Continuing to think about the literature that emerged from the First World War, this week’s Featured Poem comes from Wilfred Owen, who is often the first name to come to mind when we think of war poetry.
Owen has strong ties to Birkenhead, where he lived with his family after the death of his grandfather. Not too far away in Cheshire was where his poetic vocation was realised, with strong influence coming from the Romantic movement. This may come as a surprise considering he is most famed for his verse which holds no bars against conveying the bleak and violent nature of war. His poetry was influenced by fellow soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon, whom he met at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh receiving treatment for shellshock.
Though his poetry shows disillusionment and heavy criticism of the nature of ‘The Great War’, Owen returned to the Front in August 1918, and was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership. He was killed in action exactly one week almost to the hour of the signing of the Armistice which would signal the end of the war in November 1918, also being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death.
This thought provoking and poignant poem about how we might consider the different interpretations of ‘beauty’ is particularly resonant as we commemorate those lost in battle.
The beautiful, the fair, the elegant,
Is that which pleases us, says Kant,
Without a thought of interest or advantage.
I used to watch men when they spoke of beauty
And measure their enthusiasm. One
An old man, seeing a setting sun,
Praised it a certain sense of duty
To the calm evening and his time of life.
I know another man that never says a Beauty
But of a horse;
Men seldom speak of beauty, beauty as such,
Not even lovers think about it much.
Women of course consider it for hours
A shrapnel ball -
Just where the wet skin glistened when he swam -
Like a fully-opened sea-anemone.
We both said ‘What a beauty! What a beauty, lad’
I knew that in that flower he saw a hope
Of living on, and seeing again the roses of his home.
Beauty is that which pleases and delights,
Not bringing personal advantage – Kant.
But later on I heard
A canker worked into that crimson flower
And that he sank with it
And laid it with the anemones off Dover
Actor, broadcaster and beloved figure of British culture Stephen Fry is a keen supporter of the art of reading aloud (given the quote above straight from the man himself) and you’ll hear him take a closer insight at the practice on his latest radio programme – featuring input from some of our Readers.
Fry’s English Delight is currently in its seventh series on BBC Radio 4 (Mondays), exploring the ‘highways and byways’ of the English language. In the next episode, Reading Aloud comes under the spotlight as Stephen investigates the art from Roman times right up to the present day.
We’re delighted to be featured in the episode, to be broadcast on Monday 18th August at 9am (repeated at 9.30pm the same day), with some of our reading group members who were recorded as part of one of our groups at Calderstones Mansion House talking about the importance of reading aloud and what it means to them.
If you’re a lover of the English language as well as literature, it’s an unmissable series – previous episodes have already covered the mysterious language of magic and the punishing business of proper nouns and capital letters.
You can listen in and find out more about Fry’s English Delight on the Radio 4 website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lv1k1
And don’t forget to make a date in your diary for Monday 18th August!
Head to the ‘Reading With Us’ page of our website for a full list of all of our current open shared reading groups running around the country: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us
The Reader Organisation can announce a new job vacancy for an Executive Assistant.
- Based: Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool, L18 3JD
- Salary: £25k
- Hours: Full Time
- Contract: 1 year fixed term in the first instance
As we continue to grow, we require someone to provide additional organisational, adminstrative and secretarial support, especially to the Founder/Director and Managing Director. As well as these key responsibilities, this specialist role will provide more general adminstrative support to the Senior Management Group, act as secretary to the Board of Trustees and take responsibility for our liaison with external organisations such as Companies House, The Charities Commission, the OSCR and more general compliance and governance matters.
This role could be for you if you can bring a flexible approach to standard systems and procedures, are able to be bold but kind, can look for innovative solutions to traditional problems and are highly organised and able to organise others.
Responsibilities will include:
- Diary management and full secretarial support for the Director and Managing Director
- Secretary to the Board of Trustees, other stakeholder groups, Senior Management Group, Operational Management Group.
- Office Management of TRO’s Headquarters at the Coach House including customer service and reception service at The Mansion House.
- Responsible for all regulation and compliance matters and relationships (Charities Commission, Companies House, Scottish Regulator)
- Line Management of Receptionist
- Oversight of travel and accommodation, stationery needs, etc for all staff
- Attend meetings on behalf of/deputise for TRO Senior Management Team
- TRO’s annual calendar
A full specification for this role can be downloaded on our website.
How to apply:
Please do not just send in a CV. We will only consider applications that adhere to the following process -
Visit http://www.thereader.org.uk and select the Job Opportunities underneath the ‘Working With Us’ tab where you will be able to view the full job description and download an application form. Please complete the application form and submit a covering letter, explaining how you meet the requirements of this role, to email@example.com
Your covering letter is an opportunity for you to include any additional information which could not be explained within the application form.
Deadline for applications: Friday 22nd August 2014
NB: applications arriving after 5pm will not be considered.
A high volume of applications may make replies to everyone impossible.
Interviews: As soon as possible thereafter
Last Monday (4th August) marked a momentous anniversary – exactly 100 years since Britain entered into World War One after the invasion of Belgium. The centenary brought forth some poignant scenes, most markedly the turning off of millions of lights around the country leading up to the same hour that war was officially declared within the country.
At services around the country, poems were read as well as prayers and an especially fitting choice is this week’s Featured Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon. Perhaps one of the most famous poems to emerge from ‘The Great War’, For The Fallen has been claimed as a remembrance for all casualties of war. Though he was too old to serve, Binyon contributed to the war effort by volunteering at a British hospital for French soldiers. He is also one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
As well known as it may be, this poem is worthwhile reflecting on, especially so at this point in time.
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Robert Laurence Binyon