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For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: marian222 (86.153.227.---)
Date: November 28, 2007 11:48AM

Does anyone have the rest of this? - I have only the first two verses and part of the third and would like to know how it continues. I'd also like to know if it refers to a poem or poems Owen wrote, or to where he grew up etc. No special reason, just curiosity:

Today you would find your distant sad shire
Apparently forgetful of slaughtered innocence
And given wholly to the business of spring.
If you were to approach Habberley for instance,

By way of the stream and erratic plovers,
You would meet a girl in a dedicated mood
Airing the newest generation in a pram
While carefully avoiding the lane's yeasty mud.

And later, the village dog would confront you
With his oddity of one grey eye and one brown
Dancing attendance on your singularity,
Until you stopped by a cottage almost overgrown.

* * * *

With the season and the gardenerís art,
Where even the doorway frames an affair
Of flowers fuming in an old tin helmet
Resigned to being always suspended there.

(NB final verse added 21 December, as it's easier to read in one piece)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/21/2007 09:15AM by marian222.


Re: For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: misterF (84.66.99.---)
Date: November 30, 2007 04:55PM

Marian, I don't have any more of the poem, though it does read as if there's more.

As for the poet, here is a review of her Collected Poems edited by George Szirtes from The Independent of October 15, 1995:

Downie (1929-93) led rather a sad, haunted life, mostly in the home counties, shadowed by guilt, depression and occasional breakdown. Grigson liked her poems, which sometimes sound like Norman Cameron, sometimes like Stevie Smith. They are small-scale, well-mannered, anti-rhetorical, as though the gods of failure might be given pause by an acknowledgement of whose fist was likely to be shook last. "Chair" is typical of her talent, and so are poems like "Men without gardens" and "For Wilfred Owen". Her lines on the primitive painter Alfred Wallis apply to herself: "when visitors darken his open door/With curiosity, well, he may nod, he may smile - /Although they take his light - but he will keep/His ground and the kettle on the boil for himself". The editor places her in the "power through limit" tradition of Emily Dickinson, and prints 66 uncollected poems.

The poem mentions Habberley, which is in Shropshire - the 'shire' of Wilfred Edward Salter Owen's birth - at Plas Wilmot, Oswestry, on March 18, 1893. Its theme, of pervading disinterest in England about the horror of war (yeasty mud a clear rederence) was special to him, and made him write his poetry.

Incidentally, I was born in Ripon in North Yorkshire, where in March 1918 Owen was transferred to the Northern Command Depot: "Three days after he arrived he was struck down by a fever, but was soon sufficiently recovered to walk across the dales to Fountains Abbey and back. The afternoon of his twenty-fifth birthday he spent, appropriately, in Ripon Cathedral, the home of St Wilfred. With sunshine, exercise, and a supply of apples and gingerbread from home, his health improved and his spirits rose. The camp was in fields to the west of Ripon and, walking into town down Borage Lane, he found a room to let in a narrow cottage and moved in. A stream, murmuring over its boulders and stones, kept him company on his way to work and back. There were lesser celandines beside his path and the buds were opening overhead. On Easter Sunday he wrote to his mother: 'Outside my cottage window children play soldiers so piercingly that I've moved up nto the attic, with only a skylight. It is a jolly Retreat. There I have tea and contemplate the inwardness of war, and behave in an owlish manner generally. One poem have I written there; and thought another. I have also realized many defectuosities in older comapnions. The enormity of the presnt Battle numbs me.'" [Wilfred Owen biography by John Stallworthy]
And go here - [www.1914-18.co.uk]


Re: For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: marian222 (86.148.162.---)
Date: December 04, 2007 11:26AM

Thank you Stephen - most interesting - I must look for more Downie as well as the rest of that poem. I'm pleased to hear Ownen got some Yorkshire walking in for solace before he had to go back to the War.

I dn't know if anyone saw the Kipling programme - My Boy Jack - on Remembrance Sunday - it was very good- the actors were extraordinarily well cast and it was very credible, which isn't easy now that WW1 was so long ago and things like patriotism, national pride etc have changed so much - Kipling was so sure the War was just but somehow it came across that he was naive enough to almost believed it as fiction he was writing - you go to war , have great adventure and come home a victoriuous hero; - only minor characters get killed! From the way the drama unfolded, you really don't think he expected to lose his son - perhaps that's why he was such a good writer for children - he had a very optimistic imagination.

Theres was also a very good programme called The Not Dead the day after - about shell-shocked veterans of 3 conflicts (Malaya, Bosnia and Iraq) and that had poetry bespoke for thier specific stories - written by Simon Armitage - it was fantastic - some were so poignant I could hardly bear to listen. He'd obviously spent a great deal of time with them and each read poems using soldiers vocabulary of his time and exactly right for his particular personality, so it sounded very natural.


Re: For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: marian222 (86.153.106.---)
Date: December 21, 2007 09:14AM

There is just one more verse - I got it today and have added it to the original post, as well, as it's then easier to read the whole thing. Adds to the mystery rather than solves it:

With the season and the gardenerís art,
Where even the doorway frames an affair
Of flowers fuming in an old tin helmet
Resigned to being always suspended there.


Comments invited!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/21/2007 09:16AM by marian222.


Re: For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: LindaD (91.108.21.---)
Date: December 21, 2007 12:40PM

That sounds like an example of "make a hanging basket from an unusual item"


Re: For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: misterF (84.66.99.---)
Date: December 22, 2007 05:06PM

The 'old tin helmet' is a metaphor for war death; but there is no alteration to the indifference of the 'sad shire' - is there?


Re: For Wilfrid Owen by Freda Downie
Posted by: marian222 (86.153.106.---)
Date: December 23, 2007 11:30AM

Linda - Having read the poem, I'm now scared to make a hanging basket out of an unusual item (I've planted up old worn out walking boots, before now) for fear of offending the contents! It had never occurred to me that they might object.

Presumably the indifference of the sad shire is why the flowers are fuming, Stephen?

I assume you meant even today the sad shire (or what would now be called the chattering classes) is still indifferent to war - I think even more so, now that soldiering is a profession - the most poignant commment of the 'Not Dead' programme was from a young soldier (now in lots of trouble for fighting and assaults) to the effect that at least in the 2 World Wars almost every male your age knew what you'd been through, whereas today the bulk of people have no conception of it and little interest in the matter.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/23/2007 11:32AM by marian222.




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