The British poet and novelist Richard Aldington is probably best known as one of the three ‘original Imagists’, with Ezra Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle, but always known as H.D. At this time she and Aldington were married).
In late spring 1916 Aldington was conscripted and on June 24th left London for Dorset, where he was stationed for military training until December.
“them bloody, bleedin’, fuckin’ trenches … I wish I wasn’t a soldier; I do, George, I do. But if you’re a good boy you shall have all my medals to play with / When I get back / When I get back / To my o-o-old Ken-tucky / home!”
In another letter to Plank, on the eve of departure, he writes:
“off to France in a couple of hours; … I have a conviction that I shall be killed, but it doesn’t worry me except for H.D. You must help to find her another husband, some nice Yank of cultured opulence who’ll not bore her too much.”*
In fact, though wounded on the Western Front, he survived. His most immediate literary response to the war was his collection of poetry Images of War, published in 1919, which included the poem The Lover, in which he synthesizes fear and desire.
*Source: Louis Silverstein’s H.D. Chronology, Part Two (1915-March 1919)
Clubmen’s Down, near Shaftesbury in Dorset, was recently spectacularly transformed into a carpet of poppies.
The owner of the field, conductor John Eliot Gardiner, described the multitude of poppies as “the beneficial fallout of organic farming. They are ecologically and pictorially a wonder, but agriculturally a bit of a disaster.”
The field had been left as grassland for seven years, but ploughed for turnips for winter feed for sheep this year. This disturbed the poppy seeds, enabling them to germinate, and the very wet July and August, followed by a very dry September, provided the perfect growing conditions.
We went walking to see the field a couple of Sundays ago; it was a truly extraordinary sight.
2 replies on “Remembrance”
A truly stunning sight. I am surprised that this wasn’t covered more in the national news around armistice day… symbolic images like this are going to become ever more important as the last of the veterans from the two world wars leave us.
It was an extraordinary sight. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.