And here is the news (4)……

I was talking last time about a book which I have started writing about the High School’s war dead from World War 2. At the moment, the book has no title but that will emerge!

I intend to incorporate a few poems in the book. You will be glad to hear that none of them are by me.

One comes from the writings of ‘Granta’ in the School Magazine, The Nottinghamian. To paraphrase his words:

Nine Nottinghamians,
At the Forest Road gate,
One went to Bomber Command,
And then there were eight.

And the poem by John Maxwell Edmonds:

Went the day well ?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.

This poem was written by R. W. Gilbert and was featured by my friend Pierre Lagacé in his blog « RCAF 425 Les Alouettes »

The pain has stopped, for I am dead,
My time on earth is done.
But in a hundred years from now
I’ll still be twenty-one.

My brief, sweet life is over
My eyes no longer see,
No summer walks, no Christmas trees,
No pretty girls for me.

I’ve got the chop, I’ve had it.
My nightly ops are done.
Yet in another hundred years
I’ll still be twenty-one.

I may incorporate a poem by a Bomber Command veteran, John Pudney:

“Do not despair

For Johnny-head-in-air;

He sleeps as sound

As Johnny underground.

Fetch out no shroud

For Johnny-in-the-cloud;

And keep your tears

For him in after years.

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Better by far

For Johnny-the-bright-star,

To keep your head,

And see his children fed.”

I have not decided yet on which ones I will definitely use, except for the  following words which will certainly appear. They describe perfectly the job that, hopefully, I will have done. They were written by (possibly Robert) Wace, a Norman poet who was born in Jersey in the Channel Islands between 1099 and 1111 and who was last known to be alive in 1174. Wace was brought up in Caen in Normandy and eventually became Canon of Bayeux:

All things decline
Everything falters, dies and ends
Towers cave in, walls collapse
Roses wither, horses stumble
Cloth grows old, men expire
Iron rusts and timber rots away
Nothing made by hand will last
I understand the truth
That all must die, both clerk and lay
And the fame of men now dead
Will quickly be forgotten
Unless the clerk takes up his pen
And brings their deeds to life again.

In Jersey’s Royal Square stands the States Building and a granite memorial  stone to Wace is built into one of its side walls:

It has on it a proud quote from Wace’s major work, the Roman de Rou, the Tale of Rou, which tells the story of William the Conqueror and the Norman Conquest, including Halley’s Comet :

Jo di e dirai ke jo sui
Wace de l’isle de Gersui

In Modern French it would be

Je dis et dirai que je suis
Wace de l’île de Jersey

And in English

I say and will say that I am
Wace from the Island of Jersey

It is also recorded in Modern Jèrriais, a language I had never heard of, but it still has an admittedly declining number of speakers on the island :

J’dis et dithai qu’jé sis
Wace dé l’Île dé Jèrri

It was Wace who introduced the idea of Halley’s Comet to the Bayeux Tapestry story:

Watch what you’re doing with that arrow !!!!  You’ll take somebody’s eye out !!!!

Because I am a registered Nerd / parce que Je suis un geek de la langue française, I have the poem in Modern French and whatever language Wace spoke as well…Norman, Medieval French, Medieval Jèrriais, whatever. In the first section I have put ye Olde Frenche firste, and then modern French in Italics and then English. In the second section, see if you can think of the modern French words that ye Olde Frenche comethe fromme ….

Tote rien se tome en declin
Tout  décline
All things decline

Tot chiet, tot muert, tot vait a fin
Tout meurt, tout va à fin
Everything falters, dies and ends

Hom muert, fer use, fust pourrist
L’homme meurt, le fer use, le bois pourrit
Men expire, iron rusts and timber rots away

Tur font, mur chiet, rose flaistrit
la tour s’écroule, le mur tombe, la rose flétrit
Towers cave in, walls collapse, roses wither,

cheval tresbuche, drap viesist
cheval bronche, drap vieillit
horses stumble, cloth grows old,

Tot ovre fet od mainz perist
tout ce qui est fait de la main des hommes périt
Nothing made by hand will last

Bien entenz è conoiz è sai,
I hear the truth well and I am aware and I know

Ke tuit morront  è cler è lai;
That all must die, both clerk and lay

E mult ara lor renomée
Emprez lor mort corte durée

And the fame of men now dead
Will quickly be forgotten

Se par cler ne est mise en livre,
Unless the clerk takes up his pen

Ne pot par el durer ne vivre
And brings their deeds to life again.

Wace, Romain de Rou, III, II, 131-142
(c 1170)

The translation is not such a close fit in the second bit rather than the first.




Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

26 responses to “And here is the news (4)……

  1. John, Please forgive an old English teacher from this.;

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air…
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark or even eagle flew —
    And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.,johnmagee.html
    Unfortunately his last line was prescient.

    • It’s a very beautiful poem. I was going to have it on my Dad’s grave but the cost of the letters was extremely expensive. Instead, I shortened it with the added bonus that it fitted on as well. It came out as “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
      And while, with silent, lifting mind, I’ve trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God” It’s a very pale copy but it came in at a much more affordable price!

      • And have you told the story of your father? If so then I have missed it somewhere.

        MY REPLY : I just mention him from time to time. I haven’t got a 100% idea of exactly what he got up to because in England the records supplied are very sparse to say the least and the government has made little if no effort to put things on line. I paid £35 for my Dad’s RAF records and they actually apologised for how little there was on them! In short he flew as a wireless operator / air gunner, and he trained in Wellingtons and flew 19 operations in Lancasters towards the end of the war, nearly all of them in daylight. And he seems to have met the Australians of 460 Squadron who he said would bet on anything and fight anybody. No comment from me on that one!

  2. Some tear-jerking verses here, John

  3. Pierre Lagacé

    Love it John!
    J’aime beaucoup.

  4. Pierre Lagacé

    Especially this…

    Nothing made by hand will last
    I understand the truth
    That all must die, both clerk and lay
    And the fame of men now dead
    Will quickly be forgotten
    Unless the clerk takes up his pen
    And brings their deeds to life again.

  5. John, I like your idea of incorporating poetry in your book in progress. In a sense, your project will fulfill the hope expressed by the Norman poet Robert Wace of bringing “the fame [and deeds] of men now dead…to life again.”

    There is no glory in warfare, only pain and loss. After all that we kill each other for, we soon realize that “nothing made by hand will last.” All the best with your project.

    • Thank you very much. Sometimes I think I will never finish, but now that I’m just 5 people from the end of the 105, and the preliminary work is mostly finished, I’m getting scared that I will actually have to produce something one day. At the moment I will be happy if I finish within a year from now…January 2019 shall we say. And you are absolutely right about poems. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a poem is worth good 600 !

  6. Poetry is a brilliant way to bring the past to life, and in a book such yours it will work perfectly. I’m impressed with the ‘three’ languages I can barely speak one!

    • I had the opportunity to learn languages when I was at school and I think a lot of people now don’t get that. Relationships with foreigners improve a million percent when you try to speak their language. It means to them that you don’t think you are any better than them and that you respect their culture. I don’t know any Italian but even ‘tante grazie’, (thank you) will have its effect. At the lowest level, bigger portions from the waiter.

  7. Pingback: Nothing made by hand will last… | Our Ancestors

  8. Pingback: Poem | Our Ancestors

  9. I had to re-read this post – it is so heart-felt and important!!

  10. Some great poems there. Good luck with the book.

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