A moving poem by a largely forgotten WWII poet
In the latest post for our occasional series on neglected poems (see Anna Seward’s brilliant poem ‘An Old Cat’s Dying Soliloquy’ for a previous title in the series), we thought we’d share with you this little-known poem written by a young Welsh poet, David Rhys Geraint Jones, during the Second World War. ‘Let Me Not See Old Age’ (sometimes known by the alternative title ‘A Wish’) was written in spring 1944, not long before Jones’s untimely death in action during the War, in Normandy in June 1944. Jones was just 22 years old, and so – assuming the poem expresses the poet’s own wishes – his entreaty, ‘Let me not see old age’, was honoured. ‘Live fast, die young’, as the rock star’s later motto has it. Not much else is known about D. R. Geraint Jones, so we would welcome further information from anyone who does know more about him.
Let Me Not See Old Age
And in youth’s fickle triumph laughed and sang,
Loved, and were foolish; and at the close have seen
The fruits of folly garnered, and that love,
Tamed and encaged, stale into grey routine.
Let me not see old age; I am content
With my few crowded years; laughter and strength
And song have lit the beacon of my life.
Let me not see it fade, but when the long
September shadows steal across the square,
Grant me this wish: they may not find me there.
The poem was included in a volume, Poems, published in 1944, the year of Jones’s death. Three of Jones’s poems – ‘Let Me Not See Old Age’, ‘A Joy Too Deep for Words to Say’, and ‘Your Peace Is Bought with Mine’, have been set to music by Welsh composer Anthony Randall.
‘Let Me Not See Old Age’ is a sonnet, though it does not adopt as strict or rigid a rhyme scheme as most sonnets. (Lines two and four rhyme with each other, as do lines six and eight.) However, it does follow the tradition of the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet by ending with a couplet.