You are here:   Text > Unpublished poems by Robert Conquest
 

Much later, Bob observed that the poems in the notebooks seemed to form something of a record in verse of the decade 1940-1950. Though not in any direct sense autobiographical, he recognised a certain personal development running through the series:

In a way I find this rather surprising. I would be the last person to look for any signs of the Zeitgeist in my own poetry, which has, indeed, been largely lyrical. Moreover, it is true, and I think it is more than personally significant, that the “sequence”, even though still in a social context, ends with nothing more than a simple and tentative attitude to individual experience. Fear of death, most public and most private of all feelings, certainly appears, for at that time many of us fully expected to run a serious risk of dying after discomfort and pain. Some did, of whom (apart from Keith Douglas) Drummond Allison was the best of the English poets. He was not a close friend: indeed, I do not see how one could write a poem of that sort about a close friend’s death.

In 1946 Bob was demobilised, flying to Bari, then boarding a troop train to London, via Milan, through France. The train pulling him into another life stopped in Paris, where he learned that a close friend, Maurice Langlois, had been working with one of the underground groups, taken by the Gestapo, and executed. He would dedicate his first collection of poems to Maurice, but made no attempt to write of his death as he had done when Allison was killed. “Lament for a Landing Craft”, much less personal, is typical of the poems published after the war.

Lament for a Landing Craft

Four fathoms under the green
Water, canted between
Two rocks, half on its side
Under the lowest low tide

The flat hull now dimly seen
Bore an armoured machine
Towards the golden wide
Beach, but the forts replied,

Till the swell and the fury were clean
Gone, and it entered a scene
Of soundless shimmer and glide
 Heavy with myth. Time died.

And the years’ and the waters’ sheen
Smoothed out this image, serene
Enough, perhaps, to provide
For eternity’s moods, and to guide.

Men escaped, or have been
Made smooth bone by the keen
Teeth. And the weeds hide
Skull, keel, plan, pride.
View Full Article
Tags:
 
Share/Save
 
 
 
 

Post your comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.