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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

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 :

“Eventually

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 MIRROR

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:

 

THE FISHPOND

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.

GATHERING SHELLS

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (3)

There were many other fine poems published in “The Nottinghamian” during the 1922-1946 period. Not all of them were linked to the war. Here is a selection of some of the best of those.

This one is written by Peter James Middleton, the son of a chemist who lived at 36 Devon Drive, just south of Haydn Road in Sherwood. It appeared in July 1937, when Peter was in the Fourth Form A. Peter left the High School in 1939 after passing his School Certificate.

ADVICE

If I had known Pythagoras,

Two thousand years ago,

And I had known his tendencies,

(As their results I know!)

“Pythagoras,” I should have said,

In firm though kindly tone,

“You stick to Greek philosophy,

Leave triangles alone.”

If Julius Caesar I had met

In some forgotten year,

His trusty sword clasped in his hand,

His pen behind his ear,

I should have said, “Look here, my friend,

Fight, if you must, indeed ;

But don’t write books about yourself,

That no one wants to read !”

In April 1938, we had another poem on a Latin theme, written by Neville Eric Stebbings of Hillcrest, on Sandfield Road in Arnold, to the north of Nottingham. Neville left in August 1944. He was a Prefect with 2nd XV Rugby Colours, 2nd IV Rowing Colours and a JTC ‘A’ Certificate which would entitle him to be an officer if he went into the army.

MY LATIN.

Of all the lessons taught at school,

“Latin” takes the biscuit;

I think I’d rather learn Chinese,

Anyhow, I’d risk it.

With “pugnabis” and “pugnabat”

And second declensions,

I’m always getting a hundred lines

Or else a few detentions.

Why can’t we study “botany”,

And learn about the “daisies”

Instead of swotting “G.N.C.”

And learning “Adverb Phrases”?

They say that Latin clears the brain,

That may be – but I doubt it;

I would not like to see in print

The things I think about it.

The memorising is the worst,

T’would make a Polar Bear grunt;

Fancy learning things like this: —

“Imus istis erunt.”

Oh, Latin gives me sleepless nights

The Grammar – I could burn it.

The hardest task the Romans had

Was when they had to learn it.

David James Hitchin was the son of an overall manufacturer. The family lived at 45 Austen Avenue in Forest Fields, on the far side of the Forest Recreation Ground from the High School. David is another boy who would rather stay in bed than get up. Notice how he gets up as late as eight o’clock because he lives so close to school.

ON GETTING UP

It’s eight o’clock in the morning,

A boy is asleep in bed,

The clock has given its warning,

“I’ll smash that clock,” he said.

“I’m tired of school,” said lazy bones,

“I think I need a rest,”

He gave a grunt, he gave a groan,

He eyed his chilly vest.

His dreams of ease were soon cut short,

The breakfast gong had sounded,

With unwashed neck, and unbrushed hair,

Right down the stairs he bounded.”

The last poem is a masterpiece, some  thirty or forty years before its time when it appeared in the Nottinghamian in July 1948

It was written by Geoffrey Edward C Woollatt who lived, fittingly, at 7 Wordsworth Road in West Bridgford. I think that his father’s job was unique in the history of the thousands of boys who have come to the High School. He was a philatelist.

MEMORIES OF SCHOOL

 

Down in the High School,

Working all the day,

What do you think we’re working for?

—No pay.

 

Racing round the busy streets,

What do you think I got?

—Ten times thirty-one,

What a lot.

 

Outside the Pres’ room,

Writing on the wall,

I’ve been caught without a cap

—That’s all.

 

Inside the Pres’ room,

Looking at my feet,

Guess what the sentence was,

—One beat.

 

Down in the corner,

Reaching for the floor,

What do you think I’m looking for?

—The door

 

Inside the D. room,

I’ve got a date,

When do you think they’ll let me out?

—Too late.

 

Silence in the D. room,

Working all the time,

What do you think I’ve written?

—One line.

“Ten times thirty-one” means a punishment of writing out the school’s Rule 31 ten times

“The Pres’ room” means the Prefects’ Room. The Prefects were responsible for the school’s discipline outside the classroom and in the absence of a teacher.

“One beat” means one stroke of the cane (on the hand or the backside, not the feet)

The metre of the poem is remarkably similar to a song written by the late and extremely lamented Ian Dury of “Blockheads” fame.

The song was entitled “Jack  ****  George” :

What did you learn in school today?
Jack ****
The minute the teacher turns away
That’s it
How many times were you truly intrigued?
Not any
Is boredom a symptom of mental fatigue?
Not many
When have you ever been top of the class?
Not once
What will you be when you’re out on your ****?
A dunce
What are your prospects of doing quite well?
Too small
And what will you have at the very last bell?
**** all

Here’s the usual link, to Volume 3, currently on sale:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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