Sunday 20 December 2020

Mabel Checkley Forrest (1872 – 935) - Australian poet, writer and journalist.

With thanks to Marjorie Earl for her comments and  posts on Cathy Sedgwick's Facebook Page WW1 Australian War Graves in England/UK and for finding the poem about Australian VAD Lydia Grant

Helena Mabel Checkley Forrest was born on 6th March 1872, near Yandilla, Queensland (now part of Toowoomba Region), the daughter of James Checkley Mills and his wife Margaret Nelson, née Haxell, who was educated in France and Germany. She began writing at an early age.

 Mabel also lived in Goondiwindi, Dalby and later Townsville and Charters Towers. The publication of her first volume of poems, “Alpha Centauri”, in Melbourne in 1909, founded Mabel’s reputation as a poet. Her first novel “A Bachelor's Wife”, was included in the Bookstall series in 1914. “The Green Harper (prose and verse) followed in 1915, and “Streets and Gardens”, a collection of verse, in 1922. Several of Mabel’s short stories were translated into Dutch and published In Holland. Starting when she was seven years old, Mabel won a total of 14 prizes in literary competitions. She also wrote poems and short stories for various newspapers and magazines.

Mabel died of pneumonia on 18th March 1935 in Brisbane, after a long illness. She was married twice – her second husband was John Forrest - and was survived by a daughter. 

"Lydia Grant, V.A.D." - a poem by M. Forrest published in the “Sydney Mail”, newspaper, Wednesday, 18 April 1917, Page 28, in memory of  Lydia Grant, V.A.D. The first Australian V.A.D. to go from Queensland, who died while serving as a nurse in WW1 in Manchester, UK in 1917 and was buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery. 

Lydia Grant VAD

Who faced twin foes, Exhaustion and Disease,

And all the active horrors brought by war

To our great Motherland across the seas,

And faltered not where she her duty saw.

SO young

To lay aside life's riches, with the cup

Scarce at your lips. Brown hair and steadfast eyes,

You look to-day from gates of paradise,

While we weep and look up.


Beat at the outer ramparts of heaven's bars

To send our wailing thro' your radiant chant?

Your white feet find their homeland in the stars,

The girl who died for England— Lydia Grant.

Another poem by Mabel:


I was a Pirate once,

A blustering fellow with scarlet sash,

A ready cutlass and language rash;

From a ship with a rum-filled water-tank

I made the enemy walk the plank;

I marooned a man on an island bare,

And seized his wife by her long, dark hair;

Took treasure, such heaps of it! — wealth untold —

Bright bars of silver and chunks of gold!

Till my ship was choked to the decks with pelf,

And no one dare touch it except myself

And my black flag waved to the tearing breeze,

And I was the terror of all the seas!

I was a Fairy once.

I swung in the bows of the silky oak,

And the harebells rang to the words I spoke,

And my wings were fashioned of silver gauze,

And I knew no grief and no human laws.

And I lived where the laces of green leaves sway.

And my life was one long, long holiday.

No tasks to learn, and no bothering rules,

No hectoring grown-ups, and no—more—schools;

But a dance each eve, ’neath the moon’s cold light,

To sit up as late as I liked at night. . . .

For a lance I carried a grass-blade green,

And my shield was cut from an olivine;

I sipped cool dews from the cups of flowers,

My days were threaded of happy hours!

I was a Merman once.

In the gloom of the amber-tinted seas,

With the brown tang clinging about my knees,

With a coral house, and a crab to ride,

Who pranced, and who ambled from side to side;

I wooed a Mermaid with emerald hair,

Dragged the fierce sea-serpent from out his lair,

With his flaming tongue and his awful might,

And I slew him — easy — in open fight!

I had strings of pearls, white as frozen milk,

That were strung for me on sea-spider’s silk;

And I never pined for the upper skies,

Whose blue came down in the dead men’s eyes,

Drowned men with the salt on their blackened lips,

Who slid, drifting in, from the wrecks of ships;

But I took the gold from the belts of all,

To pave the road to my coral hall.

I was a Hunter once,

And I trapped and stalked in a pathless wood,

And the talk of the wild things understood.

With my leather leggings and hat of brown.

I tracked the elk and the redskin down;

Slew a grizzly bear in a mountain cave,

And tweaked the nose of an Indian brave.

Ere I shot the rapids in birch canoe  —

For there was nothing I could not do.

There was naught I did not dare or enjoy,

In the magic world of a dreaming boy!

Sources: Mabel’s Obituary in “The Mercury” Tue 19 Mar 1935 (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 - 1954)

Friday 18 December 2020

Edna Jaques (1891 - 1978) – Canadian poet, writer and lecturer

With thanks to a friend in Canada for sending me this information about Edna

Lecturer, author and poet, Edna Jaques was a popular figure throughout Canada. Her poems sometimes depicted the harsh beauty of the Prairies, but above all they celebrated the daily experiences of domestic life. 

Born in Collingwood, Ontario, on 17th January 1891, Edna moved with her family to a homestead southeast of Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan in 1902. Her education included attending a business college in Vancouver.  Edna married Ernest Jamieson  in 1921  and they had one daughter.


We have kept faith, ye Flanders' dead,

Sleep well beneath those poppies red

That mark your place.

The torch your dying hands did throw,

We've held it high before the foe,

And answered bitter blow for blow,

In Flanders fields.

And where your heroes' blood was spilled,

The guns are now forever stilled

And silent grown.

There is no moaning of the slain,

There is no cry of tortured pain,

And blood will never flow again,

In Flanders fields.

Forever holy in our sight

Shall be those crosses gleaming white,

That guard your sleep.

Rest you in peace, the task is done,

The fight you left us we have won,

And Peace on Earth has just begun,

In Flanders now.

Edna Jaques

Source Information received from a friend in Canada and

Lady Sybil Grant (1879 - 1955) – British artist, poet and writer

With grateful thanks to Art Lewry of Hunter Gatherer Ltd. for sending me so much information about Sybil. 

Lady Sybil Myra Caroline Primrose was the eldest child of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery and his wife, Hannah de Rothschild, only child of Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (1818–1874) and a granddaughter of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836). Through Hannah, as her father's sole heiress, the Mentmore Towers estate passed into the Rosebery family.

Sybil’s father, Lord Rosebery, served as Prime Minister to Queen Victoria from 1894 to 1895. On 28 March 1903, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, Lady Sybil married Charles John Cecil Grant (1877–1950), a regular soldier who later became a general and a Knight of the Bath. At the time of their marriage Charles was serving in the 1st Battalion Cold Stream Guards based in Aldershot. He later became General Sir Charles John Cecil Grant, KCB, KCVO, DSO.  They had one son, Charles Robert Archibald Grant, who married Pamela Wellesley (born 1912), a granddaughter of Arthur, 4th Duke of Wellington.

During the First World War, Lady Grant was invited to contribute to the Princess Mary’s Gift Book, a book of collected illustrated stories, in the effort to help raise money for the war effort. Other contributions were “A Holiday in Bed” by J. M. Barrie, “Bimbashi Joyce” by A. Conan Doyle, and “Big Steamers” by Rudyard Kipling.  Hodder & Stoughton published the book in 1915 with “All Profits On Sale Given To The Queen’s “Works For Women ” Fund.” As reported in “The New York Times”, Sybil also became the official photographer to the Royal Naval Air Service, in addition to which she produced a weekly war newspaper the ‘Home Letter’ for No. 2 Company, 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

Lady Sybil Grant was also a leading supporter of the "Lest We Forget" charitable fund, along with the Reverend Edward Dorling, and on the charity's behalf she organised a fete in the grounds of the family home “The Durdans” each year, when her pottery was often sold and in great demand.

The WW1 poetry collections written by Lady Sybil Grant were “The end of the day: poems” (Hodder &Stoughton, London, 1922) and  “The Unseen Presence” (Erskine Macdonald, London, 1918) – Reilly, p. 144.

Sources:  and

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978). 

Friday 11 December 2020

Margaret Helen Florine RN (1879 - 1949) – American poet and nurse

 With grateful thanks to Chris Dubbs who found me some newspaper articles relating to Margaret and her poetry collection, and to Leo Van Bergan for reminding me that I had not yet researched Margaret.

Margaret was from San Francisco, California, United States of America on 15th January 1879 but I have not been able to find out much about her, other than the fact that she trained as a nurse. The RN after her name means Registered Nurse in America – and Margaret worked in Fabiola Hospital, Oakland, California.   In reviewing Margaret’s collection, the “Petaluma Argus-Courier” newspaper of Wednesday, 13 March 1918, mentioned that she had a sister called Mabel “who teaches in the grammar school”.

Margaret was evidently preparing another collection of poetry because on Tuesday November 20 1917, the “San Francisco Examiner” newspaper reported that Margaret was “shortly to leave for the battlefields, where, as an army nurse, she will gather more material for “Songs of a Nurse”.  

As far as I have been able to ascertain, Margaret died on 7th April 1949.  If anyone has any further information and a photograph please get in touch.

The U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was established in 1901 as a permanent corps within the U.S. Army Medical Department. Because of the efforts of Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee and advocates for a professional nursing element within the U.S. Army, legislation was included into Section 19 of the Army Reorganization Act and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with some modification on February 2, 1901. Prior to the formal and legal recognition of nurses within the Army Medical Department, individuals had been providing care to sick and wounded soldiers as early as 1775.

“The Night Nurse” to M.L.R. by Margaret Helen Florine RN

Your day begins when others work is done,

With duties far more arduous than they know;

For hope has flown, her daily course is run;

She vanished with the sunset’s purple glow.

When she departs the night looms long and black

And filled with terrors never known by day;

Sufferings increase a hundred-fold to rack

The anguished victims, tortured bits of clay.

You calm and comfort with your words of cheer,

And smooth the bed, to snare the vagrant, Sleep;

You try to lure a truant dream, but fears

Like spectres grim around the helpless creep.

Your task is thankless, for as day returns

With fickle Hope you see your efforts scorned.

Your sole reward within your own heart burns,

The knowledge of duty faithfully  performed. 

From “Songs of a Nurse” (Philopolis press, California, 1918), p. 15. The collection  was advertised in the “Pacific Coast Journal of Nursing” (volume 15, 1919, p.770).


“A Cap of Horror: First World War poetry written by female Nurses and Carers” “Een Kap Van Afschuw” - an anthology by Leo Van Bergen (Uitgeverij dt (duidelijke taal), Nijmegen, 2020)

Photo: Nursing Personnel at U.S. Army Base Hospital No.88, Langres, France, ca. 1918 - National Library of Medicine #A06090

Review of “A Cap of Horror: First World War poetry by female Nurses and Carers” - an anthology by Leo Van Bergen (Uitgeverij dt (duidelijke taal), Nijmegen, 2020), with illustrations by Irma Jansen. Dutch title: “Een Kap Van Afschuw”

For this innovative anthology Leo Van Bergan selected poems by seventeen female WW1 poets who wrote in English and translated them into Dutch.  The resulting book is in two halves, which I think is a brilliant idea – in one side are the English poems, turn it over and you get the Dutch translations.    Although Dutch is not one of ‘my’ languages, I have spent time in Dutch-speaking countries and am familiar with the language.  As I studied French, German and Italian in my youth, I am interested in all languages and I feel that through learning other languages we can communicate better and communication is surely the key to a peaceful existence. 

I have researched most of the poets included in this anthology and all of them are on the list I have complied so far – see

However, there was one poet I had not yet researched, so I am extremely grateful to Leo for the chance to research Margaret Helen Florine RN, an American nurse and poet. 

The poets included in Leo’s anthology are:  Enid Bagnold, Mary Borden, Lillian Bowes-Lyon, Vera Brittain, May Wedderburn-Cannan, Eva Dobell, Margaret Helen Florine, Rosaleen Graves, Winifred Mary Letts, Rose Macaulay, Nina Mardel, Carola Oman, Jessie Pope, May Sinclair, Millicent Sutherland, Alberta Vickridge and M. Winifred Wedgwood.  Apart from the poems there is a Foreword in two parts by Leo and by Margo van Mol, a Dutch intensive care nurse and psychologist at Erasmus MC Rotterdam, and a Preface by Sophie de Schaepdrijver, Prefossor of Modern European History at Pennsylvania State University. Leo has also written a comprehensive Introduction to his selection.  Also included are brief biographies of the poets. 

This is a book that will be of great interest to those who appreciate poetry and those who are interested in the First World War – both English and Dutch speakers – as well as to language students.

The wonderful illustrations by Irma Jansen highlight the intensity of the emotions expressed in the poems Leo has selected.

Leo Van Bergen is a Dutch Medical Historian who has written several books about health and the First World War. 

Lucy London, December 2020 

Friday 27 November 2020

Desémea Newman Wilson (1885 – 1964) - British poet, novelist and school teacher

With grateful thanks to menofworth @menofworth via Twitter

for the information in this post

Desémea Newman was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, UK on 20th June 1885.  She taught at Keighley National School and in December 1910 married married Henry J. Wilson, a customs officer born 13 December 1880.  The couple moved to Berkshire, where they were living in 1939.

Desémea Newman Wilson wrote a poem dedicated to the memory of one of her former pupils - Sergeant John Edward Robinson - who was killed in action in Gallipoli on 21st August 1915. A former Keighley Boys Grammar School pupil and a member of the All Saint's Church Bible Class, nine of whom enlisted together.

Within his heart there stirred the lure of lovely things,

The poetry, the music, the love of life;

The lore of books was his, the magic power it brings,

And youth's proud emulation all he dreamed of strife.

He loved the quiet dawn, the grey-white mist wreaths curled

Over the level fields; the twilight's dusky fall;

Yet saw red dawn of carnage break o'er a sombre world,

And in a deadlier field met the last night of all.

…. Oh gallant soul that shrank, yet deep of danger drank,

Oh, hesitant, reluctant feet that yet pressed on.

The cup is quaffed, the journey done. Within the rank

Your place is filled. But eloquent though you are gone,

Your voice shall speak to those who loved, and through all days,

Circle your dead but deathless brows the victor's bays.

Published in the “Keighley News” Saturday, September 25th 1915

Desémea Newman Wilson went on to write at least six books and poems which were published in between the war years. 

National Schools were built on behalf of the Anglican Church.

 Photograph of Sergeant John Edward Robinson by kind permission of Menofworth who tell me that all the lads from Keighley Boys Grammar School who lost their lives are listed in their roll of honour and published on their website here:

Saturday 7 November 2020

A New Book about WW1 female poet Nadja - later Nadja Malacrida - with her poems

2020 marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of the WW1 female poet who used the pen name 'Nadja’ and later became  Marchesa Nadja Malacrida (born Louisa Green  see  ) – and, while she probably wouldn’t still have been around today, her life would certainly have continued to be fascinating and enjoyable for many more years had she not been killed in a tragic car accident in 1934.

What better time, therefore, to gather all her published poems together in one single volume for the first time ever? These four original collections were all written over a century ago and have been practically unobtainable for many years without laying out a small fortune to a rare book dealer.

We have put them together here with a brief biography of the author, and a few photos and other bits and pieces, that we hope you will find of interest – and that Nadja herself would also approve of.

Annotated and illustrated with new a introduction & preface, author biography, appendices and 12 new photographs.

Mail order sales link:

The Nadja Malacrida Society:

Thursday 29 October 2020

A poem by Katharine Tynan, (1859–1931) – Irish poet and writer

 With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for finding this information about a poem by Katharine Tynan 

"The Dream - for my Father"

Autograph manuscript signed, [1917–1918]

Over and over again I dream a dream,

I am coming home to you in the starlit gloam;

Long was the day from you and sweet 'twill seem

The day is over and I am coming home.

Then I shall find you as in days long past,

Sitting so quietly in the firelight glow;

'Love,' you will say to me, 'you are come at last.'

Your eyes be glad of me as long ago.

All I have won since then will slip my hold,

Dear love and children, the long years away;

I shall come home to you the girl of old,

Glad to come home to you -- oh, glad to stay!

Often and often I am dreaming yet

Of the firelit window when I've crossed the hill

And I coming home to you from night and wet:

Often and often I am dreaming still.

Over and over again I dream my dream.

Ah, why would it haunt me if it wasn't true?

I am travelling home to you by the last red gleam,

In the quiet evening I am finding you.

Katharine Tynan was born in Dublin. She was a very prolific writer who wrote fiction as well as poetry and was also a journalist. In 1898 Katharine married Henry Albert Hinkson, a writer and barriester and the couple went to live in London. Katharine was a close friend and literary associate of William Butler Yeats, she was also a friend of Lady Wilde, the poet known as “Speranza” (who was the mother of Oscar Wilde). 

During the First World War, Katharine was living in Ireland. Two of her sons served overseas. Katharine's collection entitled “Herb o' Grace: Poems in War- Time” (1918) contained the lyric “The Dream,” which was subtitled “(For My Father).” This manuscript version of the poem has a different text and includes an unpublished final stanza.

Katharine Tynan was included in the second exhibition of Fmale Poets of the First World War and is in  Volume 2 of “Female Poets of the First World War” 

Katharine’s WW1 collections were:

“Collected poems” (Macmillan, London, 1930); “Evensong” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1922); “Flower of youth: poems in wartime” (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1915); Herb o’grace: poems in wartime” Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1918); “The Holy War” (Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1916); “Late songs” (Sidgwick  & Jackson, London, 1917); “Poems – edited and with an introduction by Monk Gibbon (Figgis, Dublin, 1963);  “Selected poems” (Benn, 1931); “Twilight songs” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1927).  She also had poems printed in eighteen WW1 poetry anthologies.

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St/ Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 320  

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Introducing Becky Bishop, a modern poet who writes war-themed poems and is related to several WW1 poets

Today, in a slight departure from the usual posts, I am interviewing modern poet and artist Becky Bishop

Can you tell us a little about yourself please Becky?

I was born in Windsor and have moved around quite a bit, living in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Surrey, Devon and in Gloucestershire. I currently live with my grandma near the new forest in Hampshire. I have a degree in Criminology and Psychology and have mainly worked in administration and data entry aswell as doing volunteering within my community. In my spare time aside from reading and writing poetry, I love ballroom and Latin dancing and am a major strictly come dancing fan and also love crafts and enjoy making my own cards and jewellery. I have also been researching my family history for 23 years which started as a primary school project on my war relatives and over the years have found some interesting characters one of whom murdered his great uncle! I also enjoy walking and cycling and exploring historical places and particularly enjoy visiting cemeteries and war graves.

How did your interest in war poetry begin?

My interest in war poetry began when I focused my family history research onto my war relatives as I thought writing poems would be a fitting tribute and way to remember them.  During the course of my research I discovered I was distantly related to several war poets such as Julian and Gerald Grenfell and Ivar Campbell which inspired me even more and recently with your help I have discovered a connection to several more war poets such as Patrick Shaw-Stewart,  Raymond Rodakowski and Robert Nichols.

You are related to some famous WW1 people aren’t you Becky? Can you tell us a little bit about them please?

Yes over the course of my research I’ve found so many interesting people. As previously mentioned I’ve discovered connections to several war poets but never expected to find quite as many as I have, in addition to the ones mentioned there’s also Edward Wyndham Tennant, Maurice Baring, Nancy Cunard, Margaret Sackville, Evan Morgan, Aimee Byng Scott, Georgina Byng Paget, Celia Congreve and Lady Augusta Gregory. I have found several VC winners such as Francis Grenfell (cousin of Julian and Gerald and whose twin brother Riversdale also died in the war), Maurice Dease, William Congreve, Richard Annesley West along with some in ww2. Other interesting people include Huberht Hudson who was part of Ernest Shakletons expedition in 1914 and who served in both ww1 and 2 , Robert Gregory (son of lady Augusta Gregory) who was an artist and the subject of four poems by Yeats, and Adrian Drewe whose father built Castle Drogo. More recently I have also discovered some foreign relatives some of whom served in the German army and airforce during ww1 and 2  such as Heinrich Prinz Von Bayern who was a decorated army officer. I’ve found so many interesting stories during my research and not just of famous relatives but of ordinary soldiers etc who stories are just as important as the famous relatives.

But the First World War didn’t just involve the fighting men did it? In his book about the amazing American women journalists who visited the war zones of the First World War – “An Unladylike Profession“ – American author and journalist Chris Dubbs tells us that “The First World War forced a profound feminist revolution”. You have some extremely interesting female relatives too, haven’t you? Can you tell us a bit about some of them.

Yes women played an important part in the war too and during my research I’ve found a few who died and served in the two wars. More recently and after being inspired by you to investigate my female relatives more I discovered even more female relatives who served. Dorothea Feilding drove ambulances during the war and was the first woman to be awarded the military medal. Two other relatives, sisters Muriel and Olave Fock were also with a motor ambulance unit during the war. Several relatives set up hospitals - Rosamond Ridley set up a hospital for officers at her home, Sybil Grey and Muriel Paget set up a hospital in Russia. I have found several who worked as VADs such as Dorothy Nina Seymour who was a VAD in France and Russia and others who were commandants of hospitals such as Diana Lily James, Diana Isabel Brougham and Gwendoline Chevenix Trench. I have found numerous female relatives who worked for the Red Cross in some capacity such as in their wounded and missing department, one of whom was Flora Russell a watercolour painter who painted Gertrude Bell. One relative Edith Grant Duff set up a bread bureau for prisoners of war whilst another Edith Schafer set up workrooms for hospitals and was president of prisoner of war packing association. I’ve also recently discovered some suffragettes in the family and also have many interesting women who served in ww2.

I enjoy reading your weblog very much. Do you have any other weblogs/Facebook pages/Twitter pages, etc.?

Thank you, it’s nice to know that people do enjoy my blog and I try to keep it varied and am adding new pages to it. I also have a corresponding Facebook page - Becky’s Poems and Books - where I post details of my books and poems:

On Twitter Becky Bishop @BeckysBijoux and the website

Who are your favourite poets and have they influenced your own poetry?

I love the well known war poets such as Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, John McCrae and Laurence Binyon who have provided inspiration for my war poems aswell as my own war poet relatives. Other poets I love are William Wordsworth ( he was the first poet I studied at school when I studied his poem composed upon Westminster bridge), W H Auden (particularly his poem Funeral Blues) and Henry wadsworth Longfellow (particularly the Arrow and the Song) and Pam Ayres. I always enjoy reading any poems though and discovering new poets.

I think you have another book due out shortly, Becky. Can you tell us more about that please?

My next book that will be out very soon is called The Adventures of Bluebell Bunny which is a book for both children and adults. It is a collection of 10 short rhyming stories set around the local woods where I live and inspired by my neighbours pet rabbit, Bluebell. I’ve always loved fairy stories and woodland animal themed stories and for a while have wanted to write some rhyming stories. After a chat with my neighbour and hearing what mischief her rabbit was up to it gave me inspiration for the stories and whilst the stories are made up some do have a ring of truth about them

Once this book is published I plan to write about my female war relatives and once strictly come dancing is back on our screens I will be doing another poetry book based on the new series. I have numerous other books in the pipeline - I am writing up the 96 letters of a ww2 British soldier, at some stage I will do another poetry book for all occasions and also plan to write up some of my war relatives stories into a book. At some point in the future  I hope to hold a poetry reading event of my war poems.  

Can you read us one of your poems please Becky?

"Shot at Dawn"

Underage I was, when I first joined up to fight

To go and do what I thought was my duty, fighting day and night

Two years have passed now, I’m still a lad, barely eighteen

But I won’t ever forget, the horrors of war I’ve seen

I’ve fought in many battles, risking life and limb,

Each time thinking, the chances of making it out alive are slim

I may only be eighteen but this war is making me feel old

My nerves are constantly on edge, on my mind and body it’s taking a toll

The voices and noises are so loud, as they whirl around my head

And when I try to sleep, all I see are images of the dead

My hands shake and tremble, I can barely hold a gun

But I’ve been passed fit for duty, I’ve got to still face the hun

We’ve been given new orders, we’ve got to go over the top

But when the time comes, I’m frozen on the spot

The gunfire is deafening, I cower in the trench in fear

I try to block it out, running down my cheeks are tears

I don’t know how long I sit there but all goes quiet and my comrades come back at last

And what happens next, seems to happen so fast

For next thing I know I’ve been court martialled, for cowardice they say

But until today I’m no coward, I’ve risked my life each day

I don’t know what happened, today just seemed so tough

It all got too much for me, I’d finally had enough

I tell them that I’m ill, if I was a coward I wouldn’t have signed up underage

My fellow comrades try and support me but it just puts the commander in a rage

No one believes me, a doctor is sent along

He passes me as fit and the trial doesn’t last long

I have no representation, they find me guilty and sentence me to be shot

I write a letter to my parents, telling them I’m in a tight spot

I worry for my parents and family, there’s a stigma to being shot for cowardice you see

I’ll become just a bad memory hidden away, no one will speak again of me

I’m choosing not to be blindfolded, so I can look them in the eye

Facing them with courage, until the time I die

With fellow comrades amongst the firing squad, with bravery I face my execution date

Shot at dawn I was, my pardon came too late


Thank you very much indeed Becky.  We look forward very much to your next book.

To find out more about Becky's work and her publications please see her website website:

Lucy London, September 2020 

Friday 11 September 2020

Florence Earle Coates (1850 - 1927) – American poet, writer and lyricist

My thanks to Professor Margaret Stetz, Dr. Gregory Mackie and Chris Dubbs for their inspiration and help in researching Florence Earle Coates

Florence was born on 1st July 1850 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America.  Her parents were George H. Earle Senior and his wife, Frances (known as Fanny) Van Leer Earle.  Florence’s paternal grandfather was the abolitionist and philanthropist Thomas Earle.

Educated in Lexington, Massachusetts before going to Europe to study at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Paris, France, Florence went on to study music in Brussels, Belgium. 

In 1872, Florence married William Nicholson and the couple had a daughter -  Alice Earle Nicholson - who was born on 21st October 1873.  William died in 1877 and on 7th January 1879, Florence married Edward Hornor Coates at Christ Church in Philadelphia.  Edward Coates adopted Florence and William's daughter.  Florence and Edward had one child together  - Josephine Wisner Coates – but she died on 5th March 1881. Edward Coates was President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1890 to 1906. 

Florence served as a leader in several social organizations, including the Society of Mayflower Descendants. 

Matthew Arnold

British poet and critic Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888) encouraged and inspired Florence in her writing and was a guest on several occasions at the Coates' Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania home "Willing Terrace," when he was in Philadelphia.   Florence and Matthew Arnold first met in New York at the home of Andrew Carnegie during Arnold's first lecture tour of America, and they became friends. That first tour lasted from October 1883 to March 1884 and in December 1883, Arnold lectured at Association Hall in Philadelphia. His second tour of America took place in 1886 and found him in Philadelphia in early June, where he stayed with Florence and Edward.

Matthew Arnold wrote letters to Florence in 1887 and 1888 from his home at Pains Hill Cottage in Cobham, Surrey, England, describing his remembrance of and fondness for her "tulip-trees and maples."

Many of Florence’s poems were published in magazines such as the “Atlantic Monthly”, “Scribner's Magazine”, “The Literary Digest”, “Lippincott's”, “The Century Magazine” and “Harper's”.  Some of her poems were set to music by the American composer Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (September 5, 1867 – December 27, 1944) - see example left.

Writing about Florence in “Book News Monthly” (December 1917) V. 36 No. 4, American writer Elizabeth Clendenning Ring (1861–1940) tells us:  "... Mrs. Coates was abroad in the turbulent days that marked the outbreak of the amazing war and in a poem, sensitively vivid, describes the scene in the Place de la Concorde, August 14th, 1914".

“Place de la Concorde” by Florence Earle Coates - August 14, 1914

(Since the bombardment of Strasburg, August 14, 1870, her statue in Paris, representing Alsace, has been draped in mourning by the French people.)

Place de la Concorde, Paris, WW1

Near where the royal victims fell

In days gone by, caught in the swell

Of a ruthless tide

Of human passion, deep and wide:

There where we two

A Nation’s later sorrow knew —

To-day, O friend! I stood

Amid a self-ruled multitude

That by nor sound nor word

Betrayed how mightily its heart was stirred.

A memory Time never could efface —

A memory of Grief —

Like a great Silence brooded o’er the place;

And men breathed hard, as seeking for relief

From an emotion strong

That would not cry, though held in check too long.

One felt that joy drew near —

A joy intense that seemed itself to fear —

Brightening in eyes that had been dull,

As all with feeling gazed

Upon the Strasburg figure, raised

Above us — mourning, beautiful!

Then one stood at the statue’s base, and spoke —

Men needed not to ask what word;

Each in his breast the message heard,

Writ for him by Despair,

That evermore in moving phrase

Breathes from the Invalides and Père Lachaise —

Vainly it seemed, alas!

But now, France looking on the image there,

Hope gave her back the lost Alsace.

A deeper hush fell on the crowd:

A sound — the lightest — seemed too loud

(Would, friend, you had been there!)

As to that form the speaker rose,

Took from her, fold on fold,

The mournful crape, gray-worn and old,

Her, proudly, to disclose,

And with the touch of tender care

That fond emotion speaks,

’Mid tears that none could quite command,

Placed the Tricolor in her hand,

And kissed her on both cheeks!

Edward Coates died on 23rd December 1921. Named the Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania in 1915, Florence died on 6th April 1927 in Philadelphia.

Florence’s WW1 collection “Pro Patria” was published privately in 1917.  

Several other war-related poems not included in the 1917 collection were published in various magazines of the time and they described the selfless sacrifices made by soldiers and citizens alike for the cause of freedom and liberty.

“In War-Time” by Florence Earle Coates

 (An American Homeward-Bound)

Further and further we leave the scene

    Of war — and of England’ s care;

I try to keep my mind serene —

    But my heart stays there;

For a distant song of pain and wrong

    My spirit doth deep confuse,

And I sit all day on the deck, and long —

    And long for news!

I seem to see them in battle-line —

    Heroes with hearts of gold,

But of their victory a sign

    The Fates withhold;

And the hours too tardy-footed pass,

    The voiceless hush grows dense

’Mid the imaginings, alas!

    That feed suspense.

Oh, might I lie on the wind, or fly

    In the willful sea-bird’s track,

Would I hurry on, with a homesick cry —

    Or hasten back?

Portrait of Florence Earle Coates, painted by American artist Violet Oakley (1874 – 1961)

Photograph of Matthew Arnold photographer unknown

Photograph of Place de la Concorde, WW1 by American photographer Fred F. Marshall


Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) page 394 "Florence Earle Coates: Some Phases of her Life and Poetry" (1917) by Elizabeth Clendenning Ring (1861–1940)

Photo of Place de la Concorde, Paris, WW1 by Fred F. Marshall

NOTE: Professor Margaret Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware;

Dr. Gregory Mackie is Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, Department of English Language and Literatures at The University of British Columbia and

Chris Dubbs is a World War 1 Historian from Philadelphia

Thursday 27 August 2020

Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (1852 – 1932) - Irish dramatist, poet, writer and theatre manager.

With thanks to poet Becky Bishop for telling me about Lady Gregory.  

Isabella Augusta Persse was born at Roxborough, County Galway, Ireland on 15th March 1852. She was educated at home and became interested in Irish folklore at an early age. 

On 4th March 1880, in St Matthias' Church, Dublin, Isabella married Sir William Henry Gregory, a widower with an estate at Coole Park, near Gort. Sir William had just retired from his post as Governor of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), having previously served several terms as Member of Parliament for County Galway.  Their only child, WW1 soldier artist William Robert Gregory born in 1881. He was killed during the First World War while serving as a pilot, an event which inspired W. B. Yeats's poems "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death", "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory" and "Shepherd and Goatherd".

Isabella, William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre.

Isabella died on 22nd May 1932. 

“Alas! A woman may not love!” by Lady Gregory

Alas! a woman may not love!

For why should she bestow in vain

The riches of that treasure-trove

To win but a receipt of pain.

For never will the gainer pay

In full the love she gives away –

Be it a brother – soon some other

Sweet maiden passing holds his eye

And in his thought she stands for naught

His second self in days gone by –

Be it a husband – ah! how soon

The rainbow-coloured honeymoon

Fades in dull tints of common life

With misty cares and clouds of strife –

Be it her sons – some few short years

They cling to her in smiles and tears

But childhood passes fast and then

The boys look on themselves as men

And learn too quickly to despise

The love lore in their mother’s eyes –

Or if – ah me! she chance to find

One led to her by wayward fate

In whom she learns a kindred mind

Found by her own too late – too late –

Ah pity her – for if she yield

What from remorse her soul can shield –

Or if she conquer, the sore strife

May yet have cost her half her life –

The wound that ne’er can be laid bare

May be the sorest scar to wear –

The grief that brings no right to weep

May be the one to banish sleep –

Perchance not so in heaven above –

But here, a woman may not love.


Sunday 23 August 2020

Lucy Hawkins ( ? - ?) - WW1 female poet

It is always exciting to discover a poet I have not previously heard of.  In the book “The Forgotten Army: Women’s Poetry of the First World War”, edited by Nora Jones and Liz Ward, are several poets I have not yet researched and one I had not previously heard of – Lucy Hawkins.   On pages 24 – 25 are Lucy Hawkins’ poems “A Private” and “To an Officer in Regent Street”.  

Lucy Hawkins' WW1 collection “At a Venture” was published by Blackwell, Oxford in 1917.

I have not been able to discover anything about Lucy Hawkins – if anyone can help please get in touch.

"To an Officer in Regent Street” by Lucy Hawkins

LIKE some lean ghost who for a little space

Looks on the world again, and the clear skies,

Or mariner that from the sea doth rise

In vain, to find another in his place,

You walk with shades of death on your brown face

And look upon the street with dead men’s eyes.

Fresh women throng beside  you in the street

And painted women;  but they seek in vain

To catch those haunted eyes, or turn again

From their slow course toward waiting death your feet.

You must pass lonely, on whose brow there meet

Abel’s sharp anguish, and the curse of Cain.

Note: Regent Street is one of the main shopping centres of London’s West End.  It was named after the Prince Regent George, who went on to become King George IV. It runs from Waterloo Place in St James's at the southern end, through Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, to All Souls Church. From there Langham Place and Portland Place continue the route to Regent's Park.

Women’s Poetry of the First World War” Edited by Nora Jones and Liz Ward (Highgate Publications, Beverley, Ltd., Beverley, 1991)

Sunday 16 August 2020

Georgina Byng Paget (1874 - 1916) – British poet.

With thanks to Historian and Poet Becky Bishop for

reminding me that I had not yet researched Georgina who is on the List of Female Poets

Georgina Byng Paget was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK in 1874, the birth being registered in the first quarter.  Her parents were Herbert Byng Paget (1846 – 1914) and his wife, Clara Fraser Paget, nee Robinson. Georgina was baptised on 25th February 1874.

In June 1904, Georgina Byng Paget married Eric Morton Paget. Eric was the fourth son of the Rev. Edward Heneage Paget.  In 1911, Georgina and Eric were living in Great Barton, Suffolk.

Georgina died at Hindhead, Surrey on 14th September 1916.

Her poetry collection “Song of the Unborn, and other poems” was published by Grant Richards, London, in 1916.  

“AFTERWARDS” by Georgina B. Paget

LAST night I dreamed he came to me,

My soldier and my saint:

Somewhere, far off, an earthly sea

Beat desolate and faint;

In a dim twilight place we met,

No world before, behind.

I could not see his face, and yet

I knew his eyes were kind.

No words; he knew my heavy part -—

Longing that may not cease —

And, knowing that he knew, my heart

Fell upon utter peace.

And then I woke: a late cock crew,

The clocks were chiming seven—

O God! if Heaven be dreams come true

We need not dream, in Heaven.

From “Song of the Unborn” p. 13


I have a friend who is more than a friend,

But he may not tell me so ;

We play at the game of Let’s Pretend,

And he doesn’t know that I know.

We could never win through the gate of Sin

To the haven of heart’s desire;

Let us wait awhile (with a sigh and a smile

Lest our pearl be lost in mire. 

So, because my friend is more than my friend

I never must tell him so;

But play at the game of Let's Pretend,—

And he'll never know that I know.

From “Song of the Unborn” p. 38.


Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) p. 247.

Friday 14 August 2020

Kathleen Montgomery Wallace (1890 – 1958) – British writer and poet

Kathleen was born Kathleen Montgomery Coates in Cambridge on 11th September 1890.  Her father, William Montgomery Coates (1857 – 1912), was a Fellow, a Bursar and a Lecturer in Maths at Queen’s College, Cambridge University.  Her mother was Susan Coates, nee Webb.  William and Susan were married in Dublin in 1899.  The couple had three children – twin daughters, Aileen Montgomery (1890‒1891) and Kathleen Montgomery (1890‒1958), and a son, Basil Montgomery (1893‒1915). Aileen died when she was just fourteen months old, which must surely have had been traumatic for little Kathleen as well as for her parents. The family lived in Cambridge and also had a home in Norfolk.

Educated at Perse High School for Girls, Cambridge, Kathleen went on to Girton College in 1909, where she read Modern Languages. She specialised in French, taking the MML Tripos Part I in 1912 and Part II in 1914. Kathleen, along with Margaret Postgate (Cole), Monica Mary Curtis and two other Girton graduates, contributed poems to a volume of poetry entitled “Bits of Things”, which was published in January 1914.

Kathleen’s brother, Basil, was educated at The Perse School and Oundle before going on to Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he joined the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC).  He volunteered for the Army in 1914 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Rifle Brigade from the University OTC.  Basil’s Regiment – the 10th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own) - was posted to France in the early summer of 1915.  He served at the front in the Ypres Salient and was killed by a sniper on 7th September 1915, while on patrol south of Ypres.  Basil has no known grave and is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium - Panel 10.

In March 1917, Kathleen married Canadian soldier Major James Hill Wallace (1882 - 1953) in Fulham, London. James was a Canadian soldier from North Gower, Ontario, who was attached to the Canadian Mounted Rifles. By the Armistice in November 1918, James was serving as Chief Supervisor of the Canadian YMCA and was awarded an OBE for his war service.

In 1918, Kathleen published a collection of poems entitled “Lost City Verses” (Heffer, Cambridge, 1918), in which many of the poems reflect her grief at the loss of her brother.  Kathleen also had poems published in two WW1 poetry anthologies. 

After the War, Kathleen and her husband spent two years in Ontario, before going to China for several years. They returned to live in England in 1927.  The couple had four sons.

Kathleen’s experiences in China were the inspiration for a series of novels published between 1930 and 1938, of which the most successful was “Ancestral Tablet” (1938). As well as poetry and novels, Katherine wrote fictional biographies and children’s stories.

James died on 30th November 1953 and Kathleen died on 29th March 1958 at St. George’s Hospital in London.  

Here is one of Kathleen's poems "Died of Wounds" from  “Lost City Verses” (Heffer, Cambridge, 1918)

Because you are dead, so many words they say,

If you could hear them, how they crowd, they crowd;

“Dying for England – but you must be proud” –

And “Greater love, honour, a debt to pay”,

And “Cry, dear”, someone says; and someone, “Pray!”

What do they mean, their words that throng so loud?

This, dearest; that for us there will not be

Laughter and joy of living dwindling cold,

Ashes of words that dropped in flame, first told;

Stale tenderness, made foolish suddenly.

This only, heart’s desire, for you and me,

We who lived love, will not see love grow old.

We who had morning time and crest o’the wave

Will have no twilight chill after the gleam,

Nor for any ebb-tide with a sluggish stream;

No, nor clutch wisdom as a thing to save.

We keep for ever (and yet they call me brave)

Untouched, unbroken, unrebuilt, our dream.


Catherine W. Reilly.- “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, new York, 1978) pp. 6, 11 and  326.

Michael Copp.- “Cambridge Poets of The Great War: An Anthology” (Associated University Presses, 2001) pp. 52 and 247.

Friday 31 July 2020

Commemorative First World War Exhibition Project

This self-funded project is in memory of my Grandfather, who was an Old Contemptible  with the Royal Field Artillery who survived, and my two Great Uncles who lost their lives in WW1.

I began researching WW1 in 2012 for an exhibiton of Female Poets of the First World War, requested by Dean Johnson, founder of the Wilfred Owen Story museum (The WOS), Wirral, UK.   Once the exhibition was on display, I just continued researching, adding other headings. Inspirational Women of WW1 came about when I stumbled on the story of Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton, commissioned in early 1919 by the Canadian Amputees Association to go and paint the aftermath in France and Belgium.  Philip Gosse, MD, a General Practitioner in Britain was the Official Rat Catcher Officer of the British Second Army on the Western Front, which brought about Fascinating Facts of the Great War.  Realisation that Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves were not the only male soldier poets of WW1, prompted me to start researching Forgotten Poets of the First World War.  I am now researching lesser-known artists of WW1.

Exhibition panels are e-mailed free of charge to anyone wishing to host an exhibition.  Exhibitions have been held in a wide variety of locations throughout the UK, as well as in Cork University, Ireland and in Delaware University, USA, and panels have been sent to schools.  If you know of a venue that would like to display panels, please ask them to contact me and I will send them the list of panels researched so far. 

If you are interested in exhibiting any of the panels researched so far, a full list of panels available will be sent on request.  Some of the panels have been put into book form – please see for details.

Commemorative First World War Exhibition Project

Also on Facebook:

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Ada Foster Murray (1856 - 1939) – American poet

Born in 1856 in Edgbrook, Virginia, USA, Ada Foster Murray is perhaps best remembered now as being the mother of the poet Aline Murray Kilmer -  the wife of the American soldier poet Joyce Kilmer.  However, Ada was also a published poet.

Little is known about Ada’s early life;  she married Kenton C. Murray, (d. 1895), who was the Editor of the “Norfolk Landmark” newspaper and they went to live in Brunswick, New Jersey. Ada and Kenton had the following children: Kenton Foster Murray (1876–1937), Ada B. Murray b. 1884,
Aline Murray Kilmer (1888–1941), Constance Murray Greene b. 1891 and Douglas Murray (1894–1951).

After the death of Kenton Murray in 1895, Ada married Henry Mills Alden on 22nd February 1900 in Washington, DC.  Henry was the managing editor of “Harper's Magazine”, and he became stepfather to Ada and Kenton’s children.  The couple and their family lived in in Metuchen, New Jersey.

Ada continued to write throughout her life, both poetry and prose and had several poems published in various newspapers and magazines during her lifetime. In 1910 that she compiled and published a collection of her work under the title “Flower’s O’ The Grass”.

“Unwedded” by Ada Foster Murray

ALONG her tranquil way she went,
  The slow, sad course of changeless years,
While in her burned her youth unspent,
  Dulled sometimes by her gentle tears.

In richer lives she saw the strange,
  Sweet urgency of wedded days;
In dreams she watched her pale light change,
  Into the steadfast altar blaze.

And, waking, sadly bowed above
  Her slender vestal flame and wept;
Ah, better were the house of love,
  By blighting fire and tempest swept.

From:  “The Answering Voice: One Hundred Love Lyrics by Women”, edited by Sara Teasdale (1884–1933)  (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1917).

Sources:  Various, including

Angela Morgan (c.1875 - 1957) - American poet and pacifist

Nina Lillian Morgan was born in about 1875. Her parents were Alwyn Morgan and Carol Baldwin Morgan. She had three sisters and a brother.  From 1876 until 1885, fhe family lived in Washington, DC;  they then moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and later to Topeka, Kansas. In 1890 Angela's father left home to become a gold prospector, and until 1898 she earned money singing with her three sisters. She married Peter Sweningson in 1900 but the marriage was dissolved in 1906.

Changing her name to Angela, she became a journalist for the “Chicago Daily American”, later working for the “New York American” and the “Boston American”.

Angela's first poetry collection, entitled “The Hour Has Struck”, was published in 1914.  In 1915, one of her poems - “God's Man” - was published in “Collier's Weekly”, an American magazine, founded in 1888 by Peter Fenelon Collier. The magazine ceased publication with the issue dated for the week ending January 4, 1957

In April 1915, Angela crossed the Atlantic Ocean as one of the American delegates to the International Congress of Women’s Peace Conference which was held in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Between 1923 and 1926, Angela lived in London, UK. She was the first woman to be invited to give a reading of her poetry for the Poetry Society in London, which was founded in 1909 as the Poetry Recital Society, becoming the Poetry Society in 1912.

For several years, Angela was the poet in residence at Ogontz Junior College, Rydal (PA). She also served as President of the Philadelphia branch of the League of American Penwomen and Chairman of the Literary Arts Committee of the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

In 1942, Angela was awarded an honorary doctorate for her services to literature from Golden State University, founded in Los Angeles in 1901, and now in Downey, California.

Angela died at Mount Marion, New York on 24th January 1957, leaving a legacy of poems and short stories.

Some of Angela’s publications include:
“The Hour Has Struck- A War Poem and Other Poems” (Eugene C. Lewis Co., New York, 1915)
“Utterance and Other Poems” (1916)
“Forward, March” (1918)
“Hail, Man” (1919)

An excerpt from the poem “THE HOUR HAS STRUCK” by Angela Morgan

Now let the people stand and take great heed —
The time is ripe for the immortal deed,
The call is loud for the untrammeled man
To execute God's plan.
Men have gone back unto their primal greed,
On all the hopes of earth have they gone back,
Traitors to faith and every human creed —
Justice and Life and Truth arc on the rack.
A Monster crouches on the breast of Time,
Fiercer than Moloch, filthier than crime ;
A Monster foaming drunk with human gore —
Poets may sing their battle hymns no more.
Poets no more their battle songs may raise.
Nor priest nor patriot sound their putrid praise-
Their blasphemies were smitten from the pen.
Their voices hushed by shrieks of dying men.
Let him who tries
To light his lyric by those crimson skies
Look on this Monster with the hideous head,
White with the staring eyeballs of the dead.
Let him behold the Terror face to face.

From: “The Hour Has Struck- A War Poem and Other Poems” (Eugene C. Lewis Co., New York, 1915)

Chris Dubbs “An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War1” (Potomac Books, Inc., Nebraska, 2020)  p. 140
Mark Van Wienen, “Women’s Ways in War: the Poetry and Politics of the Woman’s Peace Party, 1915- 1917, Modern Fiction Studies, Volume 38, No. 3 – “The “Politics " of Modernism (John Hopkins University Press, Autumn 1992), pp. 687-714.
Catherine W. Reilly, “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 398

Sunday 19 July 2020

Edith Matilda Thomas (1854 –1925) -American poet

“… one of the first poets to capture successfully the excitement of the modern city"

Born in Chatham Center, Ohio, USA on 12th August 1854, Edith was educated at the normal school of Geneva, Ohio, and Oberlin College. She became a school teacher for two years, before becoming a typesetter.

Edith began writing at an early age early for the local newspapers, and was encouraged by author Helen Hunt Jackson to send verse to more important periodicals. Edith gained national attention with her poetry when “Scribner's”, “The Atlantic Monthly”, “The Century” and other prominent magazines published her poems.

In 1884, Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts* wrote of her that "as far as I am aware her poems are not yet gathered in book form, and are therefore only to be obtained, few in number, by gleaning from the magazines and periodicals. Yet so red-blooded are these verses, of thought and of imagination all compact, so richly individual and so liberal in promise, that the name of their author is already become conspicuous.... We are justified in expecting much from her genius."

Edith’s first collection, entitled “A New Year's Masque and Other Poems” was published in 1885.  In 1887 she moved to New York City, where she worked for “Harper's” and “Century Dictionary”. She lived in New York for the rest of her life and published more than 300 poems between 1890 and 1909.

Edith died on 13th September 1925 and on her death she was described as "one of the most distinguished American poets” by The New York Times.

Edith’s collection “Selected Poems” was published in 1926, a year after her death.


The little children in my country kiss the American flag. MADAME VANDERVELDE

What of those children over the sea
That are beating about the world’s rough ways,
Like the tender blossoms from off a tree
That a sudden gale in Spring betrays?
The children? Oh, let them look for the sign
Of a wave-borne flag, thou land of mine!
On the old gray sea its course it holds,
Life for the famished is in its gift ....
And the children are crowding to kiss its folds,
While the tears of their mothers fall free and swift. —
And what of the flag their lips have pressed?
Oh, guard it for ever — That flag is blest.

Edith M. Thomas

From: “The Book of the Homeless - Le Livre des Sans-Foyer - a 1916 collection of essays, art, poetry, and musical scores”, edited by Edith Wharton and sold during WW1 for the benefit of the American Hostels for Refugees (with the Foyer Franco-Belge) and of the Children of Flanders Rescue Committee (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916)

The book is now available as a free download courtesy of Gutenberg:


*Charles G.D. Roberts, honoured as the father of Canadian literature, was one of the older poets to serve in the First World War.  Born in 1860, he had to lie about his age to join the army; he served as a troop instructor in Britain and as a war historian on the Western Front.

Friday 17 July 2020

Mary Borden (1886 – 1968) - American poet, writer and nurse in WW1

Portrait of Mary by
Glyn Philpot 1884 - 1937
Mary Borden was born on 15th May 1886. Her parents were milionaire William Borden 1850–1906 and his wife, Mary DeGarmo Whiting Borden, 1861–1933. Her siblings were: John Borden 1884–1961 and William Whiting Borden  1887–1913.

Mary’s brother, William Whiting Borden, became well known in conservative Christian circles for his evangelistic zeal and early death while preparing to become a missionary.

Mary was educated at Vassar College Liberal arts college in New York State, graduating with a BA degree in 1907.  Mary met Scottish misionary George Douglas Turner (b. 1880), while on a tour of the Far East. They were married on 28th August 1908 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The couple had three daughters:  Joyce (born 1909), Comfort (born 1910) and Mary (born 1914).

In 1913, Mary and her husband went to live in England, where Mary joined the Suffragette movement. She was arrested during a demonstration in Parliament Square for throwing a stone through the window of His Majesty's Treasury.

When war broke out in August 1914, Mary used her personal fortune and her contacts and equipped a field hospital to take to France. She served there in a nursing capacity until the end of the war looking after wounded French soldiers.  While there, Mary met Edward Louis Spears, a British soldier who was a liaison officer between French and British forces. He was amazed to find a woman so close to the front lines. They fell in love and Mary separated from her husband, who took custody of their children.  After Mary and George’s divorce, Mary and Edward were married at the British consulate in Paris in 1918. Their only child, Michael, was born in 1921.
Mary during WW1

Mary wrote poetry during her time in France and also wrote about her wartime experiences in a book entitled “The Forbidden Zone”, which was published in 1929, the same year that Hemingway published “A Farewell to Arms”, Graves published  “Good-Bye to All That” and Remarque published “All Quiet on the Western Front”.  The Forbidden Zone containes five long poems that describe what she saw and did working in the military hospital

Mary and Edward lived in Britain between the wars and in 1939, she was drawn back to France planning to set up a field hospital unit. With funds donated by Sir Robert Hadfield via his wife, Lady Hadfield, she set up the Hadfield-Spears Ambulance Unit, which was based in Lorraine until forced by the German Blitzkrieg to retreat across France, before its evacuation from Arcachon in June 1940. In Britain, the unit re-grouped and received further funding from the British War Relief Society in New York. In May 1941, the Hadfield-Spears Ambulance Unit was attached to the Free French in the Middle East, before accompanying their forces across North Africa, Italy and France.

Mary Borden (center) with Sir Edward Spears (back row, left)
 in the Lebanon, 1942, IWM
"Journey Down a Blind Alley", published on her return to Paris in 1946, records the history of the unit and her disillusionment with the French failure to put up an effective resistance to the German invasion and occupation.

In later life, Mary returned frequently to America and helped her nephew-in-law - Adlai Ewing Stevenson II - in his campaign for the presidency. Mary died on 2nd December 1968.

 "UNIDENTIFIED" by Mary Borden

Look well at this man. Look!
Come up out of your graves, philosophers,
And you who founded churches, and all you
Who for ten thousand years have talked of God.
Come out of your uncomfortable tombs, astronomers,
Who raked the heavens with your mighty eyes,
And died, unanswered questions on your lips,
For you have something interesting to learn
By looking at this man.
Stand all about, you many-legioned ghosts;
Fill up the desert with your shadowy forms,
And in the vast resounding waste of death,
Watch him while he dies;
He will not notice you.
Observe his ugliness.
See how he stands there planted in the mud like some old battered image of a faith forgotten by its God.
Note his naked neck and jutting jaw under the iron hat that's jammed upon his head;
See how he rounds his shoulders, bends his back inside his clumsy coat;
And how he leans ahead, gripping with grimy fists
The muzzle of his gun that digs it butt-end down into the mud between the solid columns of his legs.
Look close, come close, pale ghosts
Come back out of the dim unfinished past;
Crowd up across the edges of the earth,
Where the horizon, like a red hot wire, twists underneath tremendous smoking blows.
Come up, come up across the quaking ground that gapes in sudden holes beneath your feet;
Come fearlessly across the twisting field where bones of men stick through the tortured mud.
Ghosts have no need to fear.
Look close at this man. Look!
He waits for death;
He watches it approach;
His little bloodshot eyes can see it bearing down on every side;
He feels it coming underneath his feet, running, burrowing underneath the ground;
He hears it screaming in the frantic air.
Death that tears the shrieking sky in two,
That suddenly explodes out of the festering bowels of the earth
Dreadful and horrid death.
He takes the impact of it on his back, his chest, his belly and his arms;
Spreads his legs upon its lurching form;
Plants his feet upon its face and breathes deep into his pumping lungs the gassy breath of death.
He does not move.
In all the running landscape there's a solitary thing that's motionless:
The figure of this man.
The sky long since has fallen from its dome.
Terror let loose like a gigantic wind has torn it from the ceiling of the world,
And it is flapping down in frantic shreds.
The earth ages ago leaped screaming up out of the fastness of its ancient laws.
There is no centre now to hold it down. It rolls and writhes, a shifting tortured thing, a floating mass of matter set adrift.
And in between the fluttering tatters of the ruined sky,
And the convulsions of the maddened earth,
The man stands solid.
Something holds him there.
What holds him, timid ghosts?
What do you say, you shocked and shuddering ghosts,
Dragged from your sheltered vaults;
You who once died in quiet lamp-lit rooms;
Who were companioned to the end by friends;
And closed your eyes in languor on a world
That you had fashioned for your pleasant selves?
You scorned this man.
He was for you an ordinary man.
Some of you pitied him, prayed over his soul, worried him with stories of Heaven and Hell.
Promised him Heaven if he would be ashamed of being what he was,
And everlasting sorrow if he died as he had lived, an ordinary man.
You gave him Gods he could not know, and images of God; laws he could not keep, and punishment.
You were afraid of him.
Everything about him that was his very own
Made you afraid of him.
His love of women, food and drink, and fun,
His clumsy reach for life, his open grabbing fist,
His stupid open gaping heart and mouth.
He was a hungry man,
And you were afraid of him.
None of you trusted him;
No one of you was his friend.
Look at him now. Look well, look long.
Your hungry brute, your ordinary man;
Your fornicator, drunkard, anarchist;
Your ruthless rough seed-sowing male;
Your angry greedy egotist;
Your lost, bewildered, childish dunce;
Come close kind look into his haggard face.
It is too late to do him justice now, or even speak to him.
But look.
Look at the stillness of his face.
It's made of little fragile bones and flesh, tissued of quivering muscles fine as silk;
Exquisite nerves, soft membrane warm with blood,
That travels smoothly through the tender veins.
One blow, one minute more, and that man's face will be a mass of matter, horrid slime and little brittle splinters.
He knows.
He waits.
His face remains quite still.
And underneath the bullet-spattered helmet on his head
His steady eyes look out.
What is it that looks out?
What is deep mirrored in those bloodshot eyes?
Terror? No.
Despair? Perhaps.
What else?
Ah, poor ghosts-poor blind unseeing ghosts!
It is his self you see;
His self that does remember what he loved and what he wanted, and what he never had;
His self that can regret, that can reproach its own self now; his self that gave itself, let loose its hold of all but just itself.
Is that, then, nothing? Just his naked self, pinning down a shaking world,
A single rivet driven down to hold a universe together.
Go back, poor ghosts. Go back into your graves.
He has no use for you, this nameless man.
Scholars, philosophers, men of God, leave this man alone.
No lamp you lit will show his soul the way;
No name restore his lost identity.
The guns will chant his death march down the world;
The flare of cannon light his dying;
The mute and nameless men beneath his feet will welcome him beside them in the mud.
Take one last look and leave him standing there,
Unfriended, unrewarded, and unknown.


Slander (A Hungarian edition, 1930s)
The Mistress of Kingdoms; or Smoking Flax by Bridget MacLagan (Pseudonym) (1912)
Collision by Bridget MacLagan (Pseudonym) (play) (1913)
The Romantic Woman by Bridget MacLagan (Pseudonym) (1916)
The Tortoise (1921)
Jane - Our Stranger (1923)
Three Pilgrims and a Tinker (1924)
Four O'Clock and Other Stories (1926)
Flamingo (1927)
Four O'clock (1927)
The Forbidden Zone (1929) OCLC: 1852756
Jehovah's Day (1929)
A Woman with White Eyes (1930)
Sarah Gay (1931)
Action for Slander (1937)
The Woman I Love (1937)
Journey Down a Blind Alley (1946)
You, the Jury (1952)
Poems of Love and War (2015)

Poems from “The Forbidden Zone”

Josephine Preston Peabody (874 – 1922) - American poet and playwright

Josephine was born in New York on 30th May 1874. She was educated at the Girls' Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts and at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 1898 at an art exhibition, Josephine was introduced to Khalil Gibran (6th January 1883 – 10th April 10 1931) the Lebanese-American writer, poet and artist, by Fred Holland Day, the American photographer and co-founder of the Copeland-Day publishing house.   When Gibran returned to the Lebanon they wrote regularly to each other.

From 1901 to 1903 Josephine taught English at Wellesley. The Stratford-on-Avon prize was awarded to her in 1909 for her play “The Piper”, which was produced in England in 1910 and in America at the New Theatre, New York City, in 1911.*

On 21st June 1906, Josephine married Lionel Simeon Marks, a British engineer and professor at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. They had a daughter, Alison Peabody Marks (1908 – 2008), and a son, Lionel Peabody Marks (1910 - 1984).

THE SANS-FOYER (Tr. The Homeless) by Josephine Preston Peabody

Love, that Love cannot share,—
Now turn to air!
And fade to ashes, O my daily bread,
Save only if you may
Bless you, to be the stay
Of the uncomforted.
Behold, you far-off lights,—
From smoke-veiled heights,
If there be dwelling in our wilderness!
For Love the refugee,
No stronghold can there be,—
No shelter more, while these go shelterless.
Love hath no home, beside
His own two arms spread wide;—
The only home, among all walls that are:
So there may come to cling,
Some yet forlorner thing
Feeling its way, along this blackened star.

From the book edited by Edith Wharton and produced and sold in aid of the Belgian Homeless during WW1 see below.

SAmong her publications were:

Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew (1897)
The Wayfarers: A Book of Verse (1898)
Fortune and Men's Eyes: New Poems, with a Play (1900)
In the Silence (1900)
Marlowe (her first play),[6]
The Singing Leaves; a book of songs and spells (1903)
The Wings (1905), a drama
The Book of the Little Past (1908)
The Piper: A Play in Four Acts (1909)
The Singing Man (1911), poems
The Wolf of Gubbio (1913)
New Poems (1915)

*NB: According to Olga David, Secretary of The Stratford Society: "The Stratford Upon Avon Memorial Theatre was inaugurated in April 1879.

The prize awarded to Josephine Preston Peabody was awarded for an International playwriting competition - 315 Writers took part;
“The Piper” won first prize - $1,500.00; and was performed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1910 and subsequently that summer in London and in New York in the winter of 1911".


“The Book of the Homeless - Le Livre des Sans-Foyer - a 1916 collection of essays, art, poetry, and musical scores”, edited by Edith Wharton and sold for the benefit of the American Hostels for Refugees (with the Foyer Franco-Belge) and of the Children of Flanders Rescue Committee (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916) which is available as a free download