Posts tagged ‘1939’

Monday, 7 June 2021

[He Would Not Stay for Me, and Who Can Wonder?] by Alfred Edward Housman

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
And went with half my life about my ways.


Date: 1939 (published)

By: Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936)

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

[To say ‘We were right’ is not boastful] by Edwin Rolfe (Solomon Fishman)

To say We were right is not boastful,
or We saw, when all others were blind
or We acted, while others ignored or uselessly wept.

We have the right to say this
because in purest truth we can also record
We died, while others in cowardice lived on.

Just as the man is false who never says I
nor asserts his own deeds in pride, or disclaims his wrongs,
so too would we be less than truly men

if we did not now, to all the embattled world, proudly proclaim
We saw. We acted. Fought. Died. While others in cowardice slept.

New York, November 1939

From: Rolfe, Edwin, ‘[To say We were right is not boastful] in New Masses, Vol. 50, No. 3, 18 January 1944, p. 12.

Date: 1939

By: Edwin Rolfe (Solomon Fishman) (1909-1954)

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Bombing Casualties: Spain by Herbert Edward Read

Dolls’ faces are rosier but these were children
their eyes not glass but gleaming gristle
dark lenses in whose quicksilvery glances
the sunlight quivered. These blenched lips
were warm once and bright with blood
but blood
held in a moist bleb of flesh
not spilt and spatter’d in touseled hair.

In these shadowy tresses
red petals did not always
thus clot and blacken to a scar.

These are dead faces:
wasps’ nests are not more wanly waxen
wood embers not so grely ashen.

They are laid out in ranks
like paper lanterns that have fallen
after a night of riot
extinct in the dry morning air.


Date: 1939

By: Herbert Edward Read (1893-1968)

Monday, 19 December 2016

In the Time of Tyrants by William Soutar

All that the hand may touch;
All that the hand may own;
Crumbles beyond time’s clutch
Down to oblivion.

Fear not the boasts which wound:
Fear not the threats which bind:
Always on broken ground
The seeds fall from the mind.

Always in darkest loam
A birthday is begun;
And from its catacomb
A candle lights the sun.


Date: 1939

By: William Soutar (1898-1943)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Poem on Being by William Ronald Rhys Jones (Keidrych Rhys)

Looking out of the storehouse window
At the gradient through the firs
At the house built of river stones
At the tiled house on my ordinance map

Hearing the noise of three plain pullets
Upon a rainwashed cart
Someone emptying a bucket by the tap
And a wheelbarrow creaking
A wasp glued on the pane, that barrier.

Gripping a boyish pen, the buzz in my head
Inside harness hanging over milk churns
Our first pony at the station driveway
Feeling good and cheerful with nothing much to say.


Date: 1939

By: William Ronald Rhys Jones (Keidrych Rhys) (1915-1987)

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Haymarket: May Day, 1939 by Burton Jerome Barnett

August Spies: You may strangle this voice, but there will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.
Albert Parsons: O men of America, let the voice of the people be heard!

Still bright, and searing ignorance and fear,
This stronger beacon that you tended burns
And on this day of each advancing year
The memory of that first May First returns.

But now the widespread fingers strengthen, grow
More lithe, and flexing at the wrist–
O fingers forming to the fist!

Now is the imminence of commmonweal–
The turgid lambency of molten iron
Hardening in even lines of steel.


Date: 1939

By: Burton Jerome Barnett (?-?)

Monday, 27 August 2012

Pity Wasted by Freda C Bond

So many pangs of the tender heart for those
Who work all day in city office or store,
Electric light their sun, their horizon a brick wall,
These do not feel the stir of the seasons, see
The green tide sweeping over the land or the fire
Of autumn burning the dusty remains of summer.
Their seasons are measured by changes in the menu
At the cosy Dining Rooms,
By the alteration
Of football pools and points for punters.

But where are the heart pangs for us,
Leisured suburban ladies, free to stand in the sun,
To withstand the shattering assaults of spring,
To feel life draining away with ebbing summer,
To know the angry tug of autumn winds?
Every dart of light from the sequin leaves of spring
Pierces our armour, billows of blue air surging
Between clipped hedges raise us in pluming crests,
As they would carry us – whither? We do not know.
The hairdresser at eleven, bridge at half-past three,
Prevents us from keeping our appointment with life.

Pity us: as for those other ones,
In the protective arrest of the city, eyes mercifully blind
To the immensity of wealth they cannot use,
I think you need not pity them so much,
Perhaps you need not pity them at all.

From: Dowson, Jane (ed), Women’s Poetry of the 1930s: A Critical Anthology, 1996, Routledge: New York, pp. 184-185.

Date: 1939

By: Freda C Bond (1894-1969)

Friday, 22 June 2012

If You Came by Ruth Pitter

If you came to my secret glade,
Weary with heat,
I would set you down in the shade
I would wash your feet.
If you came in the winter sad,
Wanting for bread,
I would give you the last that I had,
I would give you my bed.
But the place is hidden apart
Like a nest by a brook,
And I will not show you my heart
By a word, by a look.
The place is hidden apart
Like the nest of a bird:
And I will not show you my heart
By a look, by a word.


Date: 1939

By: Ruth Pitter (1897-1992)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Five Bells by Kenneth Slessor

Time that is moved by little fidget wheels
Is not my time, the flood that does not flow.
Between the double and the single bell
Of a ship’s hour, between a round of bells
From the dark warship riding there below,
I have lived many lives, and this one life
Of Joe, long dead, who lives between five bells.

Deep and dissolving verticals of light
Ferry the falls of moonshine down. Five bells
Coldly rung out in a machine’s voice. Night and water
Pour to one rip of darkness, the Harbour floats
In the air, the Cross hangs upside-down in water.

Why do I think of you, dead man, why thieve
These profitless lodgings from the flukes of thought
Anchored in Time? You have gone from earth,
Gone even from the meaning of a name;
Yet something’s there, yet something forms its lips
And hits and cries against the ports of space,
Beating their sides to make its fury heard.

Are you shouting at me, dead man, squeezing your face
In agonies of speech on speechless panes?
Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name!

But I hear nothing, nothing…only bells,
Five bells, the bumpkin calculus of Time.
Your echoes die, your voice is dowsed by Life,
There’s not a mouth can fly the pygmy strait –
Nothing except the memory of some bones
Long shoved away, and sucked away, in mud;
And unimportant things you might have done,
Or once I thought you did; but you forgot,
And all have now forgotten – looks and words
And slops of beer; your coat with buttons off,
Your gaunt chin and pricked eye, and raging tales
Of Irish kings and English perfidy,
And dirtier perfidy of publicans
Groaning to God from Darlinghurst.
Five bells.

Then I saw the road, I heard the thunder
Tumble, and felt the talons of the rain
The night we came to Moorebank in slab-dark,
So dark you bore no body, had no face,
But a sheer voice that rattled out of air
(As now you’d cry if I could break the glass),
A voice that spoke beside me in the bush,
Loud for a breath or bitten off by wind,
Of Milton, melons, and the Rights of Man,
And blowing flutes, and how Tahitian girls
Are brown and angry-tongued, and Sydney girls
Are white and angry-tongued, or so you’d found.
But all I heard was words that didn’t join
So Milton became melons, melons girls,
And fifty mouths, it seemed, were out that night,
And in each tree an Ear was bending down,
Or something that had just run, gone behind the grass,
When blank and bone-white, like a maniac’s thought,
The naphtha-flash of lightning slit the sky,
Knifing the dark with deathly photographs.
There’s not so many with so poor a purse
Or fierce a need, must fare by night like that,
Five miles in darkness on a country track,
But when you do, that’s what you think.
Five bells.

In Melbourne, your appetite had gone,
Your angers too; they had been leeched away
By the soft archery of summer rains
And the sponge-paws of wetness, the slow damp
That stuck the leaves of living, snailed the mind,
And showed your bones, that had been sharp with rage,
The sodden ectasies of rectitude.
I thought of what you’d written in faint ink,
Your journal with the sawn-off lock, that stayed behind
With other things you left, all without use,
All without meaning now, except a sign
That someone had been living who now was dead:
“At Labassa. Room 6 x 8
On top of the tower; because of this, very dark
And cold in winter. Everything has been stowed
Into this room – 500 books all shapes
And colours, dealt across the floor
And over sills and on the laps of chairs;
Guns, photoes of many differant things
And differant curioes that I obtained…”

In Sydney, by the spent aquarium-flare
Of penny gaslight on pink wallpaper,
We argued about blowing up the world,
But you were living backward, so each night
You crept a moment closer to the breast,
And they were living, all of them, those frames
And shapes of flesh that had perplexed your youth,
And most your father, the old man gone blind,
With fingers always round a fiddle’s neck,
That graveyard mason whose fair monuments
And tablets cut with dreams of piety
Rest on the bosoms of a thousand men
Staked bone by bone, in quiet astonishment
At cargoes they had never thought to bear,
These funeral-cakes of sweet and sculptured stone.

Where have you gone? The tide is over you,
The turn of midnight water’s over you,
As Time is over you, and mystery,
And memory, the flood that does not flow.
You have no suburb, like those easier dead
In private berths of dissolution laid –
The tide goes over, the waves ride over you
And let their shadows down like shining hair,
But they are Water; and the sea-pinks bend
Like lilies in your teeth, but they are Weed;
And you are only part of an Idea.
I felt the wet push its black thumb-balls in,
The night you died, I felt your eardrums crack,
And the short agony, the longer dream,
The Nothing that was neither long nor short;
But I was bound, and could not go that way,
But I was blind, and could not feel your hand.
If I could find an answer, could only find
Your meaning, or could say why you were here
Who now are gone, what purpose gave you breath
Or seized it back, might I not hear your voice?

I looked out my window in the dark
At waves with diamond quills and combs of light
That arched their mackerel-backs and smacked the sand
In the moon’s drench, that straight enormous glaze,
And ships far off asleep, and Harbour-buoys
Tossing their fireballs wearily each to each,
And tried to hear your voice, but all I heard
Was a boat’s whistle, and the scraping squeal
Of seabirds’ voices far away, and bells,
Five bells. Five bells coldly ringing out.
Five bells.


Date: 1939

By: Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971)