Young Lady Dancing with Soldier by Phyllis Byam Shand Allfrey

Young lady dancing with soldier,
Feeling stern peaty cloth with your slight hand,
So very happy,
So happy
To be dancing with the patriotic male—
You have forgotten
deliberately
(Or perhaps you were never concerned to know)
Last month your partner was a shipping clerk.

How, as he sat by his few inches of window,
This boy dreamed of ships and far engagements,
Battles with purpose
and future,
Fair women without guile, and England’s honour,
Comme chevalier
sans peur . . .

But instead he got conscripted into the Army,
And now you are the last symbol of his dream.

It is rather thrilling to be a last symbol,
Before mud clogs the ears, blood frets the mouth
Of the poor clerk
turned solider,
Whose highest fortune will be to find himself
Conscripted back
to life . . .
Done up like a battered brown paper parcel—
No gentleman, malgré tout; clerk unemployed.

From: Reilly, Catherine W. (ed.), Chaos of the Night: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the Second World War, 1984, Virago: London, p. 5.
(https://archive.org/details/chaosofnightwome0000unse/)

Date: 1940

By: Phyllis Shand Byam Allfrey (1908-1986)

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