Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (4)

The author of the following poem which appeared in the Nottinghamian of December 1940 was Robert Norman Walters of VI Classics. Robert was the son of a “Master Fruiterer” and lived at 159 Cinder Hill Road in Bulwell. He was in the High School from 1930-1941. The winter of 1940-1941 was legendary for its severity and was excellent practice for anybody thinking of taking a winter break in Stalingrad a couple of years later.


Snow shall fall and ice

Shall bind the lane in slithering shields

Of white and whitish blue.

Winds shall blow and howl and roar

And tiles shall fall.

Wood shall burst and split

Like statues known of old.

Rivers may cease to run

When snow shall whirl and swirl

And formless roofs gleam white.

Yet when this comes,

Let our strong, deep affections

Unfrozen, freeze not.

But with winter seen afar

Retain the burning heat

Of mid-June’s torrid air.

Robert left to go to Jesus College, Cambridge to study Classics. In the section of his poem :

“Winds shall blow and howl and roar

And tiles shall fall.

Wood shall burst and split

Like statues known of old.

Rivers may cease to run”

Robert has come remarkably near the words of Wace, who was possibly Robert Wace, a Norman poet, born in Jersey and brought up in mainland Normandy.

Wace was the first author to speak of the Round Table and the Court of King Arthur :


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 say and will say that I am

Wace from the Island of Jersey”

Wace lived, approximately, from 1100-1180.

James Theodore Lester was the son of a Leather Factor & Manufacturer who lived at 42 Bedale Road in Sherwood and then at Castleton House at 5 Castle Avenue in Arnold. The poem occasionally struggles for a rhyme, but the last verse is lovely.

“When I was six”

“When I was six I’d play at boats

And build a fort with many moats

Which I’d replenish with my pail

And put my little boats to sail.



Round and round and round they’d go

Till the water ceased to flow.

Then back home I would repair

And sit upon my rocking chair.


When it was time to go to bed,

Upon the pillow I’d put my head,

And think and dream of things I’d done,

And call the day a happy one.


We’ve already seen Frank Alan Underwood of 51 Charnock Avenue in Wollaton Park with his poem ““Evacuated”. This poem is a lot deeper and a lot more chilling. It was published in April 1943.


The dead man lay upon his bed

In the pause at dawn ere the Soul had fled,

And the Lamp burned dim as the East glowed red.

The Soul rose as the man had done

For twenty years at the beck of the sun:

But as yet it knew not that Death had won.

Then still as man and not aware

It looked in the mirror to brush its hair

–Looked in the mirror and found nothing there.

Ivan Keith Doncaster wrote a poem in The Nottinghamian in March 1937 which was pretty good:



There’s a fishpond in our garden,

Not very big or wide ;

But fish just love to dart about,

Among the rocks inside.

And if you sit there on the bank,

You’ll see a sudden flash—

A big fat frog has just dived in,

And made a dreadful splash.


The frightened fish swim swiftly round

In search of safe retreat,

The frog looks at the golden line,

And croaks his sad defeat.

When ice seals up our gold-fish pond,

Neath winter’s frozen spell ;

We just catch golden gleams below,

To tell us all is well.


In summer when the fountain plays,

And sends forth silver rain,

The fish all frolic in great glee,

As cooling showers they gain.


We feed the fish with large ant eggs,

And when the days are warm

They jump to catch the flitting flies

Which o’er the pond do swarm.


Some happy moments there we spend,

Watching the fish at play ;

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter too,

They move in swift array.


Ivan Keith Doncaster only lived from 1923-1944 but he had already succeeded in the previous year in writing the most beautiful piece of poetry by any High School boy, bar none. It summarises how much we love our oh-so-beautiful lives, yet all the time are well aware of the price we will all one day pay as the distant bells toll our inevitable doom.

Keith paid his price in the mid-upper turret of a Lancaster over the German city of Kassel on October 22nd 1943, five days after his 20th birthday.

This poem appeared in April 1936 and had Keith lived, he would have been a great poet. He has a masterful touch and is capable of the most astonishing subtlety.


“Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.”

I have read that poem literally hundreds of times and I do not even begin to tire of it.







Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, Literature, My Garden, My House, Nottingham, Personal, The High School, Wildlife and Nature

19 responses to “Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (4)

  1. There is much beauty in these, so much subtlety and understanding. How much did the world lose that we will never ever get?

    • The tragedy of war. Who knows what any of those 100 or so young men who died might have done with their lives?
      As far as poetry is concerned, though, I feel most of all that we lost a real talent in the death of Ivan Keith Doncaster in a bomber over Kassel. His poem about the shells is just superb.

      • Oh John. I don’t know how to start. Go back to WW1. Imagine if Rupert Brooke was alive. It isn’t fair. To use the modern vernacular, “Life Sux”. Some of the poems you have posted bring this old English teacher close to tears.

  2. GP

    I liked all the poems, John. Great article!

    • I’m so glad that you liked them.
      So many youngsters have real talents, whether 80 or so years ago or nowadays. We just need to give them the support they need, starting with as much education as they can cope with!

  3. Another fine collection. The Mirror is indeed darkly chilling

  4. I enjoyed reading all the poems, John. I agree with Derrick that “The Mirror” is “indeed darkly chilling.” I was especially struck by the following verse from Wace (1100-1180): “Nothing made by hand will last.” How could he have imagined our world of plastics?

    • I don’t think he could, any more than even my Grandad, born in 1888, could have imagined the TV remote control or any one of a thousand things we nowadays take for granted. It would be interesting to bring back a person from, say, the Middle Ages, and to find out what they considered the most astonishing thing about our world. I suspect he or she would have something to say about how we are wasting everything that we have been given!

  5. This is a fabulous collection of poetry John. So much thought, depth and feeling in each and every one. Had we not had war I wonder what the world of literacy would be like now?

    • A good question! And remember, WW1 had taken even more bright young men than WW2. An Old Nottinghamian, a keen rower, returned to his college, Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1920, and he found that he was the only rower in the whole college who had survived WW1. And then along comes WW2 to polish off the rest!
      Strangely, the usual opinion is that there were no great poets to emerge from WW2. Perhaps if these few young men had continued with their poetry, the situation would have been rather different.

  6. John Stocks

    Excellent post John.

  7. I too liked the last verse by James. The Mirror by Frank is very intense and well written. All the poems are beautiful and we could keep on reading them, they tell us something about the writers. Thank you for sharing.

    • I am very glad that you are enjoying them, Lakshmi. I wonder if those boys in the 1930s ever imagined that their work in an English lesson would one day be read in far-off India.

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