Thursday, 21 March 2019

Francis Bourdillon (1852 – 1921) – British Poet and Translator

Francis William Bourdillon was born in Runcorn, Cheshire on 22nd March 1852.  His father was the Reverend Francis Bourdillon, an Anglican Church priest, and his mother was Sophie Bourdillon, nee Holland.  In 1861 The Rev. Bourdillon was Rector of Woolbeding Church in Sussex.   Francis had two brothers – Gerard, b. 1854 and Bernard K., b. 1856.

Educated at Haileybury and Winchester Colleges, Francis went on to study at Oxford University.  He became private tutor to the children of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.

Francis married Agnes Watson Smyth in 1882 and the couple had three children. Francis and his family retired to Sussex where he died in 1921.

Perhaps his most famous poem is "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes":

The night has a thousand eyes,
 And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
 With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,    
 And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies
 When love is done.

From: Edmund Clarence Stedman, Editor (1833–1908).  “A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895” (Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1895)

Francis Bourdillon’s WW1 poetry collections were:

“Christmas Roses and Other Poems for Nineteen hundred and Fourteen” (Humphreys, London, 1914)

“Easter Lilies and Other Poems for Nineteen Hundred and Fifteen” (Humphreys, London, 1915)

“Russia Re-born and Other Poems” (Humphreys, London, 1917)


“A Hymn of Hope for the League of Nations” (S.P.C.K., London, 1919).

Francis had poems published in sixteen WW1 poetry anthologies.

“Here: and There September, 1914”


Soft benediction of September sun;
Voices of children, laughing as they run;
Green English lawns, bright flowers and butterflies;
And over all the blue embracing skies.


Tumult and roaring of the incessant gun;
Dead men and dying, trenches lost and won;
Blood, mud, and havoc, bugles, shoutings, cries;
And over all the blue embracing skies.

 F. W. Bourdillon.

From J. W. Cunliffe, Editor “Poems of the Great War” (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1916)

Francis William Bourdillon featured in the Poets of Merseyside exhibiton at The Wilfred Owen Story, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.  There is a book of the exhibition – “Merseyside Poets, Writers & Artists of The First World War”, available from