- Publisher: Cecil Woolf Publishers
- Available in: Paperback
- ISBN: 978-1-897967-91-1
- Published: 1 November 2008
‘Excellent introduction’ – warpoets.blogspot
Perhaps not since Rupert Brooke has a war poet so inspired as many fellow-poets as Drummond Allison, who was killed on the Italian front in December 1943. Allison was 22, and had been in harm’s way for just two weeks less one day. The young lieutenant met his death leading a daylight infantry charge more reminiscent of the Kaiser’s than Hitler’s War. Ever since, fellow-poets have paid tribute to Allison’s energy, charm and vigorous, even audacious verse.
Drummond Allison left behind just one book of poems, The Yellow Night (1943), yet fellow-poets who have written verse in tribute to him include Robert Conquest, Robert Greacen (two poems), Sidney Keyes, John Lehmann, Roy McFadden, David Wright and David Kessel.
In memoirs, John Heath-Stubbs, Michael Meyer and (again) David Wright are among those who recall Allison with great affection and respect. Another poet, wearing his critic’s’ hat, Anthony Thwaite hails Allison as the most accomplished poet of his generation; for poet and critic Simon Jenner, Allison is ‘more representative of his “period” than Keith Douglas’.
The subject of this enduring attention, John Drummond Allison, was a short (five feet, four inch), but athletically-built, tow-headed bantam of a man (in stature, but not in intellect). He reminded one friend of ‘an almost grown-up William Brown in the ‘Just William’ stories: fresh-faced, full of energy, eager to please and engagingly rumpled’. Allison was a constantly-talking and joking whirlwind of a young man in love with and in headlong pursuit of life, and in particular of his three principal passions: poetry, cricket and girls.
COME, LET US PITY DEATH
Swerving the cannon-shell to smash the airman
He had no time to hear my brother laughing.
He sees us when, a boring day bent double,
We take the breaking-point for new beginning
Prepared for dreamless sleep or dreams or waking
For breakfast but now sleep past denying.
He has no life, no exercise but cutting;
While we can hope a houri, fear a phantom.
Look forward to No Thoughts. For Him no dying
Nor any jolt to colour His drab action,
Only the plop of heads into the basket,
Only the bags of breath, the dried-up bleeding.
We, who can build and change our clothes and moulder,
Come, let us pity Death but not the dead.
Poem by courtesy of Simon Allison
Cecil Woolf Publishers
1 Mornington Place
London NW1 7RP
Tel: 020 7387 2394 (or +44 (0)20 7387 2394)