In this week’s Dispatches from the Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle considers Drummond Allison, a poet who died in the Second World War
‘Lost Generation’. That was the name Gertrude Stein gave to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and their contemporaries, men who’d lived through the Great War. Of course, many writers were lost in the war themselves, killed in action while still in their twenties (or younger): Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Hamilton Sorley, Wilfred Owen. But the Second World War also produced its own lost generation: born just after the First World War and destined to perish in the Second. Of that generation, it would be those poets who survived the Second World War, or who were excused active service for health reasons, who would go on to achieve wider notice: Charles Causley, Richard Wilbur, and, most of all, Philip Larkin. Yet although Sidney Keyes and Alun Lewis died before, perhaps, their full potential could be realised, Keith Douglas, as I’ve previously observed, was a great poet even by the time he died aged 24 during the D-Day campaign. Drummond Allison was also a very accomplished poet by the time he died, aged just 22, while fighting on the Garigliano. Yet next to Allison’s, Douglas’s small measure of fame looks positively stratospheric. Read the rest of this entry
An introduction to a classic fairy tale
A classic example of the fairy tale featuring ‘the animal as helper’, ‘Puss in Boots’ entered the canon of classic fairy tales when Charles Perrault included it (as ‘Le Chat Botté’) in his 1697 collection of fairy stories, although like many of the greatest fairy tales, an earlier version can be found in the 1634 Pentamerone, a collection of oral folk tales compiled by Giambattista Basile. How we should analyse ‘Puss in Boots’ has troubled authors, commentators, and illustrators over the years. George Cruikshank objected to ‘a system of imposture being rewarded by the greatest worldly advantages’. Before we look more closely at this aspect of the tale, here’s a brief summary of the ‘Puss in Boots’ tale:
A miller dies and leaves his three sons all he has: he leaves his mill to his eldest son, an ass to the middle son, and to the youngest son, he leaves his cat. The youngest son thinks he’s drawn the short straw with the cat, but the cat promises that if the son gets him some boots made, he will prove to be a worthy and helpful pet. Once the cat has some boots and a little bag he can wear, he goes off and hunts for rabbits. Having caught a rabbit, Puss in Boots takes it to the King, telling him that it’s a gift from the Lord Marquis of Carabas, the cat’s master. Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on one of Hopkins’s ‘Terrible Sonnets’
‘No Worst, There Is None’ is one of a group of sonnets the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) wrote when he was suffering from depression in the 1880s, while living in Ireland. These are known as the ‘Terrible Sonnets’ because of the terrible fits of misery and despair which inspired them, and which they so brilliantly capture. Before we proceed to offer a few words of analysis of ‘No Worst, There Is None’, here’s a reminder of the poem.
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.’ Read the rest of this entry