Friday, 19 February 2021

Sylvia Colenso (1887 - ) – musician and poet

Found for us by Great War researcher, member of the Great War Group, ex-primary school teacher, museum volunteer Judith Jones. Judith contacted me to ask if Sylvia Colenso was on the List of Female Poets - well she wasn't so I must add her.  Thank you Judith.

Sophie, Irma and Sylvia Colenso 
Sylvia was the Granddaughter of Bishop John Colenso, Bishop of Natal in Africa. 

An article written by author Nick Gammage gives us some important clues to Sylvia’s identity: Sylvia Colenso was born in 1887 in Marylebone, London, UK.   Her parents were Francis Ernest Colenso, a barrister and actuary (who was the elder son of Bishop John Colenso), and his wife, Sophie J. Colenso, nee Frankland. Sophie’s father was Sir Edward Frankland - an emminent scientist;  her mother, Sophie Fick, sister of the physician and physiologist Adolf Eugen Fick, was German - from Kassel in Germany. As a consequence, Sylvia spoke German and frequently visited her Grandmother’s family in Germany.  Incidentally, Sophie and Adolf Fick's nephew, Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick, invented the contact lens and was the author of Fick Principle. It is used in Intensive Care Units worldwide to help save lives daily.*

Sylvia’s siblings were: Esmond (who died as a baby), Eothan, Irma and Nigel. 

The Colenso family had a house in London and, from the Autumn of 1901, a house in the Buckinghamshire countryside in Amersham.  The house was called “Elangeni”, which is a Zulu word (and also the name of a Zulu tribe) meaning “where the sun shines through“, reflecting Sylvia’s Father’s childhood in Africa.  The 1911 Census lists the family as living in “Elangeni” with Sylvia’s occupation as musician.

Sylvia had a poem entitled “Man’s Lot” – translated from German - published in an anthology of anti-war poems edited by Bertram Lloyd and published by G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., London in 1918 -  “Poems written during the Great War, 1914-1918”.

Sylvia became an accomplished pianist, and accompanied the first recording of Nkosi Sikelel I Afrika (now the South African national anthem) in 1923.  

In 1938, she married Ernest Bertram Lloyd (14 May 1881 – 9 June 1944)   in Cardigan, Wales. Bertram, who was a naturalist, humanitarian, vegetarian and campaigner for animal rights and founder of the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, was also a fluent German speaker.  In 1939 Sylvia and Bertram lived at 53 Parkhill Road, Belsize Park, Camden, Hampstead, London, UK.

“Man’s Lot” – Sylvia Colenso

The earth is soaked in blood, and underneath

Lie burried shattered limbs of young men dead;

These – peasants, teachers, flock and those who led –

One volley swept into the arms of death.

The thought that victory, peace and joy 

Might spring from out their sacrifice of blood,

This was the last fond hope which seemed good,

And comfort brought to many a dying boy.

But some there were to whom in their last hour

Were granted vision clear to see and know 

That out of slaughter death anew would spring,

And dreams of vengeance, fairest lands laid low;

That vain each off’ring to war’s evil power –

These felt death hard and knew it’s sharpest sting.

Translated from the German 

From “Poems written during the Great War, 1914-1918”, Edited by Bertram Lloyd (G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1918) p. 24.

Judith makes a very good point about that poem: “It sends shivers down my spine to read 'Man's Lot' and know it was written in 1918, or earlier, by someone who was half-German and would live to see it all happen again. Her vision was certainly clear.”   (with thanks to Linda.@SE25A for spotting the typo which I have corrected.)


Copy of the poem “Man’s Lot” kindly supplied by Judith Jones  

Find my Past

Photograph of Sophie, Irma and Sylvia Colenso found for us by Judith Jones.


* With thanks for additional information re Adolf Eugen Fick to


Monday, 15 February 2021

Margueretta Stuart Taylor (c 1899 - 1982) – Canadian Poet

With grateful thanks to Liz Tobin for finding the poem that sparked off this research, and to Annette Fulford for finding a great deal of information about Margueretta

Margueritta had a poem published in “The Gold Stripe”, edited by Felix Penne, pen-name of J. Francis Bursill. The publication was “published as a tribute to the British Columbia men who have been killed, crippled and wounded in the Great War”. "The Net Profits of this Publication will go to the Amputation Club of B.C., Vancouver, for men who have been maimed and wounded in the Great War."

Margueretta Stuart Taylor was born in Scotland in around 1899.  Her parents were William Taylor and his wife Margaret Taylor, nee Stuart. Annette tells us that in the 1911 and 1921 Canadian Census, she is listed as Margaret Taylor. Both records indicate the Taylor family went to live in Canada in 1905.  

According to Margueretta’s obituary she became a teacher and taught at Hastings School in Canada from 1921 until she retired.   In Vancouver in November 1929, she married William Dennis Nash (1896 – 1939), who was born in Lewisham, London, UK and worked for the Hudson Bay Company in Canada. The couple had two daughters.   Margueretta died on 26th September 1982.

I wonder if she wrote any other poems?

If anyone knows please get in touch.


Additional information found by Annette Fulford  @avidgenie  - a Canadian genealogist who specializes in researching First World War Brides and soldiers' dependents 1914-1921 and Canadian Immigration.

Marriage certificate and obituaries for Margueretta and her husband found by Annette Fulford

Gold Stripe cover from

Report of the death of William Dennis Nash from the Province Newspaper December 15, 1939, page 9.

Margueretta’s obituary from the Vancouver Sun, Sept 29, 1982, page 69

Monday, 8 February 2021

Eva Shaw McLaren (1866 - ) – British writer and younger sister of Dr. Elsie Inglis

Was Eva also a poet - that is the question 

I have not been able to discover much about her but it seems that Eva was born on 13th July 1866 in Naini Tal, Bengal, India.  Her parents were John Forbes David Inglis and his wife, Harriet Lowis Inglis, nee Thompson. 

An article by Hamish MacPherson about Dr. Elsie Inglis suggests that Eva was Elsie’s younger sister -

“Her younger sister, Eva Helen, would later become Eva Shaw McLaren and write her big sister’s biography, “Elsie Inglis, The Woman With the Torch”, on which my account of Elsie greatly relies.”

Dr. Elsie Inglis

In the book Eva wrote about Dr. Elsie Inglis -  “Elsie Inglis The Woman with the Torch” by Eva Shaw McLaren, with a preface by Lena Ashwell (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1920) – we find this poem:

Great souls who sailed uncharted seas,

Battling with hostile winds and tide,

Strong hands that forged forbidden keys,

And left the door behind them, wide.

Diggers for gold where most had failed,

Smiling at deeds that brought them Fame,—

Lighters of Lamps that have not failed,—

Lend us your oil and share your flame.

Was the poem written by Eva?  I have not been able to find out anything more about Eva.  If anyone can help please get in touch.  


John Forbes David Inglis and his wife, Harriet Lowis Inglis, nee Thompson. had six children in their 'first family' George David (b 1847), Amy (b 1848), Cecil (b 1849), Hugh (b 1851), Herbert (b 1853) and Ernest (b 1856).[6] In 1856 John Inglis arranged to take the family home to Britain for a period of leave of three years. This proved to be a prolonged journey which took 4 months to reach Bombay and a further 4 moths by sailing ship round Cape Hope to reach England. He was recalled early to India in 1858 because of the Indian Rebellion and returned leaving his family in Southampton. George, Hugh and Herbert were sent to school at Eton, Cecil to Uppingham and Ernest to Rugby, while Amy was looked after by relatives. Once they were settled and events in India were back to 'normal', Harriet Inglis returned to India in 1863 and they had the 'second family' of three further children, Eliza Maude (known as Elsie) (b 1864), Eva Helen (b 1866) and Horace (born 1868). Elsie Inglis, who became the most famous of the children, was born in the Himalayan hill station town of Naini Tal, in the state of Uttarakhand, When the Inglis family moved to Tasmania the Inglis girls were tutored by Miss Knott, a disciple of Dorothea Beale, a pioneer of education for women.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Muriel Bruce (1890-1981) – Canadian lyricist, musician, journalist and writer

With grateful thanks to Liz Tobin for finding Muriel for us 

Muriel Elizabeth Bruce was born on 20th July 1890 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.   Her parents were John Bruce (1851 – 1935) and his second wife, Helen Rowell Bruce, nee O’Reilly (1866 – 1937). Muriel had two half-brothers - Henry Addington Bayley Bruce, b.1875 and Rupert N. Bruce, b. 1874.  

Muriel was also a classical pianist. She worked as a reporter for a Toronto newspaper and published several books, novels and sonnets.  From an early age, she had an interest in the Theosophical Movement and cosmological theory. Her most well-known book is “Pursuit of Destiny”, the title of which was later changed to “Tarot and Astrology”. 

After marrying Abraham Louis Hasbrouck in December 1931, Muriel moved from Canada to New York. The couple collaborated to write a collection/series entitled “Space-Time Forecasting and Economic Trends 1958-1996”, about the correlation of natural forces on market forecasting.  Louis died in June 1979.  Muriel and Louis do not appear to have had any children. Muriel died in Bayside, Queens’ New York on 27th November 1981.

“Knitting” a WW1 song 

Written and composed by Muriel E Bruce and Baron Alotti in about 1915, this patriotic song is dedicated to The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. The song refers to the struggle of the men on the battlefield, the conditions they face and the loss of comrades beside them, while at home the needles are lovingly busy knitting for the brave sons, brothers, fathers and lovers.   The sheet music was published by Chappell & Co. Ltd. and the cover was illustrated by the Starmer brothers. 

Volume 2 of "Female Poets of the First World War" features a guest article written by Historian Phil Dawes entitled "Knitting - A Labour of Love" about knitting in WW1

Muriel also wrote other songs during the First World War:  

Kitchener’s Question.

“Why aren’t you in Khaki? /This means you! / Any old excuse won’t do,” flooded the streets during recruitment marches with the intention of inspiring the enlistment of Britain’s sons. The success of Muriel Bruce’s collection of songs grants her the honour of common historiographical representation as thetoken women when discussing entertainment on the Canadian home front.” From “The War on Score:  Ontarian Women’s Songs during The Great War” by Karina Stellato March 29, 2019

“Twilight Dreams”

Very similar to her song “Knitting”, and written in 1916, it is dedicated ‘To my soldier,’ and sings about sitting knitting socks while waiting and dreaming for her beloved to come home.  As the knitter falls asleep, she dreams her dear brave man has come home, only to wake and find herself alone.  Published in London by The Frederick Harris Co. it includes the first page of the “Knitting” song and the cover was illustrated by the Starmer brothers.


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Winifred M. Letts (1882 - 1972) – British poet and writer

I have written about Winifred Mabel Letts previously because she featured in the very first commemorative WW1 exhibition we produced - Female Poets of the First World War - held at the award-winning Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK from November 2012.  However, thanks to Paul Whitehead of the Facebook Page about writer and poet Flora Thompson, I noticed recently that the Wikipedia entry for Winifred still has her middle name incorrectly given as Mary.   

Bairbre O’Hogan has been researching Winifred M. Letts for many years. Bairbre’s mother was a friend of Winifred’s and Bairbre remembers Winifred very well.  

Copy of Winifred Mabel Letts' birth certificate
kindly supplied by Bairbre O'Hogan

Winifred Mabel Letts was born on 10th February 1882 in Salford, Manchester, UK, formerly in the County of Lancashire.  Her parents were Ernest Frederick Letts, an Anglican church minister and his wife, Mary Isabel, nee Ferrier.  Winifred had the following siblings:  Mary F.S., b. 1877 and Dorothy M., b. 1878.  After the death of Winifred’s father, the family moved to Ireland.

Educated at Abbots Bromley School in Staffordshire, Winifred went on to study at Alexandra College in Dublin.  Her career as a writer began in 1907 when the novels “Waste Castle” and “The Story Spinner” were published.

During the First World War, Winifred joined the Volunteer Aid Detachment and worked as a nurse at Manchester Base Hospital. She then trained as a medical masseuse – that is a physiotherapist in modern parlance - with the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps. Winifred worked at Army camps in Manchester and Alnwick, Northumberland during WW1.   

Winifred’s WW1 poetry collections were “Hallow-e’en, and other poems of the war” (Smith, Elder, 1916) and  “The Spires of Oxford, and other poems” (Dutton, New York, 1917). Her poems were included in 21 WW1 poetry anthologies. 

The photograph of Winifred and her birth certificate are reproduced here by kind permission of Bairbre O’Hogan.  Winifred’s WW1 VAD Record Card is from The British Red Cross website. 


Courage came to you with your boyhood's grace 

Of ardent life and limb. 

Each day new dangers steeled you to the test, 

To ride, to climb, to swim. 

Your hot blood taught you carelessness of death 

With every breath. 

So when you went to play another game 

You could not but be brave : 

An Empire's team, a rougher football field, 

The end — perhaps your grave. 

What matter? On the winning of a goal 

You staked your soul. 

Yes, you wore courage as you wore your youth 

With carelessness and joy. 

But in what Spartan school of discipline 

Did you get patience, boy? 

How did you learn to bear this long-drawn pain 

And not complain ? 

Restless with throbbing hopes, with thwarted aims, 

Impulsive as a colt, 

How do you lie here month by weary month 

Helpless and not revolt? 

What joy can these monotonous days afford 

Here in a ward? 

Yet you are merry as the birds in spring, 

Or feign the gayety, 

Lest those who dress and tend your wound each day 

Should guess the agony. 

Lest they should suffer — this the only fear 

You let draw near. 

Graybeard philosophy has sought in books 

And argument this truth, 

That man is greater than his pain, but you 

Have learnt it in your youth. 

You know the wisdom taught by Calvary 

At twenty-three. 

Death would have found you brave, but braver still 

You face each lagging day, 

A merry Stoic, patient, chivalrous, 

Divinely kind and gay. 

You bear your knowledge lightly, graduate 

Of unkind Fate. 

Careless philosopher, the first to laugh, 

The latest to complain, 

Unmindful that you teach, you taught me this 

In your long fight with pain : 

Since God made man so good — here stands my creed — 

God's good indeed. 

W. M. Letts. "The Spectator". 


Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 198 pp 184 - 185


There is a book of the exhibition held at the WOS "Female Poets of the First World War - Volume One" available via Amazon.

The Award-winning Wilfred Owen Story is now situated in West Kirby, Wirral.

Flora Jane Thompson (1876 –1947) - novelist and poet who wrote "Lark Rise to Candleford"

It is always exciting to discover a hitherto unknown First World War poet and I am very grateful to Paul Whitehead for his kind help in finding poems by Flora and information about her life. Paul is jointly in charge of the Facebook page Flora Thompson – author - exploring and celebrating the life & writings of author / poet Flora Thompson, 1876 [or'77] - 1947. Best known for her Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy. 

Born Flora Jane Timms in Juniper Hill in northeast Oxfordshire on 5th December 1876, Flora’s parents were Albert Timms, a stonemason, and his wife, Emma, a nursemaid.  Flora was the eldest of Albert and Emma’s twelve children, of whom only six survived. One of her younger sisters was Betty Timms, who also became a writer and is best known for her children's book “The Little Grey Men of the Moor”.  Flora was educated at the parish school in the village of Cottisford. Her mother encouraged her to read and write. Like so many children at that time, Flora left school at the age of 14 and went on to become a very good writer.

In 1891, Flora went to work as a counter clerk at the post office in Fringford in Oxfordshire. She went on to work in various other post offices, including offices at Grayshott, Yateley and Winton in Bournemouth.

In 1903 Flora married John William Thompson, a post office clerk and telegraphist from the Isle of Wight. They were married in Twickenham Parish Church. The couple went to live in Bournemouth. They had a daughter, Winifred Grace, b.1903 and two sons, Henry Basil, b.1909 and Peter Redmond, b. 1918.  In 1916 they moved to Liphook in Hampshire. Flora's favourite brother, Edwin, joined the 2nd Eastern Ontario Regiment on 5th May 1915 and was killed near Ypres on 26th April 1916.

The death of Flora's younger son during the Second World War also affected her deeply – her health suffered and she died in 1947.  Flora was buried at Longcross Cemetery, Dartmouth, Devon.

Flora’s first publication was a collection of poems entitled 'Bog-Myrtle and Peat'  (Philip Allen & Co, London, 1921).  Flora's other works include (i) the 250,000 word "The Peverel Papers: Nature Notes”, written between 1921 and 1927 inclusive; (ii) the classic "Lark Rise to Candleford" trilogy, first published in 1945;  (iii) "Heatherley”, published posthumously, which is in some respects a continuation of the trilogy.

Here are some of Flora's poems: 

“The Land Girl's Song”

She bound the sheaves the tractor threw,

A sun-bright maid with eyes of blue,

Then reaped the hollow by the spring,

And this is the song I heard her sing:-

O, come ye soon, or the corn will be mown,

Corn will be mown, corn will be mown,

And only stubble lie bare and lone,

And grey mist rise from the river!

O, come ye soon, or the leaves will be shed,

Leaves will be shed, leaves will be shed,

Leaves all russet and yellow and red,

And we shall not hear them shiver!

O, come today, and poppies will spring,

Poppies will spring, poppies will spring.

With their blood-red blossoms I'll crown thee king,

And the spell that I weave and the song that I sing

Shall hold thee captive for ever!

“The Airman”

We watched him fluttering against the sky:

So far, so high.

Soaring and wheeling in tumultuous flight;

So frail, so light.

Shooting vast spaces like a bolt of gold;

So swift, so bold.

'Till men's cold hearts kindled to pride to view,

What Man dared do!

“Over the Top”

Ten more minutes! – Say yer prayers,

Read yer Bibles, pass the rum!

Ten more minutes! Strike me dumb,

'Ow they creeps on unawares,

Those blooming minutes. Nine. It's queer,

I'm sorter stunned. It ain't with fear!

Eight. It's like as if a frog

Waddled round in your inside,

Cold as ice-blocks, straddle wide,

Tired o' waiting. Where's the grog?

Seven. I'll play yer pitch and toss –

Six. – I wins, and tails yer loss.

'Nother minute sprinted by

'Fore I knowed it; only Four

(Break 'em into seconds) more

'Twixt us and Eternity.

Every word I've ever said

Seems a-shouting in my head.

Three. Larst night a little star

Fairly shook up in the sky,

Didn't like the lullaby

Rattled by the dogs of War.

Funny thing – that star all white

Saw old Blighty, too, larst night.

Two. I ain't ashamed o' prayers,

They're only wishes sent ter God

Bits o' plants from bloody sod

Trailing up His golden stairs.

Ninety seconds – Well, who cares!

One –

No fife, no blare, no drum –

Over the Top – to Kingdom Come!


Find my Past

Facebook page Flora Thompson – author - exploring and celebrating the life & writings of author / poet Flora Thompson, 1876 [or'77] - 1947. Best known for her Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy.

Photograph of Flora taken presumably during or soon after the First World War, since Flora is wearing Edwin's regimental badge as a brooch - from

Sibyl Bristowe (1870 - 1954) – British poet and writer

With thanks to Paul Whitehead for sending me a poem by Sibyl that made me decide to reserch her and to Phil Dawes for additional information about her brother’s death in WW1.

Sibyl Isabelle Bristowe was born on 30th July 1870. Her parents were John Syer Bristowe, MD, FRS, LL.D, a physician, and his wife, Miriam Isabella, nee Stearns.  The family lived in London and Sibyl had the following siblings: Leonard S., b. 1858, Maude E., b. 1859, Evelyn L., b.1861, Flora M., b.1863, Hubert C., b. 1864, Beatrice M., b.1866, Clarence C., b.1868, Everard S., b.1873 and Vivian Ernest John, b. 1875.  

Sibyl’s brother Vivian served during the First World War in the South African Medical Corps in Tanzania.   He died on 14th April 1917 and was buried in Morogoro Cemetery, Grave Reference:  IV. B. 2.  

At the outbreak of the First World War Tanzania was the core of German East Africa. From the invasion of April 1915, Commonwealth forces fought a protracted and difficult campaign against a relatively small but highly skilled German force under the command of General von Lettow-Vorbeck. When the Germans finally surrendered on 23 November 1918, twelve days after the European armistice, their numbers had been reduced to 155 European and 1,168 African troops.

Morogoro was occupied by Commonwealth forces on 26th August 1916 and the German civil cemetery was taken over for Commonwealth war burials. Between the beginning of September 1916 and January 1919, 177 burials were carried out by the five medical units which were posted in the town and which were, at the outset, assisted by German medical personnel and civilians.

In 1939, Sibyl was living in Maida Vale, London, with her siblings Maude, Evelyn and Evarard.  Sibyl never married and died on 15th October 1954. 

“Provocations” was the title of Sibyl Bristowe’s WW1 collection, which was published with an Introduction by G.K. Chesterton by Erskine Macdonald Ltd., London in 1918.  She also had a poem published in “The Lyceum book of war verse” Edited by Alys Eyre Macklin (Erskine Macdonald, London, 1918).  Here are some of her poems:

“The Great War”

Into His colour store God dipped His hand

And drew it forth

Full of strange hues forgotten, contraband

Of War and Wrath.

Time wove the pattern of the years, that so

The quick and dead

Might knit their bleeding crosses in. And lo!

A patch of red!

“Over the Top”

Ten more minutes! – Say yer prayers,

Read yer Bibles, pass the rum!

Ten more minutes! Strike me dumb,

'Ow they creeps on unawares,

Those blooming minutes. Nine. It's queer,

I'm sorter stunned. It ain't with fear!

Eight. It's like as if a frog

Waddled round in your inside,

Cold as ice-blocks, straddle wide,

Tired o' waiting. Where's the grog?

Seven. I'll play yer pitch and toss –

Six. – I wins, and tails yer loss.

'Nother minute sprinted by

'Fore I knowed it; only Four

(Break 'em into seconds) more

'Twixt us and Eternity.

Every word I've ever said

Seems a-shouting in my head.

Three. Larst night a little star

Fairly shook up in the sky,

Didn't like the lullaby

Rattled by the dogs of War.

Funny thing – that star all white

Saw old Blighty, too, larst night.

Two. I ain't ashamed o' prayers,

They're only wishes sent ter God

Bits o' plants from bloody sod

Trailing up His golden stairs.

Ninety seconds – Well, who cares!

One –

No fife, no blare, no drum –

Over the Top – to Kingdom Come!

“To His Dear Memory” (April 14th, 1917)

Beneath the humid skies

Where green birds wing, and heavy burgeoned trees

Sway in the fevered breeze,

My Brother lies.

And rivers passionate [A]

Tore through the mountain passes, swept the plains,

O'erbrimmed with tears, o'erbrimmed with summer rains,

All wild, all desolate.

Whilst the deep Mother-breast

Of drowsy-lidded Nature, drunk with dreams,

Below Pangani, by Rufigi streams,

Took him to rest.

Beneath the sunlit skies,

Where bright birds wing, and rich luxuriant trees

Sway in the fevered breeze,

My Brother lies.

The bending grasses woo

His hurried grave; a cross of oak to show

The drifting winds, a Soldier sleeps below.

—Our Saviour's cross, I know,

Was wooden, too.

[A]The river Rufigi rose so high the night he died, none of his own Battalion could cross it to attend his last honours.

The Pangani River is a major river of northeastern Tanzania. The Rufiji River lies entirely within Tanzania. The river is formed by the confluence of the Kilombero and Luwegu rivers. It is approximately 600 kilometres (370 mi) long, with its source in southwestern Tanzania and its mouth on the Indian Ocean.

“A Sacrament”

TEARS! And I brought them to the Lord, and said

What are these crystal globes by nations shed?

What is the crimson flood that stains the land?

Where is Thy peace, and where Thy guiding hand?

Why are those thousands daily sacrificed?

Where is Thy might, and where the love of Christ?

And from the heavens methought I heard a voice

“Oh son of earth, I bid thee still rejoice!

Those crystal tears by men and nations shed

Water My harvest, sanctify My dead.

That crimson flood which stains the hapless earth

Is but the prelude to a nobler birth.

Those thousands, who for home have gladly died,

Sleep in the hope of Jesus crucified.

Flesh, Blood, and Water, Little Child of Mine,

Veil in their depths a Mystery divine.”

I bowed my head, and prayed for faith to see

The inner visions of Calamity!

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp. 68 and 20.

Find my Past


Article written by Phil Dawes, March 2015

Friday, 8 January 2021

"Dulce et Decorum?" a poem by WW1 female poet Elinor Jenkins

“Dulce et Decorum?” by Elinor Jenkins (see post re Elinor Jenkins 12th May 2015)

We buried of our dead the dearest one -
Said to each other, ‘Here then let him lie,
And they may find their place, when all is done,
From the old may tree standing guard near by.’

Strong limbs whereon the wasted life blood dries,
And soft cheeks that a girl might wish her own,
A scholar’s brow, o’ershadowing valiant eyes,
Henceforth shall pleasure charnel-worms alone.

For we, that loved him, covered up his face,
And laid him in the sodden earth away,
And left him lying in that lonely place
To rot and moulder with the mouldering clay.

The hawthorn that above his grave head grew
Like an old crone toward the raw earth bowed,
Wept softly over him, the whole night through,
And made him of tears a glimmering shroud.

Oh Lord of Hosts, no hallowed prayer we bring,
Here for They Grace is no importuning,
No room for those that will not strive nor cry
When loving kindness with our dead lay slain:
Give us our fathers’ heathen hearts again,
Valour to dare, and fortitude to die.

From "Poems" by Elinor Jenkins (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1915) p. 35

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace's “Odes” (III.2.13). The line is usually translated as: "It is sweet and proper to die for one's country." The Latin word patria, meaning the country of one's fathers (Latin patres) or ancestors, is the source of the French word for a country, patrie, as well as the English word patriot (one who loves his country).

The poem from which the line comes, exhorts Roman citizens to develop martial prowess such that the enemies of Rome, in particular the Parthians, will be too terrified to resist the Romans. In John Conington's translation, the relevant passage reads:

Angustam amice pauperiem pati
robustus acri militia puer
condiscat et Parthos ferocis
vexet eques metuendus hasta
vitamque sub divo et trepidis agat
in rebus. Illum ex moenibus hosticis
matrona bellantis tyranni
prospiciens et adulta virgo
suspiret, eheu, ne rudis agminum
sponsus lacessat regius asperum
tactu leonem, quem cruenta
per medias rapit ira caedes.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:
mors et fugacem persequitur virum
nec parcit inbellis iuventae
poplitibus timidove tergo.[1]

To suffer hardness with good cheer,
In sternest school of warfare bred,
Our youth should learn; let steed and spear
Make him one day the Parthian's dread;
Cold skies, keen perils, brace his life.
Methinks I see from rampired town
Some battling tyrant's matron wife,
Some maiden, look in terror down,—
“Ah, my dear lord, untrain'd in war!
O tempt not the infuriate mood
Of that fell lion I see! from far
He plunges through a tide of blood!”
What joy, for fatherland to die!
Death's darts e'en flying feet o'ertake,
Nor spare a recreant chivalry,
A back that cowers, or loins that quake.

A humorous elaboration of the original line was used as a toast in the 19th century: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae." A reasonable English translation would be: "It is sweet and fitting to die for the homeland, but sweeter still to live for the homeland, and sweetest yet to drink for the homeland. So, let us drink to the health of the homeland."


"Poems" by Elinor Jenkins (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1915) which is available to read as a free download on Gutenberg

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

"Dulce et Decorum Est" by Mrs Geraldine Robertson-Glasgow

The following poem was published in “Punch” magazine on 26th January 1916.  I wonder whether Wilfred Owen read this poem? 

Wilfred joined the Artists’ Rifles Regiment in October 1915 and in January 1916, he had a week’s home leave after training with the Regiment at Gidea Park in Essex.  From 27th February until 5th March 1916, he attended a course in London and stayed in a room above The Poetry Bookshop, having met Harold Munro in October 1915. 

“Dulce et Decorum” by Geraldine May Robertson-Glasgow

O young and brave, it is not sweet to die, 
To fall and leave no record of the race, 
A little dust trod by the passers-by, 
Swift feet that press your lonely resting-place ; 
Your dreams unfinished, and your song unheard — 
Who wronged your youth by such a careless word  

All life was sweet — veiled mystery in its smile ; 
High in your hands you held the brimming cup ; 
Love waited at your bidding for a while. 
Not yet the time to take its challenge up ; 
Across the sunshine came no faintest breath 
To whisper of the tragedy of death. 

And then, beneath the soft and shining blue, 
Faintly you heard the drum's insistent beat ; 
The echo of its urgent note you knew. 
The shaken earth that told of marching feet ; l
With quickened breath you heard your country's call. 
And from your hands you let the goblet fall. 

You snatched the sword, and answered as you went, 
For fear your eager feet should be outrun, 
And with the flame of your bright youth unspent 
Went shouting up the pathway to the sun. 
O valiant dead, take comfort where you lie. 
So sweet to live ? Magnificent to die ! 

Mrs. Robertson Glasgow. Jan. 26, 1916.  pp.209 – 210 “Poems from Punch 1909 – 1920” (Macmillan & Co. Ltd., London, 1922).

According to Jon Stallworthy, Wilfred began writing his poem with the same title in October 1917, while he was a patient in hospital at Craiglockhart, where he met Siefried Sassoon.  

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

 “The Poems of Wilfred Owen” Edited by Jon Stallworthy (Chatto & Windus, London, 2000) p. xiv and  pp.117 - 118

Geraldine May Butt was born in 1854 in Winchester, Hampshire, the daughter of Lt.-Col. Thomas Bromhead Butt, (1821 - 1877), a British Army Officer, and his wife, Geraldine May, nee Sewell (1830 – 1898), who was from Quebec in Canada.  Geraldine’s elder sister was Beatrice May Butt and together they went on to become successful authors, also publishing works under their married names. Geraldine also wrote for “The Monthly Packet” and “Punch” magazines. In 1878, Geraldine married Col. John Campbell Robertson-Glasgow in London. The couple had six children. She died in 1920.

Geraldine’s WW1 poetry collection was entitled “Poems of the Great War”, Printed in Frome: St Aldhelm’s Home for Boys, 1919 and her poems were included in six WW1 anthologies. 

Monday, 4 January 2021

Beatrice May Allhusen (1853 - 1918) – prolific British writer and poet

Beatrice was the elder Sister of poet and writer Geraldine May Robertson-Glasgow

With thanks to John Butt - Great Great Nephew of Beatrice and her sister Geraldine

for sending me photographs of the sisters

Beatrice May Butt was born in Kensington, London in April 1853 and baptised on 29th May 1853.   Her parents were Lt. Colonel Thomas Bromhead Butt (1821 - 1877), a British Army Officer, and his wife, Geraldine May, nee Sewell (1830 – 1898), who was from Quebec in Canada.   Beatrice’s siblings were: Geraldine, who also became a writer and poet, b. 1854, Mary b. 1856, Gertrude J. b. 1861, William E. b. 1862, Catherine b. 1863 and Margaret L. b. 1864.

Educated at a boarding school in Stoke Newington, Hackney, London, Beatrice and her sister Geraldine went on to write books and became published authors in the 1870s, writing several books jointly. Beatrice was a friend of Oscar Wilde

In 1876, Beatrice married William Hutt Allhusen, son of a wealthy merchant from Newcastle upon Tyne.  She died in Farnham Surrey 29 July 1918 

Beatrice’s WW1 collection “April Moods and later verses” was published by Humphreys in 1917. She also had poems published in two WW1 anthologies.  

“FROM BOSRAH” by Beatrice Allhusen 

Who is this, in regal state, who cometh from afar, 

His Tyrian purple garments dyed to a fierce blood-red, 

His sword unsheathed and rusted with dreadful stains of war, 

A crown of gold and jewels set on his royal head? 

Triumphantly he passes o'er Edom's tranquil plain, 

Death with his captives following across the ruined fields, 

Unharvested, ungarnered, blood-stained the golden grain, 

Where war demands the tribute that stubborn valor yields. 

Before him spreads in radiance the glory of the world, 

God's splendid gift that all men are bound to hold in trust ; 

Behind him grief and anguish 'neath terror's flag unfurled, 

Where flaming homes hide secrets of murder, rapine, lust. 

This is he, whose regal state proclaims him Lord of War, 

Death following in his footsteps, close as a new-made bride ; 

With glittering spear uplifted he cometh from afar, 

The crimson of his raiment in blood of thousands dyed. 


*                *                *                *                *                *  

Who is this with wayworn feet and head in anguish bowed, 

Blood-drops upon His vesture, His forehead bathed in sweat ; 

Thorn-crowned, and gibed and jeered at amid a following crowd, 

Who mock the stern endurance where God and man have met? 

Here, strong to save, One cometh, speaking in righteousness, 

Who in His blood-stained garments alone the wine-press trod; 

No one stood by to answer the cry of His distress 

When in His love and pity He faced the wrath of God. 

This is He, the Lord of Peace, with travel-weary feet, 

In crown of thorns, and stained with blood, who cometh from afar ; 

He who, upon the reckoning day when God and man shall meet, 

Shall show Himself a conqueror, triumphant over war. 

Beatrice Allhusen. First published in “Chambers's Journal”. 

From: “War verse” Edited by Foxcroft, Frank (1850-1921), (T.Y. Cronwell, New York, 1918) pp. 182- 183. 


Catherine W. Reilly,”English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)  pp. 10, 11 and 40

With grateful thanks to the Great Great Nephew of Beatrice - John Butt - who contacted me and kindly sent me these beautiful photographs.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Geraldine Robertson-Glasgow (1854 - 1920) – British writer and poet

With grateful thanks to John Butt, Great Great Nephew

of Geraldine and her sister Beatrice for finding us photographs of the poets.

Born Geraldine May Butt in Winchester, Hampshire in 1854, Geraldine’s parents were Lt. Colonel Thomas Bromhead Butt (1821 - 1877), a British Army Officer, and his wife, Geraldine May, nee Sewell (1830 – 1898), who was from Quebec in Canada.   Geraldine’s siblings were: Beatrice M. b.1853, Mary b. 1856, Gertrude J. b. 1861, William E. b. 1862, Catherine b. 1863 and Margaret L. b. 1864.

Geraldine was educated with her sister Beatrice at a boarding school in Stoke Newington, Hackney, London.  The girls went on to write books of fiction and verse and became published authors in the 1870s, writing several books jointly.  Their fiction was written mainly for children and young people.

On 17th December 1878, Geraldine married John Campbell Robertson-Glasgow (1844 – 1913), a British Army officer in the Suffolk Regiment, in St. Jude's Church, Kensington, London, UK.  The couple had the following children: Wilhelmina May Robertson-Glasgow b. 28 Oct 1879, Noel Robertson-Glasgow  b. 25 Dec 1881, d. 19 Jan 1956, Lt.-Cdr. Martin Robertson-Glasgow  b. 1 Mar 1883, d. 27 Jul 1916, Kenneth Robertson-Glasgow b. 11 Dec 1885, d. 29 Dec 1912, Esther Robertson-Glasgow b. 26 Nov 1887, d. 1966, Alister Frederick Robertson-Glasgow b. 2 Sep 1890, d. 10 Oct 1909 and Catherine Campbell Robertson-Glasgow b. 31 Aug 1896..

After her marriage, Geraldine published further books under the name Robertson-Glasgow.  She wrote for several magazines including “The Monthly Packet” magazine that was published between 1851 and 1899 and used the pen-name G. R. Glasgow.  

Geraldine died on 23rd September 1920 – by then she was a widow living in Kensington - in Knaresborough Place, Earls Court, London and is remembered in Westbury, Cemetery, Wiltshire.

Geraldine’s WW1 poetry collection was entitled “Poems of the Great War”, Printed in Frome: St Aldhelm’s Home for Boys, 1919 and her poems were included in six WW1 anthologies. 


Swift the flaming wings of death 

Beat against the laboring breath, 

Blazing hearth and anguished cry 

Smite against the tranquil sky, 

As the legions thunder by. 

For the ruthless, tragic beat 

Of those fierce, relentless feet, 

Broken faith, and tarnished sword, 

Judgment, and not mercy, Lord ! 

While upon the fields of red, 

Sleep the unremembered dead, 

While the homeless, in the glare 

Of the ruins burnt and bare, 

Face a hell of black despair, 

For those silent heaps that lie 

Witness to a silent sky, 

Shattered homes, dishonored sword, 

Judgment, and not mercy, Lord ! 

But when stands the naked soul, 

Shamed and broken, at the goal, 

When the tragic eyes can see, 

Through that cloud of infamy, 

Nothing but itself — and Thee, 

Love invincible shall plead, 

Hopeless anguish, deepest need. 

Pity sheathe the flaming sword, 

Mercy, and not judgment, Lord. 

G. R. Glasgow. Chambers's Journal. 

From “War Verse” Edited by Frank Foxcroft (Thomas Y. Cromwell Co., New York, 1918), p. 272   

St Aldhelm's Home for Boys, at Frome, was opened by the Waifs and Strays Society in around 1894 as a replacement for the Sunnyside Home in Frome. The new home was formally dedicated on October 4th, 1898, by the Bishop of Bath. St Aldhelm's could accommodate up to 45 boys aged from 8 to 14 years of age. 

Aldhelm was born in Wessex in 639. When he was a young boy, he was sent to Canterbury to be educated under Adrian, Abbot of St Augustine’s, and soon impressed his teachers with his skill in the study of Latin and Greek literature.

Aldhelm returned to Wessex some years later and joined the community of monks in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. He embraced the monastic life and, in 680, became the monks’ teacher. In 705, the Bishopric of Wessex was split into two dioceses and Aldhelm was made Bishop of Sherborne. In his time as bishop, he rebuilt the church at Sherborne and helped to establish a nunnery at Wareham. He also built churches at Langton Matravers and the Royal Palace at Corfe.

On 25th May 709, just four years after his consecration, Aldhelm died at Doulting in Somerset. His funeral procession travelled 50 miles from Doulting to Malmesbury and stone crosses were planted at 7-mile intervals, to mark each place where his body rested for the night. Today we celebrate 25th May, the date of Aldhelm’s death, as a feast day to remember the first Bishop of Sherborne – a true evangelist and an inspiring Saint.

Sources:  Find my Past, Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 276's%20Home%20for%20Boys%2C%20at%20Frome%2C%20was%20opened%20by,aged%20from%208%20to%2014.

Thank you to John Butt for contacting me and sending me these beautiful photographs of Geraldine.