Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Poetry - Virginia Graham

I've been reading Angela Thirkell's Cheerfulness Breaks In which is set during WWII & it made me think about Virginia Graham's collection of poetry published by Persephone some years ago. This poem, Final Gesture, brings to mind the indomitable middle & upper-class ladies of Thirkell's novel. With Remembrance Day only a few weeks away, I have quite a few books about both World Wars lined up to read, so there may be more Home Front poetry to come.

No, dear, I will not eat in the scullery!
I will go down with my colours flying,
and the dining-room table shall be laid
with silver, bright and satisfying,
and glass and fruit and lemonade,.
Though I be denied butter and butcher-meat,
and though there is no coal in the grate,
I will eat what I am allowed to eat
in pre-war dignity and state.
Not until I absolutely must
will I huddle in one room with all my relations,
relegating my furniture to decay and dust
and other such dilapidations.
My house shall be wide open as the air,
till it actually crumbles about my head;
and I shall sit in my sitting-room in a chair,
and sleep in my bedroom in a bed.
I cannot see why I should make life harder,
or indeed how it helps our Cause at all,
to spend the night on a camp-bed in the larder
and write letters in the servants’ hall.
Till I am broke, which granted may be soon,
I will sometimes buy a gramophone record or a plant in a pot,
and I will not drink soup from a kitchen spoon,
no, really, dearest, I will not!


  1. Wonderful poem and very Thirkell-esque! I've had this collection sitting on my shelf unread for too long.

    1. It's an interesting collection. Not all the poems are funny, some are quite moving. VG was a friend of Joyce Grenfell. I have their letters on the tbr shelves - Simon is always recommending them & I must read them soon!

  2. I love Virginia Graham -- her war poems give such an interesting slant, so witty and perceptive.

    1. Yes, it's been a while since I dipped in to this collection but it was fun to read them again.

  3. Good grief, that poem shows how things have changed! Imagine refusing to write letters in the servants' hall, and HAVING a servants' hall! Imagine refusing to eat soup with a kitchen spoon. What other kind of spoon is there nowadays? The courage and nobility is blunted by the snobbery. - Diana Birchall

    1. It's interesting to see how times have changed, isn't it? Reading Angela Thirkell prepared me for the snobbery!

  4. That's just lovely. That rhyme of 'harder' and 'larder' is just perfect. I must read some more now.

    1. Yes, it's very cleverly written & has got me into the WWII mood.

  5. I've never come across her, but I'd like to read more - would certainly tie in with my slow read of Vere Hodgson's wartime diaries, which is prompting a trawl through other novels and memoirs of the period. The poem reminds me of Winifred Peck's House-Bound - well worth a read if you are in WW2 mode.

    1. Vere Hodgson is wonderful & I also enjoyed House Bound, two more excellent Persephones. I always start thinking about WWI & WWII around this time of year & I have plenty to choose from on the tbr shelves.