Saturday, 24 December 2016

John Still (1880 – 1941) – British archaeologist and writer

John Still was born in Lambeth in 1880. His father, also called John Still, was an Anglican priest and his mother was Anna Elizabeth Still, nee Nutrill.  Educated at Winchester College, Still went to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) as a tea planter in 1879.   John married Winifred Mary Evans.
He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Yorkshire Regiment during the First World War and was taken prisoner of war during the Gallipoli Campaign.

In the Foreword to his First World War poetry collection “Poems in Captivity”, which he dedicated to his wife, John explains how he came to write poetry during the three years he spent in captivity in Turkey:
“… each one of us was driven to seek inside himself some alleviation of the daily dullness, many of us there found things we had not suspected to exist. For, to find distraction, we were thrown back more upon our own creative powers, and were helped less by our surroundings than ever is the case in normal life.

Some found the wit to write plays, and others the talent to play them. Some discovered the power to draw ; and one at least found much music in his mental storehouse. Some developed into expert carpenters, and others, less profitably, into hardly less expert splitters of hairs ! Some found in others a depth of kindness more durable I think than the depths of hate this war has generated. I found these verses …”

 In 1939, John went to live in Africa and he died in South Africa in 1941.

 John Still’s poem “Christmas Day” is on page 66 of the collection:

 "CHRISTMAS DAY", written on Christmas Day 1916 

YEARS ago. Years ago.
Three years ago on Christmas day,
Out in a forest far away,
The monkeys watched me down below,
And saw me hide in the waving grass
While the elephant herd went trampling past.
Oh, the great wild herd that Christmas day !
And I as wild and free as they,
As free as the winds that blow.

Christmas day. Christmas day.
Across the yard with footsteps slow
The sentries pace the mud below ;
The wind is cold, the sky is grey ;
Christmas day in a prison camp,
With freedom dead as a burnt-out lamp.
The lions eat and the lions rage,
Three steps and a turn in a narrow cage,
And I am as free as they.

Rich and poor. Rich and poor.
Poor as a sparrow or rich as a king,
This world can offer but one good thing,
And my heart is sick to be free once more.
For the sun may shine in a sapphire sky,
But give me freedom or let me die :
Free and fresh is the forest breeze
Whose spirit rides on the tossing trees,
And the waves break free on the shore.

 AFION KARA HISSAR, 25.xii.i9i6.

“Poems in Captivity” was published by John Lane, The Bodley Head, London in 1919.  This is now available on Archive as a free down-load

John Still also wrote “A prisoner in Turkey” which was also published by The Bodley Head, as well as a book about his life in Ceylon and "Jungle Tide" about his discoveries in Ceylon.

Sources:  Find my Past, Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" published by St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978  (p. 305), Wikipedia and Archive.

Friday, 23 December 2016

List Update

With thanks to someone called 'In the Know' who kindly pointed out to me that Hilary Douglas Clark Pepler is not a female but a male poet.  The name of course in English can be either masculine or feminine - I have a cousin Hilary, a cousin Elliott both female and a neighbour called Cameron who, unlike Cameron Diaz, is male.

Harry Douglas Clark Pepler was born in Eastbourne. During WW1 he worked for London County Council.

Under the pen-name H.D.C.P., Hilary published the following WW1 poetry collections:

"God and the dragon: rhymes" (Douglas Pepler, Ditchling, 1917) and

"Pertinent and impertinent: an assortment of verse" (St. Dominic's P., Ditchling, 1926).

Source:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliogaphy" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Geoffrey Bache Smith (1894 – 1916) – British Poet

Geoffrey was born in Staffordshire on 18th October 1894. He attended King Edward’s School,
Birmingham at the same time as J.R.R. Tolkien, where they founded the literary “Tea Club and Barovian Society” (TCBS). 
Geoffrey was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 19th (Service) Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers.  Wounded by shrapnel on 29th November 1916, Geoffrey died on 3rd December 1916 and was buried in Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty, France.  

The WW1 poetry collection of Geoffrey Bache Smith – “A Spring Harvesst” – was published in 1918 by Erskine Macdonald, London.  One of his poems was included in “The Valiant Muse:  an anthology of poems by poets killed in the World War”, edited by Frederic W. Ziv and published in 1936 by Putnam, New York.  You can read more of Geoffrey’s poems on Project Gutenberg


-  Afterwards, when
The old Gods' hate
On the riven earth
No more is poured:

When weapons of war
Are all outworn
What shall become
Of the race of men?
One shall go forth
In the likeness of a child:
Under sere skies
Of a grey dawning: 

One shall go forth
In the likeness of a child,
And desolate places
Shall spring and blossom:

One shall go forth
In the likeness of a child:
And men shall sing
And greatly rejoice:
All men shall sing
For the love that is in them,
And he shall behold it
And sing also.

With thanks to Skip Downing for additional information