All posts tagged Poem

5 June [or January] 1944
“The Second Front”.

Oh! Ye who clamour for the start of other fronts:

Do you not know? These days, they are the last our sons shall see,

Before they face the foe, and pay

With precious blood, their lives and all that makes life dear,

The price of liberty for us, who wait in fear.

Yet, scarcely fear, we trust in God and them.

Tho’ erring still in many ways,

Our aim is true and God is Lord of life and death.

He shall direct our path.

But those whose men must go, cling to them still,

And count these last few precious days as jewels one by one,

That soon shall be a memory, until eternity.

They slip so fast between our fingers and elude our grasp,

As elvers in a stream slip thro’, bound for the far Sargasso Sea.

Then hurry not the swiftly moving days of fate,

Too soon for us we hear them at the gate.

Several references were made in the Diaries anticipating the launch of the Second Front. The first was in 1942:

Sun. July 5 10.10. pm. [1942]
“…Well, the days are shortening now instead of lengthening tho’ it is hardly perceptible yet. I fear the worst winter of the war is creeping towards us now, but we may make a lot of headway before then, but if we are having a “second front” why, why, don’t we start while the weather is good. The icy winter weather aggravates the evils of war more I think than the summer tho’ the heat too is terrible…”

Then, a year later:

Sat 3. July [1943]
… I wish the war was over and Ron was home. There seems to be a lull just now like the calm that comes when we say the wind gathers strength for a harder blow. These sunny summer days are the last that many a lad will ever see, let us not be too hasty in wishing the second front would start. I fear that before another June comes round many hundreds will have gone…”

In January 1944 a number of entries, as May bcame increasingly concerned with the implications:

Wed. Jan. 5 7.30. am. [1944]
… Montgomery is in England to take charge of British Invasion Army under General Eisenhower, U.S.A. Gen. People are wishing second front would be started, but when I think of it, I think of the hundreds of boys for whom these days are the last they will see, and every day is one more for them before they pay the price for our peace and safety. Some of them go with heavy hearts, the first excitement of war is over and the grim bare bones of all its wickedness show thro’…”

Thur Jan. 13 1944 9.15. PM.
“…Papers are full of second front and invasion lore. The many new air-bases in Britain are ready for use, and are to be the invasion bases. There are such a lot within a few miles of us that I fear we may see more of the war than we have so far done. I am not looking forward to the start of second front. It might mean moving off the coast too…”

Friday January 14. 1944
“…I wonder what will have happened in this grim struggle before these few pages are filled… The second front looms ever nearer, then we shall feel the effects in this country, more than we have done since the “Battle of Britain” and how very little we knew of that down here just sheltered behind the sand-hills, while the tide of war went over only a few stray bombs that only damaged property, not people, fell round us…”

Again, in May 1944:

Sun May 7 7.45 P.M. [1944]
“’…Talk, talk, talk of Second front goes on and on. There is a lull in Italian fighting. Terrible bombing goes on in Germany…”

The month of the poem date was unclear. If it was 5th June 1944 it could have been prompted by a premonition of D-Day – the very next day, 6th June,* which was supposed to have been a closely guarded secret until the actual day. However, the poem might have been written six months earlier, coinciding with the Diary entry on 5th January.

*This link will become active on 6th June 2014.

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’?

June 1944
Council Houses.

I am the fly in the Amber,

The exception that proves the rule.

Tho’ I mayn’t knock nails in the Council’s walls,

I plug them with handy tool.

I am growing grass on the garden plot,

Where the others grow lettuce and peas.

The rest of them wash on Monday;

I wash when I please.

Oh! the neighbours are kind, and the house is good,

The rent is small and the garden large.

Apple trees stand in an ordered square,

The paths are smooth and the view is fair,

Surely there’s nothing to wish for there.

Well, I’d like a bath-room, however small,

But what I really want, most of all,

Is an evergreen hedge that is six feet tall,

Growing all round my garden plot,

That I can wander behind,

And dig, or laze in contented ease,

Sowing my seeds just when I please,

Breaking the rules at my own sweet will

With no one to give me advice.

M.H. June 1944

‘Council Houses’ was written in the month after May and daughter Jean had moved into ‘Council House No 3’ on Skegness Road on 10th May (see 3rd June 1944). The poem alludes to unwanted gardening advice from new neighbours (see 4th June 1944). The move from their home at ‘Lenton Lodge’ in Anderby Road was necessitated by the death of May’s husband Will on 29th March (see 15th April 1944).

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’?

Oct 3/ 43.
Friday’s Child.

She came at the end of a day of wind and rain,

Winter loth to loose her hold tho’ far on the wane.

Spring came with the child so richly dowered;

Friday’s giftings of Loving and Giving upon her were showered.

All thro’ her life she has loved and given all,

Each gift lighting another star in heaven,

Her love enfolding deep rooted and strong,

Living for others, the whole day long.

Rene with Bill and pet rabbit

Rene with Bill and pet rabbit

‘Friday’s Child’ almost certainly refers to Rene, May’s elder daughter, whose birthday was on a Friday in early spring. May, whose health was fragile, relied very much on Rene’s support including help with the weekly washday.

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’?

Thurs Sep 23 8’oc. P.M. [1943]
# NEW POEM COMPLETED
# POLICEMAN MAKES ENQUIRIES
# LOCAL AIR ACTIVITY
# ALLIES SUCCESS IN SALERNO, ITALY
# LETTER FROM SOLDIER FRANK ADAMS

Have just added last few lines to my poem which I call for the moment, “The little house”. It is almost a week since I wrote most of it instead of in my diary. P.C. Coates has just called. I wonder what he is after. He was enquiring about something to do with Mr Moore (Ki. Moore). Said he had a list of his patients and Mr and Mrs Hill were named. I think we ought to have notice of questions and visits but still I only told him truth, if I gave the wrong answer I can’t help it, we don’t owe Moore anything. I told him the only dental treatment we had from him was, that he made Father a set of teeth some years ago. Can’t remember when. Think before the war but not sure.

There is a continual rumble of planes going out. There were a few planes over here last night and bombs dropped. I don’t know how near but I slept well. Father is patrolling so I am not so nervous. Churchill is back. War seems to be going in Allies’ favour all over now. We won the day at Salerno and 8th Army joined 5th much quicker than they expected, but I am afraid there has been a lot of lives lost and maimed. We had an A.M. [airmail] letter from Frank Adams to-day. We are pleased to hear that he is safe and not in Italy so far, at least he was in Sicily on Sep 6. We were pleased to get it but disappointed that it was not from Ron. Also we wonder if Ron has moved as it is over a month since the date of Ron’s last letter unless Emmie has had another. Frank said he could get to a town and that they were getting things normal and ship-shape again very quickly there. He had bought silk stockings and silk underwear set for Sybil and sent home. I hope it arrives safely. I must write to her, she will be relieved that he is not in Italy just now. We all feel better for knowing he’s safe, but it has made us wonder more than ever if Ron has moved again. We had several letters last week-end but they were all old ones, we had already had the newest one dated 17th. They cheered us up at first, as they were very cheerful letters. He seems to be more settled now as if he had got used to being away and we can get used to most things and it is a little easier then. However that has passed and we are anxiously awaiting a letter from him.

‘The Little House’ (or ‘The Little Home’) was almost completed on 17th September 1943.

Police Constable Coates was NOT the regular local officer. The policeman for Hogsthorpe and Chapel St Leonards was PC Fenn, father-in-law of Grace, née Clowes, Fenn who was a member of WRNS at ‘Royal Arthur’.

‘Kimoor’ was a bungalow, opposite ‘Sunny Side’ (see Village Map), named after the wife of dentist, Mr Moore.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived back in Britain on the battleship ‘HMS Renown’ following an extended stay in Canada and the USA. He had been attending the top secret First Quebec Conference with US President Franklin D Roosevelt and host Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

In the Allied invasion of Italy, the British 8th Army, Montgomery’s ‘Desert Rats’, and US 5th Armies had joined forces at the Salerno bridgehead, from which the Germans withdrew.

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

Friday Sep. 17 / 43. 8.30. A.M.
# INSPIRATION FOR POEM

Oh! dear! as Jo said in “Little Women”, “Genius burns” so must needs write down my poem ere it evaporates.

‘Little Women’, a novel about the lives of four sisters, was written by Louisa May Alcott, an American author, and first published in 1868. An additional volume was separately published in 1869 and later incorporated in a single published volume.

May Hill’s poem ‘The Little Home’ was completed on 23rd September.

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

Sep. 17th and 23rd 1943.
The Little Home.

I have a little home, my boyhoods home;

Not quaint, and old, and thatched with overhanging eaves;

Not timbered walls and tight-shut casements, low rooms and dark oak beams;

Nor yet so new and modern as the flat-roofed present style.

Just old enough to be familiar, homelike, edges worn a little smooth.

A tiny hall red-paved with polished tiles, that trip unwary feet,

And tempt the younger ones to steal a slide when mother’s back is turned.

A stairway that can’t quite make up its mind which way to go.

First it goes east, then takes a step towards the north,

No room to wander there so skirts the wall towards the west,

Then dawdles round the corner and ends due south upon a narrow landing.

Two doors are to the left with bedrooms facing early morn and setting sun.

A wee room to the right with bath and bowl, how many times

I’ve dried the bowl and pumped the water to the tank among the spars,

And fed the kitchen fire with wood to heat the water for the bath.

One door, the last one, leads to my little room beneath the sloping roof;

Warm in the winter with its tank, cool in summer with the western breeze.

The casement opens wide (I made those “blackouts” ere I came away).

The kitchen garden lies behind, with cabbages and bean-row,

I see the little square, now filled with wood, the salvage from the sea,

Just where my little tent, my “Innisfree”, was wont to stand in summer months
.
In there I slept while summer rain fell in the cool, dim, starlit nights, and “strafed” the beetles and the gnats

That on occasion joined me, and sometimes removed a cat,

That crept beneath the canvas and curled up upon my bed.

Beyond the garden a stretch of pasture, emerald green,

All gold in spring with buttercups and white with daisy and sheep;

Further afield the nodding corn and scattered farms.

A plume of smoke from our one chimney-stack, that marks the ‘modern dairy’,

Too far away to soil our clean sea breeze or fall in smuts, upon the washing day.

And then, beyond; the wolds the boundary of our view,

Far off they look to-day in mist of faintest blue

In the shimmering haze of memory’s summer heat.

At times they seem to travel nearer and we see

The fields, laid out in squares, like patch-work,

With feather-stitch of hedges bordered round.

Trees and little wood stand etched upon the crest,

A long white road winds up the slopes away into the west.

We know that rain is coming when the wolds are near,

And the clattering sound of the distant train we hear.

In front a little lawn, all daisies in the spring,

With diamond flower-bed where grows

Carnation and anemones and wee pink rose.

A little path leads from the door, past the wide bay window of “the room”.

The long dim room, with well-worn chairs,

Books and piano, games and shabby carpet on the floor.

Cool on summer afternoons, warm in winter with fires of drift-wood from the sea.

Thro’ the gates, (half doors), over the narrow road,

Sand-hills rise to part us from the sandy shore.

Down every path we scramble up cascades of sand, slide down

As on the top we turn and stand;

We view the miles of green and sunlit land,

And the little house that nestles ’neath the shadow of the hills,

In sound of the restless waves that the air with music fills.

'Lenton Lodge', Anderby Road, near Chapel Point

‘Lenton Lodge’, Anderby Road, near Chapel Point

'Sunny Side', the roadside part of a divided farmhouse in South Road

‘Sunny Side’, the roadside part of a divided farmhouse in South Road

May obviously wrote this poem for Ron who would often be thinking of home. Several drafts showed that the title changed from ‘My Old House’ to ‘The Little House’, which then became ‘The Little Home’. The house is clearly ‘Lenton Lodge’, the family home at the time of writing, although the poem relies upon a certain amount of ‘poetic licence’. Ron was already in his late teens when the family moved there from ‘Sunny Side’, a rented part of a farmhouse on the other side of the village centre, where Ron would have erected his tent in the garden at a younger age (see Village Map). ‘Innisfree’ is a reference to a private cabin depicted in the poem ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by WB Yeats.

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’?

July 23/ 43.
The Captive.

All’s over then, the battle lost, and I

A “prisoner of war” in Alien hands.

My misery, and sorely wounded pride too deep for tears or words.

I sit and watch their reinforcements landing on my native soil.

My aching wounds and heavy heart,

In deep despair, await the order to embark,

And sail away in a prison ship to a prison camp.

Oh! Little home, I see thee now,

My wife and dark-eyed baby girl and little son,

Receding from my sight for many a day.

I leave thee now and I must wait,

In impotence, with idle hands,

While war’s deep waves roll ever nearer thee;

And haply may engulf thee in its tide.

I speak no word, I cannot. Deep despair

Has fallen on me, body and soul are one great mound of poignant misery.

Soon, I shall rise and lift my heavy load, to bear it like a man but now,

I watch the conquering foe come in.

My heart is bleeding inwardly, I see there go,

Lost hopes, lost battle and most bitter blow, lost liberty.

My cup of woe is full, I live not, but endure.

‘Italian, Captive and UNhappy’ in the Daily Mail, Friday July 23rd 1943.

‘Italian, Captive and UNhappy’ in the Daily Mail, Friday July 23rd 1943.

Following their victorious North African campaign, the Allies had turned their attention to Italy. May’s son Ron was  amongst many RAF and other military personnel who were transferred from North Africa to Italy.

‘The Captive’, an original draft, was inspired by an item ‘Italian, Captive and UNhappy’ in the Daily Mail, Friday July 23rd 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’?

July. 14/ 43.
A Prayer for Peace.

Last night I lay upon my bed,

Hearing the ’planes pass overhead.

Some came in and some went out,

While others hovered round about.

Oh Lord, I started then to say,

But paused again, how could I pray

To God for life and safety when,

For every plane The Germans sent,

A score to them from Britain went.

It is a war for truth and right,

And we for justice hard must smite.

But oh! The little children’s tears,

The aged and the mothers’ fears,

They come between me and my prayers.

Of what more value is my life,

Than theirs in all the world’s great strife?

At last I pray if ’tis thy will,

Oh leave me with my loved ones still.

Or if the time has come to die,

Oh send death swiftly Lord I cry.

I thought [and there then] rose to mind,

The time when Herod tried to find

The Saviour Christ when he was born,

And slew between the dark and dawn,

All little children far and near,

Not knowing Jesus was not there.

These too were innocent of wrong,

But died the victims of the strong.

God saw it all and us he sees,

Fighting for right or on our knees.

Those children died and Christ was saved,

The way to life by them was paved.

Christ lived on earth his perfect life,

Then died to save the world from strife.

No one more innocent than He,

And yet He died upon the tree.

…………………………………………….
…………………………………………….

Oh send to us the knowledge Lord,

To live in peace and not by sword.

Let sacrifice be not in vain,

After this time of sin and pain.

Teach us to walk in righteousness,

And God the Trinity confess.

The poem as above appeared to be a draft and no re-written version has been found. The lower part of the double-sheet was damaged, so that the words shown in parentheses are a suggestion and two lines (……….) towards the end could not be deciphered.

At the time May wrote the poem (14th July 1943) she must have been feeling rather uneasy, having listened to news of new military action in Italy and having received Ron’s letters in which he could not reveal his own location after transferring to Malta from North Africa where the Allies had been victorious. May was unhappy that the war was taking a great toll in casualties, including civilians, on both sides, as well as spoiling the simple pleasures in life such as she expressed at times in her Diary (e.g. see 16 May 1943) “…Birds are singing, and it is so calm and quiet. War seems very far away, but that is a fallacy…”

More news of Ron’s whereabouts did emerge during August although May did not write in her Diary until the later part of the month.

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’?