Page:Some soldier poets.djvu/50

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R. E. Vernède was a peace lover quite unfamiliar with weapons, over forty and married, yet he enlisted in 1914. He was a man of remarkable intellectual and moral delicacy, and yet his muse returns to this theme of patriotism, as a moth haunts a candle. He had deserved esteem for several works in prose, and his friends made sure that in time a more general and generous acknowledgment would accrue to him. He was of French descent, and these poems[1] show a fine sense for literary craftsmanship. The war made a poet of him, for the verses written prior to it are comparatively unambitious. Perhaps the lyrical impulse aroused was younger than the rest of his mind, or was it some French traditional reliance on trumpet-calls that set him toot-tooting?

"Oh War-lord of the Western Huns—that Army of Sir John's
Your legions know it, do they not? They drove it back from Mons—
'Twas small enough. . . too small perhaps. . . the British line is thin. . .
It won't seem quite so little when it's marching through Berlin."

Surely Vernède cannot have voiced this boast for his own satisfaction. Do we listen to one for whom "anything pretentious and pompous was a target" when we read—

"The sea is God's—and England,
England shall keep it free"?

Surely such things are intended to reach duller ears than his own. Imagine this ardent dreamer, suddenly surrounded with "Tommies," gaining rapid ascendancy over them by his moral elevation, but at the same time

  1. War Poems and Other Verses. By R. E. Vernède. Heinemann. 3s. 6d. Quotations by permission of Mrs C. H. Vernède.