"The sunshine on the long white road
That ribboned down the hill,
The velvet clematis that clung
Around your window-sill
Are waiting for you still.
Again the shadowed pool shall break
In dimples at your feet,
And when the thrush sings in your wood,
Unknowing you may meet
Another stranger, Sweet.
And if he is not quite so old
As the boy you used to know,
And less proud, too, and worthier,
You may not let him go---
(And daisies are truer than passion-flowers)
It will be better so"
Roland Leighton died in 1915, on the 23rd of December.
He was 20 years old. He died of war wounds he received while inspecting wire in his role as a British officer during World War One. His fiance, Vera Brittain, wrote a book about losing him and others in the war, called Testament of Youth, becoming a peace activist. His sister, Clare, won notice as an engraver of wood,a garden writer, and an illustrator. She moved from the UK to Baltimore, and then to Durham, North Carolina, where she became involved in making sketches of folk ways and folklore subjects. She drew pictures of native plants and country people. Her assessment was simple to the point of quaint, but nonetheless of interest:
""[A] world that is happy and at peace is a world of well-filled barns."
Today I remember and am grateful to people who risked their lives in the extremity of war in order to defend a way of life. I remember that literally millions of people in the 20th Century died in the maelstrom of warfare that engulfed the century.
Yet even as we celebrate the Armistice, let's not forget that the original bill creating the holiday called upon "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace". Let's hope for a world in which 20 year old poets no longer have to die for the diplomatic follies of older men and women. I'd love to see a world of well-filled barns, and less anger.