All posts in category Poems

20th January 1943.
Bombing at Noon of School at Lewisham

 

Flowers were blooming at noonday,

In a city garden on earth.

Children fair, happy and gay,

Laughing aloud in their mirth.

Out of the skies above them,

With never a warning wail,

Swept a storm of thunder and lightning,

With murderous steel for hail.

It mowed them down like a reaper,

And thunder-bolts crashed and crushed,

Bruising, and killing, and maiming,

Wherever the storm-clouds brushed.

 

Christ walked in the garden at eventide,

And in wrath beheld the wreck.

He said “It were better for him who did this deed,

That he were drowned in the deepest sea,

A millstone about his neck.

For he hath offended my little ones,

In their innocent happy play.

But leave to Me the Vengeance,

It is mine, I will repay.”

 

We buried the broken blossoms,

In a grave in the warm brown earth,

But Christ gathered up the plantlets,

And took them to Paradise.

He planted them all in a garden fair,

Where flows the River of Life.

They are growing there and will bloom again,

In the loving Father’s care.

Where no storms come near, or death or fear,

They will wait for those they left,

And will welcome them in at the garden gate,

United for evermore.

 

Bombing at Noon of School at Lewisham

Bombing at Noon of School at Lewisham

 

May was incensed by the atrocity which prompted her to write the poem ‘Bombing at Noon of School at Lewisham’. Sandhurst Road School, Catford, in the London Borough of Lewisham, had been bombed on January 20th 1943 as described in a later Diary entry (see 28 Jan. 1943).

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

 

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

January 1943.
“January 12. 1943” or
to J.B. and C.T.

 

Out of the weary desert of war,

Rises a green oasis to view.

Our paths shall meet, our vows we’ll take,

And begin our lives anew.

 

Tho’ our bodies part, our hearts are one,

Never to part again.

We will tread our paths, with a steady step,

Thro’ joy or sorrow or pain.

 

Tho’ far away I shall feel the beat,

Of your heart in time with mine,

Days will be night, and toil will be sweet,

Because our lives entwine.

 

Far away at the end of strife,

We can see a fair green land.

No oasis this, but our own loved home,

At the end of the desert sand.

 

God send us peace, and grant us life,

To spend together in love.

Till we part once more, and meet again,

In the Light of Heaven above.

 

In the poem sub-title ‘To J.B. and C.T.’ the initials almost certainly refer to ‘Jock’ Brown and his bride, who married in January 1943. ‘Jock’ was the Scottish soldier whom May’s family had befriended when he was serving as a cook with the Royal Artillery billeted at ‘Corbie’, next door to ‘Lenton Lodge’. Frequently mentioned in the Diaries, ‘Jock’ has also been referred to as ‘Cookie’, ‘Mr Brown’ or ‘Brownie’. (See photograph, with diary post 20 Sep. 1941.)

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

August 1942.
“Saturday. July 25. 1942” or
The White-Robed Bride

Softly goes the white-robed bride,
Down the sunlit aisle.
Her hand clasped in her Father’s arm,
To meet her bridegroom’s smile.

The organ peals its joyous notes,
The bridesmaids blithe and gay,
Follow behind, in love to give,
Their service, on this day.

The bridegroom waits with happy pride,
Before the altar steps.
Erect, his comrade by his side
Attends him, calm and grave.

Her Mother’s thoughts bring smiles and tears
Together, on her face.
Her greatest treasure now bestowed,
With love and fond embrace.

Lord thro’ their lives look on these two
With favour and Thy Grace,
And with Thy Goodness follow them,
Thro’ peaceful happy days.

The bride and groom in the poem are Emmie and Ron, whose wedding date is in the heading. In her Diary entry of 1st August 1942 (with accompanying photograph) May gave an account of the day of the wedding which took place in Yorkshire. It is not certain when May wrote the poem, which was simply dated ‘August 1942’. However during the rest of the month she made no further entries in her Diary but the wedding visit must have remained very much in mind and she had much more to write about it in the early part of September.

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

May 18. 1942.
The Lessons We Learn.

If the sun blazed always from cloudless skies,
And rain never fell on the earth,
No beautiful trees would give rest and shade,
No flowers would have new birth.

No grain would grow in the sun-baked soil,
No fruits form on the trees.
If the sun shone hot all over the world,
There would be no cooling breeze.

But the hot air rises on arid plains,
And the cool sea-breeze blows o’er,
The sun draws up and returns in rain,
The ocean’s exhaustless store.

If happiness filled our lives to the brim,
And we knew no sorrow or tears,
Our hearts would be hard, and our souls would grow dim,
If we had no trials or cares.

But the tears that fall when sorrow comes,
Soften our hearts hard core.
The trees of strength and endeavour grow high,
When the gales of adversity roar.

In our hearts grow the flowers of sympathy,
Of understanding and grace.
Our souls expand and look upon,
Our heavenly Father’s face.

Not alone in sorrow’s dark days,
But in joyful happy years,
We can share and help and sympathise,
After passing the Vale of Tears.

May’s poem ‘The Lessons We Learn’ is another expression of her beliefs and hopes for a better future. She had written in her Diary with these sentiments and a prayerful conclusion, at Easter time, a few weeks earlier (see 5 Apr. 1942). The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

1942
Mar 21 Sat. 10.00. P.M.
# WELCOME TO SPRING – NEW BOOK
# A PRAYERFUL POEM

First day of spring, now nature is reborn.
Greeted by children and poets pensive.
Birds tune their notes to sweeter songs each morn,
While sinful man doth plan – a new offensive.

A new offensive! Doth not the old offences rise?
A dreadful stench among the prayers and tears
Of those who send their cries
To God, these weary warring years.

Lord purge the hearts of all mankind,
And let the old offences out
Let all be born anew in heart and mind
And peaceful aims put all our foes to rout.

Turn all our enemies to friends,
We are thy children, so are they.
On all of us Thy rain descends
Thy sun doth cheer us with its ray.

With puny hands we fight and strive
Trying to grasp beyond our reach
Only Thy patience lets us live
Thy mercy Lord extend to each.

This poem was used to begin a new Diary book on the first day of spring 1942. It is listed as a Diary entry and has also been added to the poems collection on this site. (Unusually it does not appear in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains most of May’s poems.)

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Feb. 15. 1942.
Ye Cannot See.

A great man walked along our Country road,
From all the cottages we issued forth,
To catch his eye or see him smile,
Or hear him pass the time of day to favoured few.
And now, we say, with bated breath,
He dwells in Palaces and rides in City streets.
He sits at meat as peer with prince and king,
He, whom we saw walk down our village street.

Far greater men walk on our roads, to-day,
Their feet make history as they march in step.
Take care to greet them, smile and speak to all.
Your eyes are holden that ye cannot see
Beneath that uniform of battle-dress,
Full many are in wedding garments clad.
Ere long, their feet shall tread the streets of heaven,
And they shall dwell in Paradise with God.

Yea, they shall live for ever with the King of Kings.
So, in the throng and press of life, draw near to them.
It may be in their garments virtue hides,
That carries healing to the weary, war-worn world.
If we but touch the fringe, we may
Receive the germ of peace and spread it far and wide,
As, in the days of Christ on earth,
The woman touched His garment and was healed.

May’s deep Christian faith is clear from many of her poems. It is also apparent from her writing that she was not in awe of any worldly authority (see, for example, the previous Diary extract: 14 Feb. 1942). It is possible that the ‘great man’ referred to in ‘Ye Cannot See’ was King Haakon who had been evacuated from Norway and had been staying at an inn in Ingoldmells, between Chapel St Leonards and Skegness(see 12 Jan. 1941). Later, General de Gaulle was said to have visited French sailors stationed at Ingoldmells. The ‘far greater men’ were obviously the armed forces recruits who were being trained for their part in the war.

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Jan 26. 1942.
The Vale that Lies Between.

We travel slow along a road,
That leads us thro’ a dread mysterious vale;
The vale that lies betwixt that far off time,
We call, “in peace time”.
Meaning those far off days of Peace,
Before these dreadful days of war.
Beyond us, far in front, and veiled from sight,
Lies the unknown, future “peace time”,
That comes when war shall cease.
How far our feet shall travel on this road,
We know not; Nor yet can weigh the loss and gain,
That comes thro’ strife and bloodshed.
We know that all mankind doth change,
When fighting ’gainst his brother man.
Great deeds are done, and fearful ones, no less.
We rise to higher heights and sink to deeper depths
Than ere before. The brains of man expand and plan
Faster by far than in the quiet days of peace.
Developments in new control of air and ether,
That used for good of man instead of ill,
Would bring millennium here and now, and usher in
The thousand years of Peace.
Alas! When shall we climb out of this gloomy vale of war,
Up to the sunlit mountain-top, of Peace-time yet to be?

It was a time of great uncertainty when May wrote ‘The Vale that Lies Between’. The war had entered a new phase in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in the USA and soon afterwards began to overrun Allied territories in the Far East as reported in many of the Diary entries. May’s reference, in the poem, to faster ‘developments in control of air and ether’ will be illustrated in various Diary entries which will appear later. The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Sep. 1941.
“The Casualties Were Small”.

When Winton Aerodrome was bombed,
The “Casualties were small”.
Just your son, and my son, and little widow Brown’s son,
The youngest of them all.

And your son was your eldest lad,
Handsome and straight and tall.
A model for your younger sons,
Beloved by you all.

And Mrs Brown’s, her youngest boy,
Her sole support, and stay.
So like his father, all her joy,
Was quenched, on that dark day.

And mine, my only son and pride,
So loved and dear to all.
The blast of bombs spread far and wide,
Tho’ “the casualties were small”.

The exact date of the poem ‘The Casualties Were Small’ is not known. It is likely that May wrote it, as an expression of her worst fears for Ron’s safety, following his description of the circumstances of the live bomb incident could easily have been fatal for him (see Diary post 10 Sep. 1941). The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It inspired the title of the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

April 1941.
Sweet the Voice that Tells of Victory.

Oh sweet the voice that tells of victory won at last,
That strife between the nations now is passed.
That we may rest in safety and in quietness,
Thro’out the hours of holy darkness calm and still.
No noise of guns or sirens blast to warn,
Only sweet sleep until the peaceful morn.
When waking to our work with happy thankfulness,
We sing our praise to God and his salvation bless.

How blest to hear the Storms of God’s creation,
The roar of winds wild exultation.
We revel in the rolling drums of thunder,
and brave the shining of the lightning’s sword.
We fear no earthly foe now God is near,
but worship him with love and holy fear.
To shape anew our lives oh grant us grace,
and knit the hearts of all in their embrace …

The exact date of the poem ‘Sweet the Voice that Tells of Victory’ is not known. It is possible that May wrote it, in a thoughtful but somewhat optimistic mood as Easter 1941 approached, following reports of Yugoslavia and Greece’s position on the Allied side and of USA sending help (see 6 Apr. 1941). The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Undated (~Feb. 1941).
To Win.

Oh Win! Thy name is Winter,
Because of thy dark coat.
And also for the snowflake,
That lies upon thy throat.

Thy name is also Winter,
Because t’was then thou came.
Out of the stormy weather,
To our hearth’s bright flame.

Thy coat has felt full many a scrap,
Thy ears are ragged left and right.
Thy poor left paw has felt a trap,
But thine eyes still are clear and bright.

They left thee on the doorstep Win,
And went away to other parts.
They did not guess it was a sin,
But hoped the neighbours had kind hearts.

The poem ‘To Win’ has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small .

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?