It always gives me a shiver when I see a cat seeing what I can’t see.
Now That You Might Shortly Go
by Eleanor Farjeon
Now that you too must shortly go the way
Which in these bloodshot years uncounted men
Have gone in vanishing armies day by day,
And in their numbers will not come again:
I must not strain the moments of our meeting
Striving for each look, each accent, not to miss,
Or question of our parting and our greeting,
Is this the last of all? is this—or this?
Last sight of all it may be with these eyes,
Last touch, last hearing, since eyes, hands, and ears,
Even serving love, are our mortalities,
And cling to what they own in mortal fears:—
But oh, let end what will, I hold you fast
By immortal love, which has no first or last.
Eleanor Farjeon was a friend and correspondent with Edward Thomas. They met in 1912 when Eleanor was 31, when Edward’s brother invited her to tea. Their friendship rooted in literature and poetry, helped give Thomas confidence in the quality of his own writing. Farjeon is probably best known for a song that modern day listener’s attribute to the person who made it famous. Farjeon wrote the lyrics to Morning Has Broken as a hymn and Cat Steven’s had the genius to immortalize it as a pop hit.
Farjeon was not a one hit wonder, she wrote plays, novels, children’s books, a libretto and poetry. She never married, but had several long, enduring friendships with male companions. She supported herself as a writer and won multiple awards during her lifetime for her contribution to children’s literature. The Farjeon Award was established in her honor and is awarded for outstanding work in childrens’s literature annually.
World War I poetry is remarkable in its humanity, in ways that it is hard to imagine given the catastrophic level of human life lost in a conflict that was just 100 years ago. Total casualties both military and civilian in World War I is estimated at 40 million, with 15 to 19 million deaths and 23 million wounded, with 9 to 11 million military personnel killed on all sides of the conflict. For England an estimated 700,000 young men lost their lives out of a mobilized force of 6 million, an entire generation of both men and women, sister’s and brothers, father’s and mother’s, who lost loved ones or witnessed their lives forever altered by their experiences.
I don’t think I agree with John Berryman’s quote that the “artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him.” I don’t think anyone is lucky as an artist to have been touched by war and had it influence their art. But I do appreciate and honor the war poets of all genders who share a part of their experience through their writing.
by Eleanor Farjeon
Atter her, atter her,
Scatter her, scatter her
Treat her rough!
Git her, git her,
Catch her, catch her,
Don’t miss her!
Run till you’re dithery,
How she spits!
Can’t she scratch!
Scritching the bark
Of the sycamore-tree,
She’s reached her ark
And’s hissing at me