A poem in iambic pentameter by my father, Don Taylor, written when he was a soldier aged 20, stationed in Italy soon after the war. You might think he ought to be full of optimism after the Allied victory of 1945, but I think this poem shows the mark that those years of conflict made on my Dad as a young person. He was always a worrier (like me) and the future seems far from secure. I think the last stanza is very resonant for today in that it reveals a yearning for lasting peace and stability in Europe. If he were still around, Dad would be casting a vote to Remain (probably bewildered as to why he was being asked to vote on the issue in the first place.) He always valued Europe as a place of culture and aspiration and in later life as somewhere that provided a brief but blessed escape from the dour greyness of Thatcher’s Britain.
Blue was the sky, with white clouds flecked afar
Along the blue sea’s range, in whose profound
Of turquoise gloom, dim purple seaweeds stir
Round shadowed rocks in azure mystery drowned.
White-fingered waves, with Sol’s tiara crowned,
Reached up the jutted flanks of rugged stone,
And sank and died away. I heard the sound
Of sea-birds’ cries, hushed by the swirling foam,
Over quiet-terraced hills asleep in noon’s bright chrome.
Such peace there was! Yet, hov’ring over all,
The wings of death hung heavy in the air;
The great gaunt spectre’s grim funeral pall
O’erhung unfurrowed fields and pastures bare.
Nation against nation! A people’s black despair,
Intolerance and lust, stamp out the fire
Of universal brotherhood, distort all fair;
And envy, rage and want inspire
The flames to leap from earth’s last funeral pyre.
Is this the end? Shall this chimera be
The end of all we love, and all we prize?
O fools, you have not yet the power to see
The end of politics’ deceit and lies!
Mistrust binds yet the brothers’ eyes,
for still they bicker fruitlessly and fight–
For what? Security? This only lies
Along the path of love, not that of fright:
Peace grows ill-favoured where suspicion hides the light.
D. J. Taylor