Tag Archives: Poetry

Reflections on war

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Siegfried Sassoon, this blog will look at a number of collections in the Special Collections reflecting on warfare in the 20th century. These include two poems by the long-time friend of Sassoon, Edmund Blunden.

Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) was the longest serving First World War poet, and saw continuous action in the front line, between 1916-18. According to his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, Blunden was the poet of the war “most lastingly obsessed by it”. The period that Blunden served at the front saw some of the most violent and bloody fighting, including the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres. He had very definite views on war writing, insisting that it had to be accurate in detail and  in spirit and he shared with Sassoon a belief that the First World War had been a terrible waste of life.

The Special Collections holds two of Blunden’s poems (MS10): fair copies of ‘Portrait of a colonel’ and ‘The passer-by’. Both were published in Retreat (London, 1928) with the former renamed as ‘On a portrait of a colonel’.

Opening lines of Edmund Blunden's Portrait of a colonel [MS10 A243/2]

Opening lines of Edmund Blunden’s ‘Portrait of a colonel’ [MS10 A243/2]

A more substantial literary collection held at Southampton is MS328, that of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003). He is probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. His archive collection contains not only notebooks and drafts of poems and prose writing, 1920s-87, but long series of correspondence, including correspondence with Edmund Blunden, 1932-58.

F.T.Prince [MS328 A834/1/11/10]

F.T.Prince [MS328 A834/1/11/10]

The soldier hero has proved to be one of the most durable and powerful ideas of idealised masculinity in western tradition since antiquity. For the poet Martin Bell, however, there was nothing heroic about either soldiering or military service, for him it was a life of crushing boredom. Bell volunteered for the Royal Engineers in 1939, in order, so he claimed, to avoid being called into the infantry. He spent his war service in camp as a hospital orderly both in UK and in the Mediterranean, and later as an instructor. His collection (MS12) of correspondence to Joan Broomfield, who was one of his circle of friends from his days at University College, Southampton, contains scathing comments on army life as well as reflecting his literary progress and including poems he had written. In a letter to Joan Broomfeld, from 1943, he expressed his dislike of army life and the boredom of his duties “we Pavlov’s dogs commended by imperious telephones, we cramp our reluctant flesh into organisation…” [MS12 A767/37]

The collection (MS376) of the poet Judith Lask Grubler provides very different reflections on warfare during the Second World War, drawing as she does a picture from the home front. In her writings, which date from the 1930s onwards, Grubler gives a contemporary account in such war related poems as ‘After the raids’ of the experience of civilians facing bombing raids on London.

This material fits well with a small collection of correspondence of Nora Harvey, a student at University College, Southampton, 1939. She writes of the impact of the war on the University as well as Southampton’s role as a port of embarkation and as a military camp. She noted that: “….Part of the college building is being used for a hospital and ARP depot etc….  The Common is horrid – all roped off, full of soldiers and rest camps. Lorry loads of troops are continually going up and down outside our window, and we can hear troops being drilled at all hours of the day.” [MS310/63 A4028]

Students outside a sandbag protected University College of Southampton, 4 October 1939 [MS310/43 A2038/2]

Students outside a sandbag protected University College of Southampton, 4 October 1939 [MS310/43 A2038/2]

Other papers reflecting on war include: diaries of Revd Michael Adler (MS125); letters and diary of Private Paul Epstein (MS124); correspondence and diaries of Leonard Stein (MS170); correspondence of Fred Salinger, Gallipoli (MS209); and correspondence of Frederick Dudley Samuel (MS336).

Revd Adler was one of a small number of Jewish chaplains attached to the forces in France. He, along with his colleagues worked tirelessly to visit the camps, training areas and hospitals to fulfil their pastoral duties. The four diaries that Adler kept for this period provide a brief record of his activities during his tours of duty rather than an analytical or personal account of his experiences as chaplain. They are detached and sparse in their detail and tone, as befits the type of record they represent, but also perhaps representing the need for detachment in dealing with a traumatic situation.

Private Epstein was a Russian conscript to the Royal Fusiliers (the Jewish Regiment) who served in the Palestine campaign. He suffered greatly from home sickness and this is recorded in his diary and correspondence. His letters describe daily events in great detail and he maintained his diary, even when he had nothing to record. Sometimes he summarises the content of his letters home in his diary. He used his letters as a means to maintain some sense of normality and create a strong link with home. As he noted in a letter to his parents of 16 March 1918: “A line to inform you that I received your second letter last Fri[day] March 13th and the sight of it was worth to me untold wealth…” [MS124 AJ 15/2]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Frederick Dudley Samuel, CBE, DSO (1877-1951) served in the South African war of 1901-2 and then with the British Expeditionary Forces in France, 1915-18. His archive consists mainly of correspondence written on an almost daily basis to his fiancée, later his wife, Dorothy, 1909-18. His letters from France depict the grim detail of life at the front line. In a letter of 5 April 1917 he talks of the “frightful waste of men, material and time it all is, all devoted to distruction when it should all be devoted to production”. [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

Envelope of letter from Fred Samuel to his wife, 1917 [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

Envelope of the letter from Frederick Samuel to his wife, 5 April 1917 [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

The collections at Southampton provide a range of material and of experiences of 20th-century warfare and the reflections they contain still speak to us as loudly today as they ever did.

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Ardour in the Archives: Valentine’s Day Special

In the western world it’s hard to miss that 14th February is Valentine’s Day. You might choose to mark the occasion – or perhaps you feel exasperated with the increasing commercialisation suggesting we must spend money on gifts to express our love. Whatever your perspective we hope you enjoy this delve into the Broadlands Archives to find some accounts of love and marriage from centuries past. The Special Collections hold extensive family papers for the Temple family, Viscounts Palmerston, who once lived at the Broadlands estate near Romsey.

Matrimonial ladder

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR34/6 Matrimonial ladder

Writing to her future husband, the second Viscount Palmerston, nearly 250 years ago Frances Poole has concerns but not, she professes, of the monetary kind:

[Saturday night, 12 o’clock (1767)]…not being able to persuade myself that I am young enough, or amiable enough, to insure you lasting happiness: I say nothing of not being rich enough, for scruples of that kind may be carried to a degree that is not generous; besides I could not have a serious thought of any body that could be influenced by things of that sort.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR16/9/3]

The second Viscount replies with reassurance: [Thursday night, eleven o’clock] “How lasting happiness is likely to be anybody’s lot I do not know but this I know that I must find it with you or nowhere.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR16/9/4]

They were married later that year but sadly Frances died in childbirth less than two years later.

The second Viscount Palmerston was lucky enough to find love for a second time. He married Mary Mee on 5 January 1783 and they had four children. There is extensive correspondence between Henry and Mary which clearly shows they were happily devoted to each other. In a letter from 1782 Palmerston talks of “how much I think of her and long for her society”. [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR20/1/9]

Henry and Mary’s eldest son was Henry John Temple, the future third Viscount Palmerston, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. Palmerston earned himself the nickname “cupid” because of his many romantic liaisons.

Palmerston did eventually settle down marrying his long-standing mistress, the recently widowed Emily, Lady Cowper. The Archives contains the poem he wrote for her on their tenth wedding anniversary:

“To Emily, Sunday morning, 16 December 1849

Ten quick revolving years have past

Since hand in hand securely claspt

Before that altar bending low

We pledged the heartfelt marriage vow…”

[MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR23AA/2/1]

“Napoleon’s Farewell” by Lord Byron

The Special Collections holds a manuscript copy, in the hand of Jane Austen, of Lord Byron’s poem “Napoleon’s Farewell”, c.1815: a dramatic monologue in three stanzas in the character of Bonaparte.

Byron’s poem, likely written on 25 July, was first published in The Examiner on 30 July 1815 and subsequently appeared in his Poems (1816) where it formed part of a group of poems “From the French” which ranged between condemning Napoleon and praising his bravery.

Extract from Byron's poem "Napoleon's Farewell" in the hand of Jane Austen, c.1815 (MS 8)

Extract from Byron’s poem “Napoleon’s Farewell” in the hand of Jane Austen, c.1815 (MS 8)

For Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely, and flawed genius and it is believed he considered Napoleon a foil for his own complex personality.  Jane Austen shared a fascination with Napoleon and even contemplated writing his history. In the spring of 1816 Byron left England in a cloud of scandal and debt, never to return. As he journeyed to Switzerland he visited the field of Waterloo as a tourist. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Byron saw the outcome of the battle as a tragedy rather than a victory and it was to have a significant influence on the third canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Austen’s version of “Napoleon’s Farewell”, which differs from Byron’s original, seems to have been written from memory, and was produced in 1815 or 1816 while she was writing Persuasion.  References to contemporary literature in Persuasion include those to the poetry of Byron.

Some changes are small, for example, she switches “name” and “fame” at the ends of the second and fourth lines.  Interestingly, in Byron’s original, Napoleon bids farewell to the land where, not the “bloom”, as penned by Austen, but the “gloom” of his glory rose.

The third stanza contains the most differences.  Napoleon asks to be remembered again in France when “Liberty” – rather than victory – rallies and he does not “vanquish the foes” but rather “baffle[s] the hosts” that surround them.  The most significant difference is the third line from the end:  the line in Byron’s original is “And yet may thy heart leap awake to my voice”.

1.
Farewell to the land, where the bloom of my glory
Arose, & o’ershadowed the Earth with her fame
She abandons me now, but the page of her story
The brightest or blackest is filled with my name.
I have warred with a world which vanquish’d me only
When the meteor of conquest allured me too far,
I have coped with the Nations which dread me thus lonely
The last single captive, to millions in war.

2.
Farewell to thee France! When thy Diadem crown’d me
I made thee the gem & the wonder of Earth,
Thy weakness decrees I should leave as I found thee
Decayed in thy glory and sunk in thy worth.
O! for the veteran hearts which were wasted
In strife with the storm, when their battles were won,
Then the Eagle whose gaze in that moment was blasted
Had still soared with eyes fix’d on Victory’s sun

3.
Farewell to thee France! But when victory rallies
Once more in thy regions, remember me then;
The violet grows in the depth of thy valleys,
Tho wither’d – thy tears will unfold it again.
Once more I may vanquish the foes that surround us,
Once more shall they heartless awake to my voice.
There are links that must break in the chain that has bound us,
Then turn thee and call on the chief of thy choice.

[MS 8 AO174]

China’s National Day and Golden Week

China’s National Day is celebrated every year on 1 October to commemorate the formation of the People’s Republic of China. It marks the beginning of National Day Golden Week and is celebrated throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Photograph of a pagoda near Shanghai, circa 1880-2, from the collection MB2/A20

Photograph of a pagoda near Shanghai, circa 1880-2, from the collection MB2/A20

A number of collections held by the University of Southampton contain records focusing on the relationship between Britain and China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Selections of these materials were displayed in the exhibition Britain and the Far East, 1800-1950 in 2006. These included materials from the Palmerston and Wellington papers focusing on trade and colonial aspiration in the 18th century, as well as materials from the Mountbatten Papers focusing on the British relationship with the Chinese Kuomintang forces in the South-East Asian Theatre during the Second World War.

The Special Collections Division is also home to the collection MS 13 which contains four manuscript translations of Chinese poems by the renowned English sinologist Arthur Waley (1889-1966). Waley achieved much acclaim for his influential translations of Chinese and Japanese literary classics into English. Among his Chinese translations are A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918); the Analects of Confucius (1938); The Way and its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and its Place in Chinese Thought (1934), a commentary on the Tao Te Ching including a full translation; and Monkey (1942), an abridged translation of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West.

Extract from a translation of Ta'o Ch'ien’s ‘Shady, Shady’ by Arthur Waley from the collection MS 13

Extract from a translation of Ta’o Ch’ien’s ‘Shady, Shady’ by Arthur Waley from the collection MS 13

The poems in the manuscript collection are “Drinking wine number 9”, “Shady, shady, the wood in front of the hall” and “A long time ago I went on a journey” by Ta’o Ch’ien, and “The pedlar of spells” by Lu Yu. They appear in a revised form in Arthur Waley Chinese poems (London, 1946, reprinted 1948) and Arthur Waley Translations from the Chinese (New York, 1919 and 1941).

Manuscript Collections: Papers of Frank Templeton Prince

Prince workshop on Wednesday April 30th, 2014
Wednesday April 30th saw Special Collections hosting a poetry workshop based on the F.T. Prince Archive. The archive was gifted to the university by the poet and Milton scholar F.T. Prince, but embargoed until 2012. Prince helped found the university’s English department when he joined the university in 1946.

Portrait of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)

Portrait of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)

The afternoon event was a chance for university alumni to see some of the archive’s treasures, including unpublished letters by T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and E.M. Forster. It was also a chance to get to know Prince’s poetry: though many of the workshop participants had been taught by Prince, it was the first time they had been given a chance to discuss his work. Beatrice Clarke, who studied English under Prince in the 1960s called it ‘the best kind of keeping alive of a scholarly man’s work – respectful, but properly questioning and critical’. Another seminar participant, Michael Hinds, noted it was ‘the first time I had experienced working and talking around manuscript material’ and found it ‘very enjoyable and rewarding’. The session was led by Dr Will May, a Senior Lecturer in English at the University.


Papers of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)

Prince was born in Kimberley, South Africa, the son of a Jewish diamond expert and a Scottish Presbyterian. He was educated at the Christian Brothers’ College, Kimberley, and then came to the UK to read English at Balliol College, Oxford. From 1940-6, Prince served in the Army Intelligence Corps. In 1946 he joined the English Department at the University of Southampton, where he was Professor 1957-74. Prince subsequently taught at the University of the West Indies, in the United States and in North Yemen. He delivered the Clark Lectures at Cambridge University in 1972-3.

Extract from a draft of The Swimmers

Extract from a draft of ‘The Swimmers’ from the collection MS 328 Papers of Professor Frank Templeton Prince

Prince was a poet of some renown. He is probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. Written in 1942, it presents soldiers relaxing by a river and culminates in a power evocation of the naked Christ on the cross. Initially championed by T.S.Eliot, Prince’s poetry was to quickly fall out of fashion. He was admired by and influenced the New York school, a group of writers that flourished in the 1960s, and was regard by John Ashbery, the group’s most famous poet, as one of the most significant poets of the twentieth century.

The Prince archive (MS 328) contains an important collection of Prince’s poetry and prose writings, as well as a range of correspondence with notable literary figures, including W.H.Auden, Stephen Spender, C.S.Lewis, E.M.Forster and T.S.Eliot who, as editor at Faber and Faber, was a supporter of Prince’s poetry.


New Prince related acquisitions

Over the last few months, the University of Southampton has acquired two further collections of papers relating to Frank Prince.

The first of these (MS 328 A4131) is a collection of papers of Professor Jacques Berthoud (1935- 2001). Berthoud was recruited by Prince to join the English Department at the University of Southampton and worked alongside Prince at the University until 1979 when he moved to the University of York. A native of Berne, Berthoud was educated in South Africa.

The second collection (MS 328 A4165) is that of the poet W.G. (Bill) Shepherd (1935-2012). Of particular significance here is a series of 35 letters from Prince to Shepherd, 1986-2000, in which they discuss poetry and the genesis of some of the Prince’s writing.