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International Reflective Writing

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under William Auden


Simon Armitage

Poet and novelist Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Huddersfield, England. After studying Geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic, he worked with young offenders before gaining a postgraduate qualification in social work at Manchester University. He worked as a probation officer in Oldham until 1994.

His poetry books include Zoom! (1989), Kid (1992), and CloudCuckooLand (1997), which contains the poem 'The Tyre', adapted as a short film in 2000, and 'Eclipse', a short performance piece for young people commissioned by the National Theatre in London. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 1988, was named 'Most Promising Young Poet' at the inaugural Forward Poetry Prize in 1992, won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 1993, and was Poet in Residence for the New Millennium Experience Company in 1999. Mister Heracles (2000), an adaptation of Euripides' Heracles, was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse. His Selected Poems was published in 2001, followed by The Universal Home Doctor (2002) and a new verse adaptation of Homer's epic, Odyssey, in 2006. His stage plays include Mister Heracles and Jerusalem (2005), was also commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Simon Armitage has worked extensively in film, radio and television. He wrote and presented Xanadu (1992), a 'poem film for television', broadcast by BBC television as part of the 'Words on Film' series, and his film about the American poet Weldon Kees was broadcast by the BBC in 1993. He also wrote and narrated Saturday Night, a documentary about Leeds, and Drinking for England, both broadcast by the BBC in 1996 as part of the 'Modern Times' series. Moon Country (1996), written with Glynn Maxwell, retraced a visit to Iceland in 1936 by the poets W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, and was adapted as a six-part series, Second Draft from Saga Land, broadcast by BBC Radio 3. He also wrote the song lyrics for the award-winning Channel 4 film, Feltham Sings, and the libretto for the opera The Assassin Tree, premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2006. Out of the Blue (2008) collects three pieces written in response to the anniversaries of three conflicts: a film-poem about 9/11; a piece commissioned by Channel 5 for VE Day and a radio poem on Cambodia 30 years after the rise of the Kmer Rouge.
He is also the author of All Points North (1998), a collection of essays about the north of England and Gig (2008), a memoir of a life of music and poetry. His first novel, Little Green Man (2001), the story of 30-something divorcee Barney and his attempt to relive childhood experiences, explores the darker side of male friendship. His second, The White Stuff (2004), by turns comic and moving, examines issues of childlessness and identity.

Simon Armitage is currently a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004. 2007 saw the publication of his translation, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His latest collection of poetry is The Not Dead (2008). The Poetry of Birds, a collection of poetry he has edited with Tim Dee, is due to be published in late 2009.

Source: British Council Literature: 


Cliff’s poem The Parting Shot

So five graves, like long evening shadows, are dug,
and the five coffins wait in line, varnished and squared off, and the firing party aims for the distance
and fires, and all are starched and suited and booted and buttoned up.
Then ramrod straight, under the shade of a tree,
the boy-bugler raises a golden horn to his lips,
and calls to his dead friends with his living breath.
And the tune never wavers or breaks, but now tears
roll from his eyes; perfect, as clear as pearls,
tears which fall from his face and bloom on his ironed green shirt like two dark wounds.
Then the world swims and drowns in everyone else’s eyes too.

Laura’s poem The Manhunt

After the first phase,
after passionate nights and intimate days,
only then would he let me trace
the frozen river which ran through his face,
only then would he let me explore
the blown hinge of his lower jaw,
and handle and hold
the damaged, porcelain collar-bone,
and mind and attend the fractured rudder of shoulder-blade,
and finger and thumb the parachute silk of his punctured lung.
Only then could I bind the struts
and climb the rungs of his broken ribs,
and feel the hurt
of his grazed heart.
Skirting along,
only then could I picture the scan,
the foetus of metal beneath his chest
where the bullet had finally come to rest.
Then I widened the search,
traced the scarring back to its source
to a sweating, unexploded mine
buried deep in his mind,
around which every nerve in his body had tightened and closed.
Then, and only then, did I come close.

May the 8th 1945

We were the bulldog British and still alive

with the future as bright as the widening sky

in the V of Churchill's victory sign.
Heat in the heart, a lump in the throat,

hope like the sun 
and all of us giddy and grateful and young

and we'd won, we'd won, we'd bloody well won.

From the book Out of the Blue

W.H. Auden (British/American)

The Shield of Achilles

She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

She looked over his shoulder
For ritual pieties,
White flower-garlanded heifers,
Libation and sacrifice,
But there on the shining metal
Where the altar should have been,
She saw by his flickering forge-light
Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

She looked over his shoulder
For athletes at their games,
Men and women in a dance
Moving their sweet limbs
Quick, quick, to music,
But there on the shining shield
His hands had set no dancing-floor
But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

The thin-lipped armorer,
Hephaestos, hobbled away,
Thetis of the shining breasts
Cried out in dismay
At what the god had wrought
To please her son, the strong
Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
Who would not live long.


William Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was one of the greatest twentieth century poets. He was born February 21st, 1907, in York, England, to George and Constance Auden. His father was a psychologist and his mother was a devoted Angelican. Auden began his education at St. Edmunds Preparatory School and at age thirteen continued on to Gresham’s School. He then attended Oxford Univeristy where he and a few of his fellow undergraduates formed a group called the “Auden Generation” who were influenced by Modernism and rejected tradition poetic forms. At Oxford, Auden studied English despite his large interest in science. In 1928 he graduated with a third class degree in English and moved to Berlin for year. 

In 1930, after returning to England, he began teaching for five years. His first published work was a collection entitled, Poems, which were published in 1930. Since his first publication he became known for his various styles of verse form and the exemplary leftist voice of his young generation. His poetry often mimicked the writing styles of other famous writers including W. B. Yeats, Dickinson, Henry James and T.S Elliot. Auden traveled to Germany, Iceland and China with friends and worked with them to write Letters from Iceland (1937) and Journey to a War (1939). 

In 1939 Auden left England and moved to the United States. Briefly after arriving to the United States, Irish poet W. B. Yeats died, which prompted Auden to write his great elegy, “In Memory of W.B Yeats.” After his move to America, Auden’s beliefs shifted as he no longer concentrated on politics and the significance of socialism. In America, he was introduced to Christianity and soon became interested in morality and religion. From 1956- 1961 Auden worked at Oxford Univeristy as a professor of poetry. Auden was the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1954 until 1973. He spent the second half of his life between homes in New York City and Austria. He had published over 20 collections of poetry during his lifetime and became best known for his wide range of style and technique in wriing. 

W. H. Auden died in Vienna, Austria, on September 23, 1973, due to a heart attack in his sleep.

Source: British Literature Wiki, by Jessica Rodman:

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offense
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge image made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Auden's poem read by Dylan Thomas. It was on this day, September 1, 1939 that Hitler invaded Poland and WWII broke out. Thucydides was an honest historian, the originator of Political Realism which observes that the relationship between countries is based on strength and not which is in the right. His work is still studied in military academies.


Edward Bawden

Edward Bawden studied at the Cambridge School of Art and at the Royal College of Art. He belonged to that circle of friends which included Eric Ravilious, Douglas Bliss and Enid Marx - a group tutored by Paul Nash and famously described by him as representing 'an outbreak of talent'.

Bawden taught at Goldsmith's College and the Royal College of Art; at the same time he worked as a graphic designer and illustrator providing posters for London Transport, designs for the Poole Potteries and Curwen Press, and book illustrations for Faber and Faber. During the Second World War Bawden was nominated Official War Artist; he produced mostly watercolors, at this point, and worked both in France and the Middle East.

During the late 1950's and the 1960's Bawden produced the linocut and lithographs for which he is perhaps best known. He produced large prints on Kew Gardens and Brighton; on Liverpool Street Station and a series on the London Markets. Clear and bold and often graphic in design - reflective no doubt of his training in the Design School of the Royal College - they are representative of lino-cutting at its best. They also push the creative possibilities of the medium as in, for instance, the angular cuts in Snowstorm at Brighton which make abstract the portrayal of a storm whilst at the same time graphically capturing its impact.

Source: Art of Illustration:

Refugees at Udine, 1945

Refugees, former "slave laborers", gather uneasily in the compound, some around a Catholic priest, who is giving out instructions. The Polish prisoners of war are still dressed in their striped clothing. The refugees were part of a particularly complex situation: thousands were on the move, trying to keep ahead of Tito and Stalin's forces; the Allies advancing into north-east Italy were facing their first stand-offs of the Cold War; and the presence in Udine of armed irregular Serb soldiers only added to the tension. It is not clear whether the refugees are behind wire fences and under armed guard to prevent them escaping, or for their own protection.



The Battle of Qadisya


Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett, an English poet of the Romantic Movement, was born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England. The oldest of twelve children, Elizabeth was the first in her family born in England in over two hundred years. For centuries, the Barrett family, who were part Creole, had lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labor. Elizabeth's father, Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, chose to raise his family in England, while his fortune grew in Jamaica. Educated at home, Elizabeth apparently had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays, among other great works, before the age of ten. By her twelfth year she had written her first "epic" poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she would take until her death. While saddling a pony when she was fifteen, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish. Throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church.

In 1826 Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. Two years later, her mother passed away. The slow abolition of slavery in England and mismanagement of the plantations depleted the Barrett's income, and in 1832, Elizabeth's father sold his rural estate at a public auction. He moved his family to a coastal town and rented cottages for the next three years, before settling permanently in London. While living on the sea coast, Elizabeth published her translation of Prometheus Bound (1833), by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus.

Gaining notoriety for her work in the 1830's, Elizabeth continued to live in her father's London house under his tyrannical rule. He began sending Elizabeth's younger siblings to Jamaica to help with the family's estates. Elizabeth bitterly opposed slavery and did not want her siblings sent away. During this time, she wrote The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838), expressing Christian sentiments in the form of classical Greek tragedy. Due to her weakening disposition she was forced to spend a year at the sea of Torquay accompanied by her brother Edward, whom she referred to as "Bro." He drowned later that year while sailing at Torquay and Elizabeth returned home emotionally broken, becoming an invalid and a recluse. She spent the next five years in her bedroom at her father's home. She continued writing, however, and in 1844 produced a collection entitled simply Poems. This volume gained the attention of poet Robert Browning, whose work Elizabeth had praised in one of her poems, and he wrote her a letter.

Elizabeth and Robert, who was six years her junior, exchanged 574 letters over the next twenty months. Immortalized in 1930 in the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier (1878-1942), their romance was bitterly opposed by her father, who did not want any of his children to marry. In 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy, where Elizabeth's health improved and she bore a son, Robert Wideman Browning. Her father never spoke to her again. Elizabeth's Sonnets from the Portuguese, dedicated to her husband and written in secret before her marriage, was published in 1850. Critics generally consider the Sonnets—one of the most widely known collections of love lyrics in English—to be her best work. Admirers have compared her imagery to Shakespeare and her use of the Italian form to Petrarch.

Political and social themes embody Elizabeth's later work. She expressed her intense sympathy for the struggle for the unification of Italy in Casa Guidi Windows (1848-51) and Poems Before Congress (1860). In 1857 Browning published her verse novel Aurora Leigh, which portrays male domination of a woman. In her poetry she also addressed the oppression of the Italians by the Austrians, the child labor mines and mills of England, and slavery, among other social injustices. Although this decreased her popularity, Elizabeth was heard and recognized around Europe. Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence on June 29, 1861.


Mother and Son

Dead! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead! both my boys! When you sit at the feast
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me!

Yet I was a poetess only last year,
And good at my art, for a woman, men said;
But this woman, this, who is agonized here,
— The east sea and west sea rhyme on in her head
For ever instead.

What art can a woman be good at? Oh, vain!
What art is she good at, but hurting her breast
With the milk-teeth of babes, and a smile at the pain?
Ah boys, how you hurt! you were strong as you pressed,
And I proud, by that test.

What art’s for a woman? To hold on her knees
Both darlings! to feel all their arms round her throat,
Cling, strangle a little! to sew by degrees
And ’broider the long-clothes and neat little coat;
To dream and to doat.

To teach them ... It stings there! I made them indeed
Speak plain the word country. I taught them, no doubt,
That a country’s a thing men should die for at need.
I prated of liberty, rights, and about
The tyrant cast out.

And when their eyes flashed... O my beautiful eyes!...
I exulted; nay, let them go forth at the wheels
Of the guns, and denied not. But then the surprise
When one sits quite alone! Then one weeps, then one kneels!
God, how the house feels!

At first, happy news came, in gay letters moiled
With my kisses, — of camp-life and glory, and how
They both loved me; and, soon coming home to be spoiled
In return would fan off every fly from my brow
With their green laurel-bough.

Then was triumph at Turin: Ancona was free!
And some one came out of the cheers in the street,
With a face pale as stone, to say something to me.
My Guido was dead! I fell down at his feet,
While they cheered in the street.

I bore it; friends soothed me; my grief looked sublime
As the ransom of Italy. One boy remained
To be leant on and walked with, recalling the time
When the first grew immortal, while both of us strained
To the height he had gained.

And letters still came, shorter, sadder, more strong,
Writ now but in one hand, “I was not to faint, —
One loved me for two — would be with me ere long:
And Viva l’ Italia! — he died for, our saint,
Who forbids our complaint.”

My Nanni would add, “he was safe, and aware
Of a presence that turned off the balls, — was imprest
It was Guido himself, who knew what I could bear,
And how ’twas impossible, quite dispossessed,
To live on for the rest.”

On which, without pause, up the telegraph line
Swept smoothly the next news from Gaeta: — Shot.
Tell his mother. Ah, ah, ‘his,’ ‘their’ mother, — not ‘mine,’
No voice says “My mother” again to me. What!
You think Guido forgot?

Are souls straight so happy that, dizzy with Heaven,
They drop earth’s affections, conceive not of woe?
I think not. Themselves were too lately forgiven
Through THAT Love and Sorrow which reconciled so
The Above and Below.

O Christ of the five wounds, who look’dst through the dark
To the face of Thy mother! consider, I pray,
How we common mothers stand desolate, mark,
Whose sons, not being Christs, die with eyes turned away,
And no last word to say!

Both boys dead? but that’s out of nature. We all
Have been patriots, yet each house must always keep one.
’Twere imbecile, hewing out roads to a wall;
And, when Italy ’s made, for what end is it done
If we have not a son?

Ah, ah, ah! when Gaeta’s taken, what then?
When the fair wicked queen sits no more at her sport
Of the fire-balls of death crashing souls out of men?
When the guns of Cavalli with final retort
Have cut the game short?

When Venice and Rome keep their new jubilee,
When your flag takes all heaven for its white, green, and red,
When you have your country from mountain to sea,
When King Victor has Italy’s crown on his head,
(And I have my Dead) —

What then? Do not mock me. Ah, ring your bells low,
And burn your lights faintly! My country is there,
Above the star pricked by the last peak of snow:
My Italy ’s THERE, with my brave civic Pair,
To disfranchise despair!

Forgive me. Some women bear children in strength,
And bite back the cry of their pain in self-scorn;
But the birth-pangs of nations will wring us at length
Into wail such as this — and we sit on forlorn
When the man-child is born.

Dead! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Both! both my boys! If in keeping the feast
You want a great song for your Italy free,
Let none look at me!


James Blunt

James Hillier Blount (1974- ), better known by his stage name James Blunt, is an English singer-songwriter and musician, and former army officer, whose debut album, Back to Bedlam and single releases, including "You're Beautiful" and "Goodbye My Lover", brought him to fame in 2005. His repertoire can be best described as a mix of acoustic-tinged pop, rock and folk. After recording on the independent American label Custard Records, Blunt won two BRIT Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards, and by 2006 was nominated for five Grammy Awards. The following year, he released his second album All the Lost Souls (2007). Blunt's third studio album, Some Kind of Trouble, was released in November 2010.

Blunt was an officer in the Life Guards, a Cavalry regiment of the British Army, and served under NATO in Kosovo during the conflict there in 1999. While posted to Kosovo, Blunt was introduced to the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or "Doctors Without Borders"). Since then, Blunt has supported MSF by holding meet-and-greet auctions at many of his concerts.

Because the British Army sponsored his university education, Blunt was obliged to serve a minimum of four years in the armed forces. James stated on an interview in his Back to Bedlam sessions that he chose to join the military as "his Father was pushing for it, so that Blunt could obtain a secure work placement and income". Blunt trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Life Guards, a unit of the Household Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of Captain. One of his first assignments was to British Army Training Unit Suffield in Alberta, Canada, where his battalion was posted for six months in 1998 to act as the opposing army in combat training exercises.

In 1999, he served as an armored reconnaissance officer in the NATO deployment in Kosovo. Initially assigned to reconnaissance of the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border, Blunt and his unit worked ahead of the front lines directing forces and targeting Serb positions for the NATO bombing campaign. His unit was given the assignment of securing the Pristina International Airport in advance of the 30,000-strong peacekeeping force; the Russian army had moved in and taken control of the airport before his unit's arrival. According to Blunt's own account of the incident he refused to follow orders from NATO command to attack the Russians. There were less intense moments during Blunt's Kosovo assignment, however. Blunt had brought along his guitar, strapped to the outside of his tank. At some places, the peacekeepers would share a meal with hospitable locals, and Blunt would perform. It was while on duty there that he wrote the song "No Bravery". The Scottish television sit-com that is broadcast on BBC Two Scotland and repeated on BBC One, "Gary: Tank Commander", is loosely based on Blunt's exploits while serving in the British Army.

A keen skier, Blunt captained the Household Cavalry Alpine Ski Team in Verbier, Switzerland, eventually becoming champion skier of the entire Royal Armoured Corps. He had extended his military service in November 2000, and after an intensive six-month army riding course was posted to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in London, England. During this posting, Blunt was interviewed about his responsibilities on the television programme "Girls on Top", a series highlighting unusual career choices. He stood guard at the coffin of the Queen Mother during the days of her lying in State and was part of the funeral procession on 9 April 2002.Blunt left the army on 1 October 2002 having served six years.

Source: Wikipedia:

No Bravery

Blunt’s song uses "he has been here" as a metaphor for war.

There are children standing here,
Arms outstretched into the sky,
Tears drying on their face.
He has been here.
Brothers lie in shallow graves.
Fathers lost without a trace.
A nation blind to their disgrace,
Since he's been here.

And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

Houses burnt beyond repair.
The smell of death is in the air.
A woman weeping in despair says,
He has been here.
Tracer lighting up the sky.
It's another families‚ turn to die.
A child afraid to even cry out says,
He has been here.

And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

There are children standing here,
Arms outstretched into the sky,
But no one asks the question why,
He has been here.
Old men kneel and accept their fate.
Wives and daughters cut and raped.
A generation drenched in hate.
Yes, he has been here.

And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

Watch the official music video:


Frank Brangwyn

Frank Brangwyn, the first son of William Curtis Brangwyn (1839–1907), a Welsh architect, was born in Bruges, Belgium on 12th May 1867. His mother was Eleanor Griffiths, who came from Brecon. His biographer, Alan Windsor, has argued: "His parents were Roman Catholics. Brangwyn had two elder sisters and was followed by three brothers. His father, a follower of Pugin, had worked for G. E. Street before moving to Bruges, where he carried out a number of mural paintings, frescoes, and mosaics, as well as designing several important buildings and, according to his son, was responsible for the reconstruction of the monastery church of St André (Sint-Andries). He also designed textiles and ran a workshop in which local craftsmen were trained."

The family returned to London in 1875. His father sent him to draw in the South Kensington Museum (Victoria and Albert Museum). During this period he met Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, a protégé of the art critic, John Ruskin. Mackmurdo introduced Brangwyn to William Morris, who employed him (1882-1884) as a glazier. Brangwyn also began painting and gained a reputation for seascapes and landscapes. In 1885 he exhibited and sold A Bit on the Esk at the Royal Academy.

In 1888 he visited Constantinople. Back in England he painted Burial at Sea (1890). The following year it was awarded a medal at the Paris Salon. In 1890 he embarked on a long sea journey along the coast of Spain, Tunis, Tripoli, Jaffa, Izmir, and Trebizond. On his return in 1891 he held his first one-man show, From Scheldt to Danube, at the Royal Arcade Gallery in Bond Street. He also began to do illustrations for The Graphic and The Idler.

A great admirer of Eugène Delacroix, in 1892 he produced The Slave Market and The Buccaneers. In 1895 the French government purchased Market in Morocco. The same year saw Siegfried Bing commission Brangwyn to decorate the façade of his new art gallery, Maison de l'Art Nouveau, in Paris. He was invited to become a guest member of the Vienna Secession and was invited along with other foreign artists, such as Auguste Rodin and James Whistler, to exhibit in their first exhibition in 1898.

During this period Brangwyn illustrated several books including Collingwood (1891), The Captured Cruiser (1893), The Wreck of the Golden Fleece (1893), Tales of Our Coast (1896), The History of Don Quixote (1898) and A Spiced Yarn(1899).

In 1901 Brangwyn was commissioned to produce a murals for the Great Hall of the Worshipful Company of Skinners. This was followed by a mosaic for the apse of St Aidan's Church in Leeds, a mural for the British Rooms at the Venice Biennale, a painted frieze at the Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice and his friend, Robert Hawthorn Kitson, who commissioned him to design the panelling, table, sideboard and chairs and a mural at the Casa Cuseni, Taormina, Sicily.

During the First World War Brangwyn produced over 80 poster designs that encouraged men to join the armed forces and to warn about the dangers of Zepplins to the home population and the need to buy war bonds. One poster, Put Strength in the Final Blow, caused deep offence and Kaiser Wilhelm II is said to have put a price on Brangwyn’s head after seeing the image.

In 1926 Lord Iveagh commissioned Brangwyn to produce a series of large murals to cover the north and south walls of the royal gallery in the House of Lords. His biographer, Alan Windsor, has pointed out: "Brangwyn first designed a series of compositions based on scenes of battle, to harmonize in subject matter and colour with the existing long murals by Daniel Maclise, which are on the east and west walls. After Brangwyn had worked for two years, however, Lord Iveagh could not accept the grim realities depicted and asked Brangwyn to start afresh on a quite different scheme. The new series, in radiant colours, was to evoke instead the beauty of the dominions and colonies which had fought for the British. These, the British Empire Panels, are a celebration of the people, the flora, and the fauna of those lands in a profusion of mainly tropical vegetation. They are flamboyant, flat, and decorative in their effect. In 1930 five of the sixteen large panels were set up in the royal gallery for inspection by the Royal Fine Arts Commission. Their report was adverse. Despite vigorous public support from Royal Academicians, including Sickert, the Lords voted against the scheme. Brangwyn was devastated by this blow." These murals can now be seen at Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.

By the 1930s Brangwyn's art went out of fashion and he retired to his home at The Jointure in Ditchling. His biographer has argued that he suffered from "an increasing pessimism and hypochondria" and "was saddened and angered by developments in modern art; he was aware that his work was now ignored by many critics or regarded as old-fashioned." Brangwyn was knighted in 1941 and in 1952 the Royal Academy held a retrospective of 470 of his works.

Frank Brangwyn died at his home on 11th June 1956.


Original Design for the Woodcut, ‘Damn the War’, 1919

Original Design for the Woodcut, ‘THE FIRE’/ ‘TRAGEDY OF DIXMUDE’ 1919

The Fire was used as the cover design for the Tragedy of Dixmude (1921), a catalogue of paintings and drawings of Dixmude, near Ostend, donated to the town in commemoration of the FirstWorldWar. The Dixmude trenches, otherwise known as the "Trenches of Death," were held by the Belgians for more than four years during the Battles of the Yser against German forces often ranged just a hundred yards away.

Gunners - War posters, 1915

Back Him Up Buy War Bonds Original British WWI Poster, 1917


Anne Bronte

Although perhaps not as well known as her sisters, Charlotte and Emily, Anne Bronte was nevertheless a part of the most famous family in English literary history. She was the most conservative writer of the three and was best known for her novels. Anne Bronte was born in Thornton in Yorkshire, England on January 17th, 1820. She was one of six children born to Reverend Patrick Bronte and his wife, Maria. The youngest of six children, Anne’s siblings were Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Patrick Branwell and Emily.

Anne’s early childhood was blighted with tragedy. Her mother died of cancer in 1821, the year after Anne’s birth, and two of her sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in 1825. The majority of her childhood was in fact spent in the realms of fantasy in order to escape her unhappy childhood.

Anne began writing at an early age. Along with Emily, she created an imaginary world called Gondal. Both sisters wrote stories and poems about this world from childhood and into the 1840s, although few survive. Anne was largely educated at home. She was too young to accompany her older sisters when they briefly attended school and didn’t actually experience a school environment until 1835. She was fifteen when she enrolled at Roe Head in Dewesbury, where she stayed until 1837.

Upon leaving Roe Head, Anne decided not to return to her restrictive life at Haworth, the family home. Instead, she spent the years between 1839 and 1845 working as a governess. She was governess to the Ingham family at Blake Hall in 1839 before moving to work with the Robinsons of Thorpe Green Hall near York in 1840.

During the time she spent with the Robinson family, Anne would regularly accompany them on trips to Scarborough, a place she immediately fell in love with. However, her time with the family was abruptly cut short when her brother, Branwell, fell in love with Mrs Robinson. He had joined her at Thorpe Green in 1843 to tutor Edmund, the only son, but both were asked to leave owing to his mistake.

Anne, forced to return to Haworth, was bitter. She had previously had no plans to return to the family home because she enjoyed the freedom that had come with her move away from the Yorkshire Moors. However, it was following her return, and consequent reunion with her sisters, that her literary career began to take off.

The first task that fell to Anne on her arrival at Haworth was to play mediator in a dispute between her sisters. Charlotte had discovered Emily’s writings and insisted they be published, but Emily refused, incensed that her sister should so blatantly disrespect her privacy. Anne offered her poetry to appease Charlotte and encouraged Emily to consider Charlotte’s offer. Emily did eventually agree to the publication of her work.

In 1846, Anne’s poetry was published alongside that of Charlotte and Emily under the pseudonyms of Acton, Ellis and Currer Bell. The sisters employed the pseudonyms to make them sound more masculine, and thus more appealing to potential readers, in a practice common amongst female authors at that time. The volume was known simply as Poems.

Poems was anything but a success, selling just two copies, but it did give Anne the impetus to write her first novel.Agnes Grey was published in December 1847. The novel followed the life of a governess, drawing on her own experiences in that profession and her bitterness when she was asked to leave.

Although Agnes Grey was not a great critical success, her second and final novel sold extremely well. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was released as three volumes in 1848. It followed a character named Helen, and her struggle to gain freedom from her alcoholic husband, Huntingdon. Her brother, Branwell, and his disintegration into alcoholism provided the basis of the character.

Although Anne was a more conservative writer than her sisters, her work still attracted controversy. Alcoholism was apparently not an appropriate issue for a woman to deal with. More importantly though, Helen’s struggle for freedom, although mirroring Anne’s own feelings towards Haworth, may have given other women ideas above their station.

Anne was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 1849. In an attempt to beat it, she departed for Scarborough with Charlotte and Ellen Nusey, a family friend, in May. It temporarily alleviated the symptoms, but ultimately Anne was too ill to survive.

Anne Bronte died of tuberculosis on May 28th, 1849. She was aged 29.


Monday Night May 11th 1846 - Domestic Peace

Why should such gloomy silence reign;
And why is all the house so drear,
When neither danger, sickness, pain,
Nor death, nor want have entered here?
We are as many as we were
That other night, when all were gay,
And full of hope, and free from care;
Yet, is there something gone away.

The moon without as pure and calm
Is shining as that night she shone;
but now, to us she brings no balm,
For something from our hearts is gone.

Something whose absence leaves a void,
A cheerless want in every heart.
Each feels the bliss of all destroyed
And mourns the change - but each apart.

The fire is burning in the grate
As redly as it used to burn,
But still the hearth is desolate
Till Mirth and Love with Peace return.

'Twas Peace that flowed from heart to heart
With looks and smiles that spoke of Heaven,
And gave us language to impart
The blissful thoughts itself had given.

Sweet child of Heaven, and joy of earth!
O, when will Man thy value learn?
We rudely drove thee from our hearth,
And vainly sigh for thy return.


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