The vigie on the island of Port Cros where the poet Richard Aldington stayed in 1928 with his partner of ten years and his new lover, along with D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda. It was here that Aldington started to write his novel of the war, 'Death of a Hero'.

Youth, spring in a Mediterranean island, Greek poetry, idleness–these were the simple factors of an enchantment whose memory will only end with life. Richard Aldington, 1924

    Time’s Changes

    Four years ago today in Italy
    I gathered wild flowers for a girl—
    Thick-scented broom, wild sword-flowers,Anacapri, where Aldington and H.D. spent an idyllic five weeks together in the spring of 1913
    The red anemones that line the ways
    And the frail-throated freesia
    Which lives beneath the orange boughs
    And whose faint scent to me
    Is love's own breath, its kiss …

    To-day in sunless, barren fields
    I gather heads of shells,
    Splinters of shrapnel, cartridges …

    What shall I gather
    Four years from today?

Richard Aldington 1917

Bombardment, Paul Nash

You cannot know, you cannot understand, where you are, the mentality of the soldierthe profound shattering of the nerves, the over-wrought tension, the intensity of sensation which come to him. One is like a man in a trance, moving & walking & talking mechanically, but yet exquisitely sensitive to every shock or touch of the senses. When I speak of ‘soldiers’ I do not mean the gay, careless, healthy fellows you see in your camps, fellows who’ve never seen a shot fired in wrath; I mean the men who’ve done weary months in the trenches, who know what death is, who have tasted to the dregs the bitterness of hell, who time & again have renounced all things. You will find we have a queer indifference to many things, & a great equally queer love.

 Richard Aldington to Charles Bubb, February 1918

 

 

 

Aldington with fellow officers, 1918. He is in the back row, second from the right

    Epilogue to 'Death of a Hero'       Picket, Paul Nash

    Eleven years after the fall of Troy,
    We, the old men - some of us nearly forty -
    Met and talked on the sunny rampart
    Over our wine, while the lizards scuttled
    In dusty grass, and the crickets chirred.

    Some bared their wounds;
    Some spoke of the thirst, dry in the throat,
    And the heart-beat, in the din of battle;
    Some spoke of intolerable sufferings,
    The brightness gone from their eyes
    And the grey already thick in their hair.

    And I sat a little apart
    from the garrulous talk and old memories,
    And I heard a boy of twenty
    Say petulantly to a girl, seizing her arm:

    “Oh, come away, why do you stand there
    Listening open-mouthed to the talk of old men? Trench Idyll, Paul Nash
    Haven’t you heard enough of Troy and Achilles?
    Why should they bore us for ever
    With an old quarrel and the names of dead men
    We never knew, and dull forgotten battles?”

    And he drew her away,
    And she looked back and laughed
    As he spoke more contempt of us,
    Being now out of hearing.

    And I thought of the graves by desolate Troy
    And the beauty of many young men now dust,
    And the long agony, and how useless it all was.
    And the talk still clashed about me
    Like the meeting of blade and blade.

    And as they two moved further away
    He put an arm about her, and kissed her;
    And afterwards I heard their gay distant laughter.

    And I looked at the hollow cheeks
    And the weary eyes and the grey-streaked heads
    Of the old men – nearly forty –  about me;
    And I too walked away
    In an agony of helpless grief and pity.

    (Richard Aldington, 1929)