As I’ve just read Julie Summers’ book Jambusters & I’m in the middle of watching Home Fires, the TV series based on the book, this week’s poem had to be from the Home Front. Alice Coats worked in the Land Army throughout the war & I think her poem, The ‘Monstrous Regiment’, reflects wartime England as it was seen by many women at the time.
What hosts of women everywhere I see!
I’m sick to death of them – and they of me.
(The few remaining men are small and pale –
War lends a spurious value to the male.)
Mechanics are supplanted by their mothers;
Aunts take the place of artisans and others;
Wives sell the sago, daughters drive the van,
even the mansion is without a man!
Females are farming who were frail before,
Matrons attending meetings by the score,
Maidens are mending multiple machines,
And virgins vending station-magazines.
Dames, hoydens, wenches, harridans and hussies
Cram to congestion all the trams and buses;
Misses and grandmas, mistresses and nieces,
Infest bombed buildings, picking up the pieces.
Girls from the South and lassies from the North,
Sisters and sweethearts, bustle back and forth.
The newsboy and the boy who drives the plough:
Postman and milkman – all are ladies now.
Doctors and engineers – yes, even these –
Poets and politicians, all are shes.
(The very beasts that in the meadow browse
Are ewes and mares, heifers and hens and cows…)
All, doubtless, worthy to a high degree;
But oh, how boring! Yes, including me.