We are all used to the ‘War Poets’ of the Great War, but perhaps not so aware of poets writing about the Second World War. Dennis B Wilson’s Elegy of a Common Soldier was written at a time between the trenches in Normandy and being in hospital in Swansea in 1944 and conjures up the horrible detail of war juxtaposed with nature and what was once normal. Quite arresting.I was unaware of his work until I read an article in The Sunday Times Magazine about Mr Wilson’s reunion with a branch of the family he didn’t know existed: his father, novelist Alexander Wilson, had actually been married to four woman at the same time, producing numerous children. So in his late eighties, Dennis B Wilson discovered new relatives, including actress Ruth Wilson. She says of the poet: ‘As a wounded soldier in the Second World War, he bore witness to so many things, including the D-Day landings, all of which he wrote about in his poetry. I feel I have kindred spirits in my new-found family, I certainly do with Dennis. It may have taken this long to find each other, but I’m so pleased we have.’
If you have an online subscription to The Times, you can read the full article here.‘Elegy of a Common Soldier’
The cold, unsheltered nights in dismal rain;
Exhausted men, who long for sleep in in vain;
Confusion, noise and smoke, foul-reeking mud,
And countless shattered bodies, oozing blood;
The pain before the final choking breath;
The vile decay, the sickly smell of death,
Which does not come triumphant or in rest
But suddenly, unheralded, or dress’d
In guise of hedgerow, tree or growing wheat,
Or lurks amid the flow’rs beneath your feet.
Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library.
For more information about Dennis B Wilson’s poetry, click here for his website.
‘Elegy of a Common Soldier and Other Poems’ by Dennis B Wilson [UK: Kultura]
Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:-
‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolittle
‘Winter Song’ by Wilfred Owen
‘Name’ by Carol Ann Duffy
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Elegy of a Common Soldier’ by Dennis B Wilson http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ps via @SandraDanby