Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Conscientious Objectors, Richmond Jail

Today I saw something truely humbling. I was looking at the archives of the Northern Friends Peace Board, getting them ready to deposit in a library, and came across a series of photos taken in the '70's, I think, of the graffiti by conscientious objectors in Richmond Jail.

I came across these two verses, by one HE Hancocks, of Sheffield, from June 21st 1915:

Ez for war I calls it murder
There you has it plain & flat
And I ain't to go no furder
Than me testimint fur that

If yer takes a sword and drors it
And go sticks a feller thro'
Gov'ment ain't to answer fur it
God'll send the bill to you.

Not great poetry, I suppose, but heartfelt nontheless. It made me realise even more that poetry's in everyone's soul, not just in the mind of the clever, and when people are in extremis, they don't turn to prose. No doubt they'll not put this in any anthology of first world war poetry, most of which seem to ignore the conscientious objectors, but this is just as meaningful to me as anything by Owen, and shows that not everyone buys into war propaganda, in any age.

I don't know what happened to Mr Hancock, or how far he suffered for his beliefs; but I salute him: fellow poet, fellow human, fellow child of God.

1 comment:

Tony Williams said...

You may be interested in this, if you haven't seen it before:


- an anthology of WWI poetry by 'ordinary people'. As you say, not great poetry but it demonstrates how many people turn to poetry in difficult times.