Elizabeth Jennings--British

Elizabeth Jennings

Like so many contemporary poets of her time, Elizabeth Jennings, attended Oxford, fell in love with poetry and soon began to write.  After graduation from St. Ann’s College—Oxford, Jennings became a librarian. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1953. Throughout her life Jennings published over 20 volumes of poetry. Linked with Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and Thom Gunn, in a group known as “The Movement,” Jennings’ work stood out for its “unassuming technical craft and emotional restraint.” A practicing Catholic, Jennings is seen as having a spiritual nature. Throughout the 1960s she was hailed as one of the most popular English poets. Her work won her consistent praise and awards—The W.H. Smith Literary Award and the Somerset Maugham Award being two of the most significant. Jennings died in 2001.


The Second World War
The voice said 'We are at War'
And I was afraid,
for I did not know what this meant.
My sister and I ran to our friends next door
As if they could help.
History was lessons learnt
With ancient dates, but here
Was something utterly new,
The radio, called the wireless then, had said
That the country would have to be brave.
There was much to do.
And I remember that night as I lay in bed I thought of soldiers who
Had stood on our nursery floor
Holding guns, on guard and stiff.
But war meant blood
Shed over battle-fields,
Cavalry galloping.
War On that September Sunday made us feel frightened

Of what our world waited for.



In Memory of Anyone Unknown to Me

At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity—
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.