The light of day is cold and grey and there is no more peace By the high moon-washed walls, where we laughed and where we sung; And I can’t go back to those days of short unthinking ease, When I was very foolish and you were very young. For you the laurel and the rose will bloom, and you will see The dawn’s delight, firelight on rafters, wind, seas, and thunder, Children asleep and dreams and hearts at ease, when life will be, Even at its close, a quiet and an ageless wonder. For me the poppies soon will dance and sway in Haute Avesnes: The sunrise of my love slides into dusk, its day untasted: Yet as I lie, turf-clad, and freed of passion, and of pain, I find my sacrifice of golden things not wasted; Your peace is bought with mine, and I am paid in full, and well, If but the echo of your laughter reaches me in hell.
by David Geraint Jones a.k.a. David Rhys Geraint Jones died of wounds, 1944
Additional information: There isn’t much information about him but this page gives a concise yet detailed account of Jones‘ time in the army leading up to his death. Haute-Avesnes is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France.
Some rose from the underground, Some from exile, factories, mines, Poisoned by suspicious freedom And the bitter smoke of cities. Others from military ranks, From noblemen’s ravished nests, Where to the country churchyard They carried dead fathers and brothers. In some even now is not extinguished The intoxication of immemorial conflagrations; And the wild free spirit of the steppe, Of both the Razins and the Kudaiars, lives on. In others, deprived of all roots, is The torn fabric and sad discord of our days – The putrefied spirit of the Neva capital, Tolstoy and Chekhov, Dostoyevsky. Some raise on placards Their ravings about bourgeois evil, About the radiant pure proletariat, A Philistine paradise on earth. In others is all the blossom and rot of empires, All the gold, all the decay of ideas, The splendor of all great fetishes, And of all scientific superstition. Some go to liberate Moscow and forge Russia anew, Others, after unleashing the elements, Want to remake the entire world. In these and in others war inspires Anger, greed, the dark intoxication of wild outbursts – And in a greedy pack the plunderer Afterward steals to heroes and leaders In order to break up and sell out to enemies The wondrously beautiful might of Russia, To let rot piles of wheat, To dishonor her heavens, To devour her riches, incinerate her forests, And suck dry her seas and ore. And the thunder of battles will not cease Across all the expanses of the southern steppes Amid the golden splendor Of harvests trampled by horses. Both here and there among the ranks Resounds one and the same voice: “Who is not with us is against us!” “No one is indifferent, truth is with us!” And I stand one among them In the howling flame and smoke And with all my strength I pray for them and for the others.
by Максимилиа́н Алекса́ндрович Воло́шин (Maksimilian Voloshin) (22 November 1920) from the cycle ‘Strife‘ with Wrangel Koktebel, Crimea translated by Albert C. Todd
Одни восстали из подполий, Из ссылок, фабрик, рудников, Отравленные тёмной волей И горьким дымом городов.
Другие — из рядов военных, Дворянских разорённых гнёзд, Где проводили на погост Отцов и братьев убиенных.
В одних доселе не потух Хмель незапамятных пожаров, И жив степной, разгульный дух И Разиных, и Кудеяров.
В других — лишённых всех корней — Тлетворный дух столицы Невской: Толстой и Чехов, Достоевский — Надрыв и смута наших дней.
Одни возносят на плакатах Свой бред о буржуазном зле, О светлых пролетариатах, Мещанском рае на земле…
В других весь цвет, вся гниль империй, Всё золото, весь тлен идей, Блеск всех великих фетишей И всех научных суеверий.
Одни идут освобождать Москву и вновь сковать Россию, Другие, разнуздав стихию, Хотят весь мир пересоздать.
В тех и в других война вдохнула Гнев, жадность, мрачный хмель разгула, А вслед героям и вождям Крадётся хищник стаей жадной, Чтоб мощь России неоглядной Pазмыкать и продать врагам:
Cгноить её пшеницы груды, Её бесчестить небеса, Пожрать богатства, сжечь леса И высосать моря и руды.
И не смолкает грохот битв По всем просторам южной степи Средь золотых великолепий Конями вытоптанных жнитв.
И там и здесь между рядами Звучит один и тот же глас: «Кто не за нас — тот против нас. Нет безразличных: правда с нами».
А я стою один меж них В ревущем пламени и дыме И всеми силами своими Молюсь за тех и за других.
Addition information:Voloshin‘s poem – published on the centenary (plus one year) of the poem’s creation!
The ‘with Wrangel’ mentioned in the poem’s accreditation I believe refers to Pyotr Wrangel who was a Russian officer of Baltic German origin in the Imperial Russian Army. During the later stages of the Russian Civil War, he was commanding general of the anti-BolshevikWhite Army in Southern Russia. After his side lost the civil war in 1920, he left Russia. He was known as one of the most prominent exiled White émigrés and military leader of the South Russia (as commander in chief).
Razin refers to Stepan (Stenka) Razin (ca. 1630 – 1671), a Don Cossack who led a peasant rebellion in 1670 – 1671. Celebrated in folk songs and folktales, he was captured and publicly quartered alive.
According to my book’s notes “Kudaiar refers to a legendary brigand celebrated in folk songs”. However translating it myself from the Russian root Кудеяр it is actually better Latinised/transliterated to Kudeyar regarding a Russian legendary folk hero whose story is told in Nikolay Kostomarov‘s 1875 novel of the same name. It should be noted there were apparently several Cossack robbers who adopted this name. In a letter to tsar Ivan IV a Muscovite boyar, from Crimea, reported that “there is only one brigand left here – the accursed Kudeyar“. The name is apparently Persian, composed of two elements standing for “God” and “man”.
The Neva capital refers to St Petersburg. Its location on the Neva River was the constant feature of the capital, whose name was changing from St Petersburg to Petrograd to Leningrad during the era.
Koktebel is an urban-type settlement and one of the most popular resort townlets in South-Eastern Crimea. It is situated on the shore of the Black Sea about halfway between Feodosia and Sudak and is subordinated to the Feodosia Municipality. It is best known for its literary associations as Voloshin made it his residence, where he entertained many distinguished guests, including Marina Tsvetayeva, Osip Mandelshtam, and Andrey Bely (who died there). They all wrote remarkable poems in Koktebel. Another prominent literary resident of Koktebel was Ilya Ehrenburg who lived there circa 1919 while escaping from anti-Semitic riots in Kiev.
Voloshin, whose real surname was Kirilenko-Voloshin, was born into a noble family that included Zaporozhskie Cossacks and Germans Russified in the seventeenth century. He studied law at Moscow University, though he was unable to complete a degree because of his participation in student protests in 1898. He continued to study extensively in Paris from 1903 to 1917 and traveled throughout Europe and Russia. Voloshin settled in Russia for good in 1917, just before the February Revolution, and spent the rest of his years in Koktebel in the Crimea.
Voloshin always stood alone against literary currents and intrigues. The hospitality of his home in Koktebel, which has been turned into a museum, was open to all; during the Civil War both a Red leader and a White officer found refuge in it. Voloshin’s position was neutral but not indifferent, for he condemned but the excesses of the Red Terror and the bloody actions of the White Guards. His response to the Revolution, however, never slipped into spite or petty argument or pessimism, as did the opinions of many of his literary colleagues. His response was much like Aleksandr Blok’s poem “The Twelve” (see page 71), in which a white apparition of Christ rises above the Red Guards marching through a blizzard.
Voloshin based his writing to a large extent on French poetic models, but in his best works – particularly in the Civil War period – he freed himself from literariness and plunged into the maelstrom of Russian events. In these poems he tried hard to stand above the conflict, “praying for the one side as much as for the other”. Nevertheless, his sympathies were not on the side of obsolete tsarism but with the future of Russia, its people, and its culture. His celebrated poem “Holy Russia” was misinterpreted by Proletkult critics as anti-Bolshevik; its lines “You yielded to passion’s beckoning call / And gave yourself to bandit and to thief” refer not only to the Bolsheviks but to the gangs of anarchist-bandits who roamed through Russia. Voloshin’s interpretation of Russian history is controversial, subjective, and sometimes mystical, but it always conveys an undoubting faith that Russia will emerge from its fiery baptism purified and renewed.
By the time of his return to Russia from Paris in 1917, Voloshin had become a sophisticated European intellectual, more philosophical, and more socially and historically minded. Enormous intellectual and artistic daring was needed for him to call Peter the Great the “first Bolshevik.” After his return, his poetry became viewed by Soviet critics with dogmatic narrowness and in the latter years of his life went unpublished. A single-volume Soviet edition of Voloshin’s work in 1977 unfortunately made him appear an aesthete, not the chronicler of the civil war of Russia. Yet it was in the latter role that he grew into a great poet; indeed, a series of definitions from his poem “Russia” could serve as a philosophic textbook for the study of the nation’s history. Voloshin made himself a great poet by never succumbing to indifference, by his understanding of the historical laws of a social explosion, and by his courage to bless and not to curse.
Biographical information about Voloshin, p.33 – 34, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.
That winter of our Island Fortress, the docks blacked-out and sirens wailing, the house closed its brittle silence around her. Rain drummed the windows behind her children’s dreams. Over the months she saved from her widow’s pay and the hours of cleaning at the manse seven silver coins, one from the abdication year with the head of the love-lost king.
Should the coastline be split by incoming shells, parachutes flower in the Vale and jackboots strut in King’s Square, then she would lay her six children to sleep, sealing the windows and doors with newspapers and blankets. Seven shillings’ worth of gas would deliver them out of occupation.
For months she has dreamt of his lost freighter, torpedoed six days out of New York, men overboard, gagging on salt and diesel. How the ship reared and plunged like a whale, her wash sweeping cold hands from flotsam. As he sank into the anonymous dark the final waves from her minting coins from the constant moon.
Tonight the City of London burns with St Paul’s untouched at the very centre. At the edge of night the Welsh ports sound no alarms. She opens the curtains to a moon-bright sky, counts out the coins in the tea-caddy and holds them cupped in her palms. OMN. Rex. Defender of the Faith. Emperor of India. The seven polished shillings sing in her hands.
by Tony Curtis
Additional information: Although it goes without saying Tony Curtis is a Welsh poet not to be confused with the American actor.
If there be time enough before the slaughter let us consider our heritage of wisdom, remembering the coil of laughter girdled our youth, wine of bright vintage carrying short sorrows into oblivion; some talk of love in smooth meadows where dusk brings quiet and night a vision of daylight joys freed from their shadows. Above all, wisdom: for years are shrinking into a huddle of days and the world a parish where neighbours bolt their doors and lights are dimming. Soon there will be nothing left for us to cherish but the grave words of the last statesmen before the battle starts and the air is darkened: fast fall the night upon the frightened children and on the wombs where once they quickened. What towered land of man’s endeavour will first be desert, with all our learning a burnt page trodden in the dust of error? Farewell to wisdom and to all remembering.
Griffith was a career civil servant, and rose to a senior post in the Inland Revenue. He was a key helper to Sir Ernest Gowers in the writing of Plain Words in 1948. He was a well-known broadcaster, a founder-member of the Round Britain Quiz team. After retirement from the Inland Revenue he served as vice chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain. He was appointed CBE in the 1961 Birthday Honours.
A continuation of his World War memoir, based on research into Griffith’s papers, was published in 2010.
Again the soldiers fill the valley. Driven by necessity The men forge cannon And the women spin cloth for uniforms in their parlours Soon, the snowdrops. Young wives weave boots from palmetto fronds And aunts save their piss For the nitre that makes All the sloshing about in tears And furnishes the men in war.
Soon, the primrose. The children in the little games Have nothing to say of war But die. The older girls knit socks for the dying. The young men cut up the bodies playfully Notwithstanding history’s immanence And not yet fearful of the waking From their drunk and bloody spell.
Soon, the cuckoo And the cuckoo-flower; Cuckoo-pint: Arum and wake-robin And navelwort and pennywort And all the crazy flowering Of even the monocotyledonous plants. And in the lacunae between horrors Much is fulfilled as the comedian entertains And flaps the colours of war hanging From rope made of Spanish moss.
By Dic Edwards
Information: Dic Edwards (born 1948) is a British playwright, poet and teacher of creative writing. His writing often touches upon political and social issues, nationalism and democracy.