Frank Templeton Prince died yesterday. The Independent described him as the author of of one of the two best-known poems of the Second World War.
I'm ashamed to say that I've never come across Soldiers Bathing before. I've found it in my collection The Poetry of War 1939-1945. However, I only bought the book from the Oxfam Shop on Monday - it cost £1.99 - so I've got lots to read.
When I picked the book up in the shop, it fell open at the poem Sacco Writes to his Son by Alun Lewis. It's in the chapter Goodbye for a Long Time, but it's nothing to do with the war. It paraphrases the letter written by Nicola Sacco the night before his execution. The 75th anniversary of the deaths of Sacco and Vanzetti was observed in Boston last year.
I searched for the following lines;
"Reject this death, my Dante, seek out Life,
Yet not the death-in-life that most men live."
There they were - they were the subject of an enquiry on the former Lost Quotations page which has been solved at last.
This is another coincidence in an extraordinary chain. In a competition, again in The Independent, my wife Freda won a trip to Boston to visit an exhibition of paintings by Monet. We had a wonderful time there and received an invitation to stay with Chub and Toni Peabody in Hollis, New Hampshire. We knew nothing about them! Through the songs of Woody Guthrie and Andy Irvine, we knew the story of Sacco and Vanzetti, so I was stunned when Mr Peabody told me that, by a single vote, he had abolished the death penalty when he was Governor of Massachusetts. It was a very privileged week-end. Manchester United fans may be interested to know that, as a college football star, he was known as the baby-faced assassin. He had a distinguished war record and became a popular liberal politician, a very rare creature in the United States.
His successor as Governor was Michael Dukakis, who pardoned Sacco and Vanzetti, but posthumously. Michael Dukakis later stood for election as President but his campaign was undermined by his opposition to the death penalty; George Bush gained a clear victory.
Add to the list of coincidences: Your wife's name, FREDA, unknown to me a week ago, but this is the THIRD person of that name that I've read about since then! (One being the lovely Freda Dowie, who played Caesonia in I, CLAUDIUS and also did the voice of the Sybil.)
"But that's not important right now."
YOU CAN READ THE POEM "SOLDIERS BATHING" AT:
Now I know what I want to be when (if) I grow up.
A baby-faced assassin. I've started a list.
Fascinating. I was puzzled by the reference to Dante, but I see now it was the name of a son: