Sunday Poetry – Marion Allen

Another poem from Catherine Reilly’s anthology. There’s no information about Marian Allen in the biographical notes in the book so she remains elusive. This poem, The Wind on the Downs, was published in a collection of the same name in 1918. Maybe her poetry was an isolated response to her grief & she wrote nothing else. Or, maybe, she was unable to get anything else published. I like the expression of quiet melancholy & grief addressed to the loved one, it’s very moving.

I like to think of you as brown and tall,
As strong and living as you used to be,
In khaki tunic, Sam Brown belt and all,
And standing there and laughing down at me,
Because they tell me, dear, that you are dead,
Because I can no longer see your face,
You have not died, it is not true, instead
You seek adventure in some other place.
That you are round about me, I believe;
I hear you laughing as you used to do,
Yet loving all the things I think of you;
And knowing you are happy, should I grieve?
You follow and are watchful where I go;
How should you leave me, having loved me so?

We walked along the tow-path, you and I,
Beside the sluggish-moving, still canal;
It seemed impossible that you should die;
I think of you the same and always shall.
We thought of many things and spoke of few,
and life lay all uncertainly before,
and now I walk alone and think of you,
And wonder what new kingdoms you explore.
Over the railway line, across the grass,
While up above the golden wings are spread,
Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see your khaki figure pass,
And when I leave the meadow, almost wait
That you should open first the wooden gate.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – Marion Allen

  1. That made me teary – beautiful poem. Do you think that's a deliberate echo of Cory's 'Heraclitus' (itself a creative translation of a Callimachus epigram)? – “They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead…” Another heartbreaking poem about discovering loss at second-hand.

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  2. I didn't know the Cory quote but you're probably right, there's a definite echo there. I think that's the poignant thing about war poetry by women. It's almost always necessarily at a distance & there's often a sense of helplessness too.

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