With very grateful thanks to Violet’s Great-Niece Annette Shelford, who wrote to “The Times” to tell us about Violet Spender, and who replied to my letter with a great deal of information, I am now able to bring you a sample of Violet’s poetry, a photograph and a little more about her.
This is one of the most fantastic aspects of my project - being able to bring you news of lesser known poets. My thanks to Annette and to "The Times":
(who died in France, March 1918. With a bunch of primroses picked by the children.)
“Heaviness endureth for a night: but joy cometh in the morning.”
Bright are our English fields with flowers and corn,
While other lands are seared by fear and torn,
And in the lanes our English children play,
Our laughing children, all too young as yet
To know French fields with English blood are wet,
The price which you, and our heroes had to pay
To keep the fierce and ruthless foe at bay.
My happy children, whom you died to save,
Have plucked these primrose blossoms for your grave:
God made them, when they grow to man’s estate,
Be worthy of a sacrifice as great
As you have made – not only you, but she
Who, for these children’s sakes, will never see
Her little babies dandled on your knee.
After her death, Violet’s husband Harold Spender wrote of her:
‘The writer of these verses was snatched from us just as she seemed on the threshold of a fuller, happier life: and we are still sitting in the shadow of that eclipse. We cannot penetrate the mystery that shrouds the passing of one so young and so loved. We can only bow the head. She wrote poetry because she could not help it. She was breathed upon by the divine wind from Parnassus. There were times when she seemed driven before it as by a tempest. Then she would not rest until the haunting idea had taken shape and form. But these burst were followed by great fatigues, and she was rarely capable of prolonged and continuous poetic effort. The sheets of paper would like around her, and we, who treasured her work, would often have to collect and preserve them after she had herself forgotten them. For she thought little of her work: it always fell short of her ideal. The Great War filled her mind with deep perplexities: she looked out on its waste and desolation with agonising pity for all men: and she often sought relief in poetry. What she thought and dreamed and hoped in her brief and crowded life will best be shown. For Poetry was her language. Poetry was her life.’
Photograph of Violet kindly supplied by Annette Shelford.