Thursday 31 January 2019

Eva Dobell (1876 – 1963) - British poet and WW1 VAD

Following on from my post on 20th August 2014, here is a little more information about Eva.

Eveline Jessie Dobell, known as Eva, was born on 30th January 1876 in Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire, UK. Her parents were Wine Merhant and local historian Clarence Mason Dobell from Cheltenham, and his wife Emily Ann, nee Duffield.  Victorian poet Sydney Dobell (1824 – 1874) was Eva’s uncle. Eva had the following siblings: Clarence Brian, b. 1870 and Walter Duffield, b. 1872.

Eva joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) on 5th November 1914. She served as a nurse at The Priory Hospital, Gloucester, which opened on 5th November 1914.

Eva served during the First World War until 15th November 1917.  Her experiences during WW1 inspired her poetry.

Eva's Red Cross VAD Record Card

The Priory Hospital, Gloucester

After the war, Eva continued to write, publishing poetry collections and a verse drama. She also edited a book of poems by Lady Margaret Sackville.

Eva died in Cheltenham on 3rd September 1963.

Eva’s poetry collection ”A Bunch of Cotswold Grasses: Poems” was published by Stockwell in 1919 and “Verses Old and New” was published by P. Favil in 1959.


“English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” by Catherine W. Reilly (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 112;  Find my Past,  The British Red Cross data base of WW1 VADs and

Photograph Eva Dobell in uniform, WW1 - photographer unknown reproduced with kind permission of Richard Bomford  from'

Eva's Red Cross Record Card from the British Red Cross WW1 Archive

"Night Duty" by Eva Dobell

The pain and laughter of the day are done
So strangely hushed and still the long ward seems,
Only the Sister’s candle softly beams.
Clear from the church near by the clock strikes ’one’;
And all are wrapt away in secret sleep and dreams.

Here one cries sudden on a sobbing breath,
Gripped in the clutch of some incarnate fear:
What terror through the darkness draweth near?
What memory of carnage and of death?
What vanished scenes of dread to his closed eyes appear?

And one laughs out with an exultant joy.
An athlete he — Maybe his young limbs strain
In some remembered game, and not in vain
To win his side the goal — Poor crippled boy,
Who in the waking world will never run again.

One murmurs soft and low a woman’s name;
And here a vet’ran soldier calm and still
As sculptured marble sleeps, and roams at will
Through eastern lands where sunbeams scorch like flame,
By rich bazaar and town, and wood-wrapt snow-crowned hill.

Through the wide open window on great star,
Swinging her lamp above the pear-tree high,
Looks in upon these dreaming forms that lie
So near in body, yet in soul so far
As those bright worlds thick strewn ion that vast depth of sky.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Lucie Delarue-Mardrus (1874 - 1945) - French

Lucie Delarue-Mardrus was born in Honfleur, on the Normandy Coast in France, the youngest of six children. Her parents were  Georges Delarue, a lawyer, and his wife, Marie Louise, nee Jazet.

Lucie became a talented and prolific poet, writer, journalist, sculptor and designer.  

On 5th June 1900, Lucie married the translator and oriental studies expert Joseph Charles Mardrus and travelled with him to North Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Italy.   By the time WW1 broke out, Lucie had become famous.

Divorced in 1915, Lucie volunteered as a nurse in Hospital 13 in Honfleur.   After the war she lived and worked in Paris.  Lucie died in Honfleur on 26th April 1945. 

Lines, written by Lucie on 16th August 1914:

Toi mère et toi, ma soeur Marie
Pour moi recitez un Ave
Allons enfants de la patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé.

Oh Mother and my sister, Marie
Please say a prayer for me
Come children of our country
The day of glory is here.


Tous ces garçons qui sont partis,
Tous ces soldats dressés dans l’horreur de la guerre,
Ils ont été des tout petits
Emmaillotés au chaud dans les bras d’une mère.

Orgueilleux et casqués de fer,
Ils s’en vont vers le bruit de la foudre qu’on lance,
Laissant derrière eux l’autre enfer,
Pauvre enfer féminin des pleurs et du silence.

— Vous avez porté vos enfants,
Mères ! au plus profond de votre chair intime.
Alors, vaincus ou triomphants,
Vous croyez, quand ils sont tués, que c’est un crime.

Moi, voyant défiler ces gas,
J’évoque avec stupeur leur naissance et ses drames,
Et je songe, et je dis tout bas:
« Toutes ces têtes d’homme ont fait mal à des femmes. »


            All those boys who have left,
These soldiers reared to abominate war,
            Were little babies once, held
Snug and swaddled in a mother’s arms.
            All a-swagger in steel helmets,
They march towards the crack of flung lightning,
            And leave behind that other hell,
The sorry female hell of tears and silence.

            Mothers, in your inmost being, deep
Flesh of your flesh, you carried your children;
            For you, victory and defeat
Are one: you hold your children’s death a crime.

            But I just watch these lads march away,
And think in stupefaction of their birth;
            And deep inside myself I say:
‘All these men’s heads have torn women with pain.’
                        — by Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, translated by Ian Higgins

Professor Ian Higgins:  Lucie Delarue-Mardrus “Souffles de tempête” (Fasquelle, 1918). I included it, with a number of others by her (and poems by other female poets), in my Anthology of First World War French Poetry (University of Glasgow French and German Publications, 1996)

Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Mes Memoires, Gallimard, 1938, p. 196.

Ian says:  I find 'Régiments' very vivid and moving in its simplicity. It's so simple, in fact that the last line is a brute to translate. It really doesn't make explicit reference to being torn; it just says the heads have hurt women. But 'hurt' is so all-encompassing a word that it's quite dilute. In the context of the 'drames' of birth and all those heads bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the march, 'hurt' seems altogether too feeble ('how terribly hurtful'...). 'Given women pain' sounds equally limp-wristed. So I decided I had to produce a particularising translation (i.e. adding explicit detail that's only implicit in the French). Hence the 'torn'. But certainly, if I'd translated it thus as a student in the early 60s, there'd have been a sarcastic red pen put through it!

Mr Ian Higgins, Honorary Senior Lecturer

Lucie by Jean Cocteau
(1889 - 1963)