Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Poetry - Leo Marks

Serendipity led me to today's poem. Helene Hanff popped into my head the other day while I was brushing my teeth (I have no idea why). I often think of Mildred Lathbury when I'm cleaning the bath but that's not surprising. However, thinking about Helene Hanff led to thinking about Marks & Co, then to Leo Marks, who was the son of one of the owners. During WWII, Marks worked in the codes section of the SOE & assigned coded poems to agents going on a mission that they would use to send messages back to London. He assigned this poem to Violette Szabo, a young woman who joined SOE after her husband was killed. Her story became the book, Carve Her Name With Pride, by R J Minney & a very popular film starring Virginia McKenna. Marks also wrote a memoir, Between Silk and Cyanide, that I remember reading & enjoying in pre-blogging days.

The poem, The Life That I Have, has become very popular & is often used as a reading at funerals & memorial services. It wasn't even mentioned in the book & here is a fascinating article about the provenance of the poem. I don't think it matters who wrote it or how it came to be used in the film. It's simple yet very moving, especially in the context of a young woman parachuting into Occupied France, risking her life for her country.

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.


  1. Replies
    1. Sometimes the simplest words are the most moving.

  2. Thanks for sharing the poem, and its enigmatic history - I love the film, but had never thought to look up the background to the code poem.

    1. It is beautiful & the story behind the poem is very moving.