November 17, 1941
Do you remember a letter I wrote to you early last winter telling you about Mrs. Barnard and what a grand woman I thought she was? Well look what I found printed in the Daily Mirror: imagine that - the Mirror! I wonder how they got ahold of it? Boy, am I proud now! I’m almost becoming convinced I was born under a lucky star. Out of the thousands of letters Canadians send home to their families and out of hundreds that are printed, they picked mine for publication in the Mirror - England’s second largest daily publication... I still can’t believe its true! I’m almost afraid I’m going to wake up in a minute or two and find it is all a dream! I’m going to write to the Daily Mirror tonight and find out how they got ahold of it because it is very interesting don’t you think? But somehow it still doesn’t seem real.
I have composed another poem which I am also sending you. I have entered it in a contest which a friend of mine in London brought to my notice. I have never seen this girl yet: Mrs. Sayers gave her my address last August when I first came in here and since then, she has sent me several parcels of magazines. She has been sending me quite a few ‘magazines for writers’ lately and in one of them was this contest. So I am going to enter my latest poem: not that I expect it will win anything, but the criticism will be good for me. The contest is very difficult as we are given a difinite subject to write on instead of being allowed to pick our own. That makes it hard: it is very hard to turn out heartfelt poetry about a definite subject. It is like producing poetry on an assembly line process. The title of the poem was “Winter in Wartime” and I was frankly puzzled how to begin or what to write about. I puzzled over it for days and got nowhere. And then one day - or rather night, I couldn’t get to sleep and as I tossed back and forth in bed, suddenly I found myself thinking poetry. I composed nearly 60 lines but the next morning, all I could remember was the opening lines (the first three). But I wrote them down and puzzled on from there. You have to read the poem out loud to get the melody of the first stanza. It doesn’t make much sense but I deliberately composed it thus for the music:
Winter in Wartime
The ostentatious sun shines cheerlessly,
The weary wind breathes sadly and swiftly past
A souless sigh amidst the bare, brown trees.
A restless rook - forlorn in raggedness,
Eyes with uneasy glance the ground below
Where squads of soldiers - drab in khaki dress,
March quickly down the empty winding road:
Their cheerful voices fill the frosty air.
Iron shod - their boots ring loud and clear.
They pass - not knowing in their wantoness,
that they disturb my solitude.
How many lands there are where this same ring
of iron feet upon the cobblestones
Disturbs the solitude and peace of men!
Cruel feet they are that trample and subdue,
Cruel, ruthless feet which crush the pleading hands
Until the starving people turn in wretchedness
To strike the trampler down! One more accursed
Foe to be avenged an hundred fold!
And so these blood-caked, iron feet tramp on.
But loudly swells the mumur of Revenge,
For Hope still lives within their aching hearts.
They know that Right will bloom again for them.
That Justice, Truth and Freedom will prevail
When this, the wartime’s winter shall have passed.
Does the sound of ‘s’s and ‘t’s suggest a disconsolate winter scene? It is supposed to be a dreary winter landscape. “Ostentatious” in the first line means here, ‘false front’. The line means “The heatless sun shines cheerlessly” “Wantoness” means carelessness.
My arm is much better now and I really think I shall be out of here by the end of the month. I hope I can get leave in time for Xmas because I have so many friends I want to wish Merry Christmas to.
Well I guess there is nothing more to tell you this week as not much has happened. I haven’t had my Canadian mail for over a week but I still have lots of English mail. I haven’t mailed your other Xmas presents but I hope to send them tomorrow. Cheerio
Love to all,