Saturday, 24 August 2019

Edmund John (1883 –1917) – British poet

Edmund John was born in Woolwich, Kent on 27th November 1883.

He fought in the First World War, serving with the 28th (London) Battalion (Artist's Rifles)
and was invalided out of the Army in 1916. Edmund died a year later in Taormina, Sicily on 28th February 1917.

Edmund’s poetry collections were:

“The Flute of Sardonyx: Poems” (1913)
“The Wind in the Temple: Poems” (1915)
“Symphonie Symbolique”(1919)

“The Wind in the Temple: Poems” by Edmund Johyn was published by Erskine Macdonald, London in 1915 and was printed by W. Mate & Sons, Ltd., Bournemouth.

That collection of poems was dedicated to the writer and poet Maud Churton Braby

Poems of the War pp. 51 - 52

1. The Huns. 1914

2. Ave Indi

3. In Memoriam

THE HUNS, 1914

Only the bent ghosts of pain, the grey phantoms of fear
Inhabit the desolate streets in the silence, and peer
Out from the charred, blackened windows. No more than the breath
Of the fresh fields shall stir the drawn lips of the dead whose blood dyes
Their own hearths, where from out the spent ashes dim spirals yet rise
Like the smoke of dark incense that burns on the Altars of Death.

All the prayers are stilled ; there is blood in the holy place.
And over the lintels, and splashed on the pale, lined old face
Of the dead peasant woman who lies where the hollyhock blows.
And blood on the breasts of the maiden who yesterday smiled.
And blood on the white broken body of each flower-like child.
Like red wme that is spilled on a petal of some fallen rose.

And blood there shall be on the throats of the devilish throng.
And an eye for an eye, and for every unnameable wrong
Anguish and death and despair shall find out a reward.
Lo, the clamour of battle is calling to all who are men
To succour the helpless, and vanquish and drive to their den
The murdering Huns who have drawn and shall die by the sword.

(p. 51)


The West is grey, and pale with sweat of pain,
Save where the flicker of a funeral pyre
Stabs the dull pallor with fine jets of fire.
And ashen cheeks are grim with some dark stain.

Gold is the East, and bright the Indian sea ;
And princes of a race that knows no fears
Pour out their treasures of a thousand years,
And call to battle all their chivalry.

For lo, at last the East and West have met,
In splendid friendship sealed by splendid blood ;
So shall they conquer death and stem the flood
That seethes from hell — and heaven shall not forget !

For every tortured child, and all the shame
Of women slain, the Indian hosts shall bring
Bitter reward ; and through God's halls shall ring
Their mighty vengeance and eternal fame.

(p. 52)


(To Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, obiit November, 1914)

Rest, though the clamorous surge of war
Follow thy peace to the great doors of Death ;
As in thy fearless life, so now, the cannons' roar.
The roll of drums, at thy last breath

Proclaim thee Conqueror !
The prophets and the warriors who have passed
That way before thy coming, welcome thee ;

The Angel's trumpet sounds a nobler blast,
And kings and knights of the old chivalry
Now hail thee at the last.

Thy days, thy deeds, thy words of proven gold.
Thy son, and last of all, thyself didst give
For Country's sake ; and now the tale is told
Thy splendid memory shall breathe and live
Till all men's hearts lie cold.

Here is a review from “The Southport Guardian," of September l0th, 1913 about “The Flute of Sardonyx”

“Mr. Edmund John is one of our new singers. His first book  on its first appearance made a great stir. ..." The Flute of  Sardonyx " contains much of performance and even more of  promise. . . . He has a rare sense of colour and a strong sense of words ; his verse pulsates with passion and with life. With him to live is to love ; and to love is alternately to smile and to sorrow — and he expresses the joy and the pain with equal felcity and fervour. . . . Here in these poems is the spirit of song, the passion of youth, the seductive colour of life, and all the throbbings of hope and desire . . . this book will ensure  a critical welcome to Mr. John's future work. Here, at any rate, is a singer — and a singer who is not afraid to sing his own songs in his own way.”