held our state in royal halls

As though the earth’s empiric sway

Were bounded by these naked walls.


Till ever in your wise concern 

My weakness served your kinder will

That watched the fevered taper burn,

And slaved to keep it burning still.


You smiled by lamplight at the trace

Of child surrender on the deep

Serenity of my wan face

The immortality of sleep.


And once we hearkened to the rain

Throughout the long companioned night

Till dawn crept to the window-pane

And touched the walls with timid light.


‘Tis strange the lot that haunts me still;

That I should fail my part despite 

The power to guide the flesh by will;

That you should stand my watch by night.


Even hours of forfeit shall reward

Who, by their chance, must watch and wait;

So first within this prisoned word

I touched your hand upon the gate.


If we hereafter may not meet

You will be strong nor grieve too much,

Knowing each faithful hand I greet

Stirs with the spirit of your touch.


Just as in petals of faded flowers,

A beauty haunts there without end;

As perfuire through the wasting hours

The memory lingers of a friend.


In other land, perhaps you’ll tell

Some dearer friend whose faith you try,

“There’s fragrence in old flowers”, ah well

We played at comrades you and I. 


Photograph:  Members of the Yale unit in 1918 

Sources: “Poetry” September 1920 and 

https://snaccooperative.org/ark:/99166/w6w698tf

https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:463850/PDF/https://news.yale.edu/2017/04/05/yale-goes-war-history-yale-unit-mobile-hospital-no-39

“War and Verse, Poetry and Prose of World War One: As seen in the Wartime Press” Edited by Stephen Robert Kuta (Re-invention UK, Chelmsford, 2018)


Saturday, 30 January 2021

Sydney Lomer, OBE (1880 – 1926) – pen name Sydney Oswald - British poet and soldier

With thanks to Historian Andrew Mackay for finding Sydney for us 


Born Sydney Frederick McIllree Lomer, he published poetry under the name Sydney Oswald. Sydney became a professional soldier and served from August 1899 to July 1919, initially with the First Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers and later with the First Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. 

During the First World War, Sydney was posted to France in February 1915, by which time he held the rank of Captian.  However, he was repatriated in March 1915, as he had become ill with pneumonia. 

In September 1915 Sydney was promoted to the rank of Major and in March 1916 he was attached to the Egyptian Army, a posting that lasted until 1917. He was then made a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1919 Sydney was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire).

The Battlefield”

Around no fire the soldiers sleep to-night,

But lie a-wearied on the ice-bound field,

With cloaks wrapt round their sleeping forms, to shield

Them from the northern winds. Ere comes the light

Of morn brave men must arm, stern foes to fight.

The sentry stands his limbs with cold congealed;

His head a-nod with sleep; he cannot yield,

Though sleep and snow in deadly force unite.


Amongst the sleepers, lies the Boy awake,

And wide-eyed plans glories that transcend

The deeds of heroes dead; then dreams o'ertake

His tired-out brain, and lofty fancies blend

To one grand theme, and through all barriers break

To guard from hurt his faithful sleeping friend.

Sydney had poems published in five WW1 Anthologies, including “Soldier Poets: Songs of the Fighting Men” (Eskine Macdonald, London, 1916) in which “The Battlefield” was included on page 72.

Sources:

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978), p.244

http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/fam/biol3/lomer01.html


Robert Blindenbergh (1901 – 1918) – Belgian Schoolboy poet

With thanks to Eddy Bronselaer and to Jurgen Verhulst of the Facebook Group Cemeteries & Memorials of the Great War for finding Robert for us 


12-year-old poet Robert Blindenbergh consoled wounded Belgian soldiers in hospital in Calais with his verses. 

Robert Blindenbergh was a young poet. Nobody seems to have any more of the verses he wrote for Belgian soldiers who were admitted to hospitals in Pas-de-Calais during WW1. At the outbreak of war he was 12 years old and served as a scout for some service in the army before joining his parents at the Base-Rear de Calais.

The young poet died prematurely in 1918 at the age of 16. He was buried in the cemetery of Ixelles, his grave being adjacent to the square of the Belgian soldiers.  "If I cast a spell on our brave soldiers for a few moments, I achieved my goal and took my share of the fire," wrote Robert – described as a scout, lieutenant, poet.

Unfortunately, this phrase from the poet written on his grave is the only one found so far. However, there is evidence of Robert's talent in the archives of Calais in an article published on December 1, 1915 in the newspaper"La France du Nord". Here's an extract from that article mentioning Blindenbergh's accomplishments. General Cloothen, commander of the Belgian base in Calais said: “Let's not forget 13-year-old Boy Scout Robert Blindenbergh, who, a precocious emulator of Galipaux, performed his own works with inestimable gusto and confidence. The success has crossed all boundaries. ”


Saturday, 23 January 2021

Maurice Henry Hewlett (1861 – 1923) – British writer and poet

Maurice was born in Weybridge, Surrey, UK, the eldest child of Henry Gay Hewlett, of Shaw Hall, Addington, Kent, and his wife Emmeline Mary, nee Knowles. Dducated at the London International College, Spring Grove, Isleworth, Maurice then studied law and was called to the bar in 1891. He gave up the law after the success of his book “The Forest Lovers”. From 1896 to 1901 Maurice was, like his father before him, Keeper of Lands, Revenues, Records and Enrolments, a government post as adviser on matters of medieval law.

On 3rd January 1888, Maurice married Hilda Beatrice Herbert at St Peter's Church, Vauxhall, where her father was vicar. The couple had two children - a daughter, Pia, and a son, Francis - but went their separate ways in 1914, partly due to Hilda's increasing interest in aviation. In 1911, Hilda became the first woman in the UK to gain a pilot's licence, although she was not the first British woman to become a pilot as Winifred Buller gained her pilot’s licende in 1909.

Maurice went to live in Broad Chalke, Wiltshire. Among his friends were the poets Evelyn Underhill and Ezra Pound - who he met at the Poets' Club in London. Maurice was also a friend of J. M. Barrie, who named one of the pirates in Peter Pan - "Cecco"  - after Hewlett's son.

Maurice was parodied by Max Beerbohm in “A Christmas Garland” in the part titled "Fond Hearts Askew".  He died in London on 15th June 1923.

Maurice Hewlett’s WW1 collections were:  “A Ballad of “The Gloster” and “The Goeben” (Poetry Bookshop, London, 1914); “Flowers in the grass: Wiltshire plainsong” (Constable, London, 1920), “Gai saber: tales and songs” (Elkin Mathews, London, 1916), “Singsongs of the War: poems” (Poetry Bookshop, London, 1914) and “The song of the plow” (Heinemann, London, 1916.  He also had poems published in seventeen WW1 poetry anthologies.

From “The Village Wife’s Lament” by Maurice Hewlett with an Introduction by J. C. Squire. (Martin Secker, London, 1918)  pages 51 – 53.

III

When forth my love to duty went 

I sought my old home, 

My few months' joy over and spent, 

And lean years to come. 

My mother blinkt her patient eyes ; 

She said, It was to be. 

Was I less temperate or more wise 

To question t her decree ? 


Was it for this, our clasp and kiss ? 

For this end and no other 

That I was shapt to have increase, 

And call'd to be mother ? 

Did God make o'er the power to soar 

On men, that they should sink ? 

Did He outpour a flood of war 

And leave us on the brink ? 


Was't so He wove the robe of Love, 

To mock the lovely earth ? 

Sees He, above, creation move 

To death, not birth ? 

Go, thou dear head, for God is dead, 

And Death is our Lord : 

Between us, red, lies in the bed 

War, like a naked sword. 


IV 

O failing heart, accept your part, 

And thank the Lord, Who bound 

Your labour daily to the mart, 

Your service to the ground ! 

Take to the mart your stricken heart, 

Tho' the chaffer graze it ; 

Shrink not altho' the quick flesh smart- 

But meet pain and praise it ! 


V

He came to see me once again, 

Stiffen 'd in his new buff : 

A few short hours compact of strain, 

Too hasty for love ; 

For Love can never be confin'd, 

But asks eternity. 

To nurse the lov'd one in the mind 

The bond must first be free. 


And he, he now serv'd otherwhere 

And could not be the same ; 

To all the world my love was there 

And answer 'd to his name ; 

But not to me, oh, not to me 

The kisses of his lips 

Were as of old,, but guardedly, 

Like sunlight in eclipse. 


The moment came, I held him close, 

But had no word to say — 

Good-bye, sweetheart, Good-bye, Blush Rose 

'Twas his old way. 

Then in a hush which seem'd to rock 

Me like a leaf about, 

I heard the pulsing of the clock, 

Counting my dear life out. 


And I am here, and you are, where ? 

While the long hours go by, 

And on my eyes the glaze of care, 

And in my heart a cry. 

Bury my heart deep in the grave 

Where all its grace is hid : 

What other service should I have 

Than tend my lovely dead ? 


Sources:  Find my past, Free BMD,

https://archive.org/details/wifeslamevillage00hewlrich

Catherine W. Reilly, “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp. 167 - 168


Friday, 8 January 2021

A rough translation of the Charles Péguy Poem "Hereux ceux qui sont morts"

Rough translation: 

Happy are those who died for the material world,
Just as long as it was in a just war.
Happy are those who died for four corners of earth.
Happy are those who have died a solemn death.

Happy are those who have died in great battles,
Laying on the ground in the face of God.
Happy are those who died in a last high place,
Among all the pomp of grand funerals.

Happy are those who died for earthly cities.
For they are the body of the city of God.
Happy are those who died for their hearth and fire,
And the poor honours of their fathers’ houses.

Because they are the image and the beginning
And the body and the test of the house of God.
Happy are those who died in this embrace,
In the hug of honour and earthly confession.

Because this admission of honour is the beginning
And the first attempt at an eternal confession.
Happy are those who died in this crushing,
In the fulfillment of this earthly vow.

Because this wish of the earth is the beginning
And the first attempt at loyalty.
Happy are those who died in this crowning
And this obedience and this humility.

Happy are those who have died, for they have returned
To their origins of dust and ashes
Happy are those who died in a just war.
Happy are the ripe ears and happy the harvested corn.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Charles Péguy (1873-1914) – French poet and writer

"Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics." Charles Peguy (“Notre Jeunesse”, 1909)


Born in Orléans, France on 7th January 1873, his mother Cécile was widowed when he was a baby and mended chairs for a living. His father Désiré Péguy was a cabinet maker, who died in 1874 as a result of combat wounds. 

Charles studied at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, winning a scholarship to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he attended the lectures of Henri Bergson and Romain Rolland. He joined the Socialist Party in 1895. He left the school without graduating in 1897 but continued to attend some lectures during 1898. 

Charles married Charlotte-Françoise Baudoin in 1897 and they had one daughter and three sons, one of whom was born after Péguy's death. 

From 1900 until his death in 1914, Charles was the main contributor to and the editor of the literary magazine “Les Cahiers de la Quinzaine”, which supported the Socialist Party Director Jean Jaurès. He published not only his own essays and poetry, but also works by important contemporary authors such as Romain Rolland.

When the First World War broke out, Péguy became a Lieutenant in the 19th company of the French 276th Infantry Regiment. He was killed during a battle, shot in the forehead, near Villeroy, Seine-et-Marne, France on the day before the start of the Battle of the Marne. There is a memorial to Charles Péguy near where he was killed.

Charles Péguy during Military Manoeuvres
1913

Portrait of Charles Péguy, by Jean-Pierre Laurens, 1908

“Heureux ceux qui sont Morts…”

Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour la terre charnelle,

Mais pourvu que ce fût dans une juste guerre.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour quatre coins de terre.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts d’une mort solonnelle.


Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans les grandes batailles,

Couchés dessus le sol à la face de Dieu.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts sur un dernier haut lieu,

Parmi tout l’appareil des grandes funérailles.


Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour des cités charnelles.

Car elles sont le corps de la cité de Dieu.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour leur âtre et leur feu,

Et les pauvres honneurs des maisons paternelles.


Car elles sont l’image et le commencement

Et le corps et l’essai de la maison de Dieu.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans cet embrassement,

Dans l’étreinte d’honneur et le terrestre aveu.


Car cet aveu d’honneur est le commencement

Et le premier essai d’un éternel aveu.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans cet écrasement,

Dans l’accomplissement de ce terrestre voeu.


Car ce voeu de la terre est le commencement

Et le premier essai d’une fidélité.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans ce couronnement

Et cette obéissance et cette humilité. 


Heureux ceux qui sont morts, car ils sont retournés

Dans la première argile et la première terre.

Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans une juste guerre.

Heureux les épis mûrs et les blés moissonnés.


Sources:

https://archive.org/stream/charlespguyetle00halgoog#page/n46/mode/2up

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_P%C3%A9guy

“Poètes dans la Guerre 1914 – 1918 Fasicule 1” by Pierre Virey