A yawning poet

John Smart has left an interesting comment/question on the Parodies of Modernism page of this blog. Since the list of comments on the right hand side for some reason only lists comments on recent posts,  I’ll repeat his question here so that more people will see it .

In 1917 Elizabeth Asquith held a Poets’ Reading for charity. Eleven poets read: W J Turner, Drinkwater, de la Mare, Belloc, Owen Seaman, Harold Monro, Yeats, Hewlett, Binyon and Squire.

The journalist writes ‘one of the greatest living poets who has written some of the best war poems was not invited to read, but yawned effectively.’

He asks if I’ve any idea who the poet was. I haven’t. Maybe one of my readers has.

Since the poet is labelled ‘one of the greatest living poets’ I don’t think it’s one of the young soldier-poets who were just beginning to make their name. I’ll put a tentative bet on Thomas Hardy.
Probably the only way to find out for sure is to check diaries of the period. Mr Smart, do you have an approximate date in 1917? I’ll take a look at Margot Asquith’s diary. Also Arnold Bennett’s journal, since he records several readings of war poetry.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted December 31, 2017 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    My money would be on Hardy.

  2. Posted January 1, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Kipling, maybe? And Robert Bridges was still alive in 1917, and also poet laureate at the time. A 1918 anthology of ‘Modern English Writers’ lists these poets (not all of whome were alive in 1917)as being the greatest of their day: Wilde, Alfred Austin, Bridges, Watts-Dunton, Lang, Gosse, Scawen Blunt, Alice Meynell, Margaret Louisa Woods, Arthur Symons, John Davidson, W E Henley, Kipling, William Watson, Ernest Dowson, William Sharp, Francis Thompson, Hardy, A E Housman, Herbert Trench, Steven Phillips, Binyon, Hewlett, C M Doughty, W W Gibson, Masefield, Lascelles Abercrombie, Laurence Housman, Le Gallienne, A C Benson, H C Beeching, Norman Gale (surely he was the villain in Agatha Christie’s 1930s novel Death in the Clouds …?) Q, Newbolt, H D Lowry, Noyes, Sturge Moore, Belloc, Chesterton, Wlfred Williams, W H Davies, Drinkwater, de la Mare, Ralph Hidgson, Brooke, Flecker. There is also a section on ‘Women Poetesses’ but they’re not the war poet you’re lookig for.

    From that list, my money is on Alfred Noyes.

    • Posted January 1, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Noyes? Maybe. I’ve read a few things he wrote during the war and they are uniformly dreadful.
      I wonder whether Masefield might be a possibility.

      • Posted January 1, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        I think he was marketed as a great war poet, but whether everybody at the time thought he was great is a different matter. Clearly some did.

  3. john smart
    Posted January 3, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the ideas about the yawning poet. The information comes from a cutting in a scrapbook that J C Squire’s sister Dolly put together. When I get back home tomorrow I will see if I can give any more detail.
    All good wishes and thanks.
    John Smart


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