Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Ifs or Buts

The words in blue are the first words of Rupert Brooke's War poem 'The Soldier.'



'IF I should die........!'
Change that first word to 'When',
Unless, of course, you're not like other men!
There's no point having a little chortle,
Laughing and saying 'Hang on! I'm immortal!'
It's pretty certain you'll turn up your toes
And go the way that everybody goes!
If Einstein, with a brain excelling yours,
With cleverness oozing out of all his pores,
Couldn't work out a way to stay alive,
What makes you think that you will still survive?
No, the word is 'When'; accept the fact
And do not dream that you will stay intact!
'Think ONLY this of me......'.
 Why just one thought?
I want the world to be unhinged, distraught!
I want my closest friends to meditate
Daily upon my death and mark the date
With solemn thoughts and pleasant reveries,
A hundred thousand lovely memories!
Of course, I understand that wont occur;
They'll simply pause and then respond 'Oh....her!'
They'll carry-on as though I never was
And that thought really angers me, because
Why should anything at all, on earth, go on
If the reason for its being...... me...... has gone?
Rupert had a reason for his lines;
He was off to battle....bullets, tanks and mines.
He was going to an awful living hell,
Where death could come with any passing shell.
His poem was intensely patriotic;
Whereas, for us, such words are idiotic.
There is no 'If'; my death is 'When' and certain.
It's 'coming, ready or not', that final curtain.
Why should I quibble, live on hope or doubt it?
The only thing to do is laugh about it!


I wrote this poem nearly sixty years ago and it still has the power to recreate for me a scene I came to love well. Brighton, on the South Coast of England, is noted for 'fresh air and fun', candy floss, funny hats, all that the word 'seaside' denotes. But I lived there, in an old Regency building right on the sea-front, for two years, while I was training to be a teacher. Because of this I came to love the Winter Brighton. I would sit on my tiny balcony and listen to the sea lisping on the pebbles. And this is what I wrote. I hope you can see it too.


Now has the sea no ending;
It was light and it now is dark.
And the sea with the sky is blending
With a smooth and seamless mark.
And a bird is into the darkness tossed.
The mist comes down and the bird is lost.

Smooth are the lamp's reflections
From the street lights far below.
They are whirligig-bound confections
In a misty cellophane glow.
But their lights reflect on the turning sea,
Like barmaids lost in a reverie.

Now is the night air folding
It's chill wings round the world.
And the sea is gently scolding
As the waves are backward furled.
Like moths that glide under darkened trees
Are the tufted waves on the cold black seas.


George S Batty said...

I love the way you can put any prompt to a good rhyme. I sincerely enjoyed the your poem of Brighton Beach. I have never been there and will problably never go there but I now have a wonderflu feeling of what it would be like if I were there.

Rune Eide said...

If and when - I agree. Enjoy life while you have got it.

Brighton - I will have to go there too.

omj said...

I laughed out loud several times reading the first poem. I especially enjoyed the - oh her! Most excellent job!

omj said...

My favorite line in the second poem is "But their lights reflect on the turning sea,
Like barmaids lost in a reverie."

Margaret Gosden said...

The Brighten Beach poem touches me because I
really could choose to live my retirement in an apartment overlooking the Atlantic ocean here in Long Beach, NY! But, will I, I do not know - just to hear the sound of the waves, the pounding of the surf and to be able to walk on the beach when the summer is over? Yet the thought of 'retirement' in that sense is anathema. Poor Richard Brooke (and a first cousin of mine) who ran off to fight in WW1 - a war that horribly ended many a YOUNG man's life in the name of patriotism. At 17 what does anyone know?

Maureen said...

You've made such fine use of the prompt. I like the wit you show in the first and the clever way in the second that you worked in Brookes.

Your Brighton poem is lovely.

KB said...

You wrote that poem 60 years ago? I'm impressed.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Incredible. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. Love and Light, Sender

Elizabeth said...

I agree and laughed a lot while reading the first poem, the second is about a place I do not know, but you certainly created a desire to visit. I'd have to wait another twenty years to be able to say I wrote a poem 60 years ago. Not sure I'll still be around, or interested, lol. But, am mightly impressed that you can do so,


Kerry O'Connor said...

Brenda, I'm in awe of your wit and talent. I love your response to the COT prompt. A gem!

Whitesnake said...

Now who's got talent aye?