The Works of Sydney Fowler Wright 1874 - 1965

Birmingham Poetry (1923-4)

Selected And Arranged by S. Fowler Wright

Published by: The Merton Press, Ltd., Abbey House, Westminster, S.W.1.
Printed by: Graves Bros., Ltd. London. N.W.1

By the same Author

Published by Fowler Wright Ltd., In England, January, 1929.

A new translation of The Inferno of Dante Alighieri.

The American edition (Cosmopolitan $2.50) Was published in October 1928.

Birmingham Poetry (1923-4)

        This is an anthology of Birmingham poetry as it is written today, and as such it should be of special interest to Birmingham citizens, and to all lovers and students of poetry in its innumerable developments.

        It comes from a locality which has always been rich in its artistic output, though so little used to boast concerning it, that the world has been disposed to take it at its own appraising - as the world will, - and so I was recently told, quite seriously, by a leading publisher that to produce an anthology of Warwickshire poetry would be an impossibility - or a jest. Could any good thing come out of Nazareth?

        Well, Shakespeare came.

        As the poetry of any period reflects the conditions of the national life in which it is nurtured, so must the poetry of a narrower area reflect the civic life in which it develops.

        Birmingham is a city of engineers and of artists, workers for the most part rather in form than colour, but all having learnt that beauty and harmony of line and figure are essential to excellence in the crafts they practice.

        It follows logically that the shapeless crudities which have masqueraded as poetry during recent years have made no growth in such an atmosphere.

        Writing with a knowledge of contemporary poetry which is necessarily somewhat exceptional, and is not confined to the work of the limited number of professionals who are able to gain the general ear of the literary public, I do not know of any area of such population within the English-speaking world which is equally free from weediness of that description.

        The pro-modernist critic will retort that its poetry must be 'derivative', and therefore contemptible. With a slovenliness in word-usage which he may have contracted from his favourite authors, he habitually confuses the verbs to derive and to imitate.

        Derivative it certainly is, as all good literary work, even of the most original genius, always must be. If it have no root in the past, it will assuredly have no fruit in the future.

        Just as for centuries before the Chaucerian era, English poetry beat blindly against the dead wall of a Saxon tradition, and made no progress, so has it during the early years of the present century been thwarted and sterilised by the posturist movement - if it can properly be called a 'movement' in which its exponents have waved their muckrakes, and displayed their ensign of the swelled head vert, and the three feathers argent, to a bewildered but un-advancing public.

        The mountain has laboured for twenty years, and there is no mouse to justify its exertions.

        The movement, if such we call it, has been a passing ripple on the great stream of poetic literature, but the stream itself has not deviated, nor is it likely to do so.

        This is Birmingham poetry as it is, and to some extent as it has been, because, though all the authors represented are living Birmingham citizens (with the exception of Mr. Howard S. Pearson, whose death took place while this book was being prepared for the press), yet more than half a century of thought and experience divides the oldest from the youngest contributor.

        In editing this and similar anthologies for other centres, I have endeavoured to represent every kind of poetry which is being produced in that locality, the best of each kind, of course, but still of every variety of attempt or experiment, without consideration of my own personal preferences, or of the kinds of verse which are popular at the moment.

        In the present volume, being myself a native of Birmingham, I have even been sufficiently catholic in my selection to include examples of my own work, although I know it to be aloof from the literary interests of today, and that it must look to the future for any recognition that it is ever likely to receive.

        But while this is an anthology of genuine Birmingham poetry - authentic poetry, spontaneously written, for the most part without any thought of ultimate publication, whatever may be its artistic standards or deficiencies - it is also the outcome of a wider movement which has extended from Vancouver to Wellington, from Jamaica to Patiala - a movement which the Empire Poetry League has done much to organise and co-ordinate, but which it could not have originated successfully had it not found a responsive spirit in every region to which its activities have extended.

Abbey House, Westminster, November, 1923.


    John Leslie Bowers

    Jessie Arden Branson
            A Fancy

    Herbert E. Britton.
            The Song of the Gorse
            The Blackthorn
            The Bather

    E. Brown.
            The Invitation

    Phyllis M. Carver.
            The One I Love.

    John Cotton.
            A Midlander's Song
            To Geoffrey Chaucer
            The Bells of Wolverhampton.
            The Bribe

    E. Isobel Cumming.
            The Enchanted Garden
            So Fair a Fancy

    Margaret S. Dangerfield.
            Gentlemen of the Road
            The Wife
            A Song of Spring

    N. Marshall Ford.
            Sea Moods. (I) Beauty
                                 (II) Bread
                                 (III) Storm
                                 (IV) Death
            Blown Grass

    Alison Forster.
            Rus Ibo
            Sweet Peas
            The Cowslip Field
            Autumn Dawn

            Molly in Mischief
            The Village

    Doreen Hastilow.

    Albert Hounam.

    Humphrey Humphreys.
            The God of Battles
            To a Romantic Poet
            Maadi Prison

    G. P. Hussey.
            The Hour of Revelation

    C. Edith Ironmonger.
            Sunset on the Sea
            The Triumph of Love

    Eric W. Moore.
            To My Grandmother
            The Ascetic
            The Song

    George D. Morgan.
            'Once I Loved You'
            'I Saw it Lying'
            The Imprisoned Goldfinch

    Kathleen M. Old.

    Joan M. Grant Partridge.
            The Fire Song
            The Tree
            The Stonebreaker

    Howard S. Pearson.
            The Buttercup

    M. E. Stanley Penn.

    M. F. Phillips.       

    Robert C. Readett.
            To My Wife
            The Dead

    R. Crompton Rhodes.
            In a Walled Garden
            Avril of Arden
            To the Wraith of Charles Beaudelaire

    Gladys Ridgway.
            Wayside Treasure

    E. Marston Rudland.
            My Lady
            How that Explanations are the Death of Love
            The Little People

    Isabel Chase Rudland.
            The Lilac Tree
            'Something of God there is -'
            'Death Hath Returned - '

    Daniel Shine.

    Eva Spurway.
            Song Exiled
            The Mourning Woman

    Kitty Sumner.
            Methought I Slept
            The Garden

    M F.W.

    Stethen Wright.

    S. Fowler Wright.
            'It is not to the Shrine of Artemis'
            The Ultimatum to Russia
            The Death of Morgause
            Lancelot in Mortaise

    M F.W.


    Oh, to die on a summer day
    When the small sweet winds are laughing gay,
            And the sun's on high
            In the blue, blue sky,
    With the little white cloudlets scudding by;
            When the trees are green
            And the earth is warm,
            Oh, to lie unseen
            In the long low arm
            Of an oaktree's root,
    And to hear afar the sleepy hoot
    Of owls awakened to sound my knell
    From a belfry tree in a hidden dell;
    For it's oh, to die on a summer day
    When the small sweet winds are laughing gay.

    And oh, to die when there's no one near,
    Out in the sunlight fresh and clear;
            When the birdeens sing
            As they sway and cling,
    And you see the flash of a butterfly's wing;
            When the air smells good
            With the scent of flow'rs
            And earth and old wood,
            And the cool dawn show'rs;
            Oh, to fall asleep
    In the sun-splashed shadow warm and deep,
    Where the quaint brown bunnies lop along;
    To breathe my last in a gay glad song,
    For it's oh, to die when there's no one near
    Out in the sunlight fresh and clear.

    Yes, it's oh, to die on a summer day
    When the small sweet winds are laughing gay;
    Out in the sunlight fresh and clear
    To dream out life when no one's near,
    Oh, to die, to die on a summer day.

    M F.W.


    I slid a dewdrop from a willow-bough,
    And saw it merge ecstatic with a pool
    Of grey rain water, and I still will vow
    It was no wrong, and yet, with frowning brow,
    I bent and fished with fingers of a fool
    Among the grey soft mud, with dead leaves filled,
    For that one drop which I had thoughtless spill'd.

    I dropt a withered rose into a fire,
    And saw its petals fade away in smoke,
    How often done before, yet my desire
    Was all to take that little funeral pyre
    And smash it out, and look with every stroke
    For that poor rose so fair to look upon
    A while ago, and now for ever gone.

    And that same feeling, half desire, half dread,
    That seized me when the rose went out in flame,
    And when the dewdrop into vagueness fled,
    So seiz'd me when I knew my friend was dead,
    And in my soul there liv'd but this one aim
    To reach, and reach, and all my strength expand
    To find and touch that child of peace, my friend.

    Stephen Wright.


    (Written in America to an Australian niece.)

    Should age attempt with fond reflection
            On scenes remote, though ever dear,
    Youth to constrain with like affection
            For objects far to wish them near?

    The wish were vain with seas dividing,
            And duty each returning day,
    Imperious in its mandate, chiding
            The anxious spirit for delay.

    So let the sequel be a greeting
            That continent and ocean spans;
    Australia and Britain meeting,
            While newer life the older scans.


    Yon trees a father's care once ordered,
            Garden and orchard planting fair;
    With box and thorn their limit bordered,
            To guard rude feet from trespass there.

    Those trees and I were young together,
            But not inconstant they as I,
    A wanderer through tempestuous weather,
            To dwell beneath a foreign sky.

    Chided I feel in thought beholding
            Their fruitfulness prolonged afar;
    And year by year those fruits unfolding,
            Ask where my scant productions are.

    They bide where still the primrose peeping
            Mid verdant spires and hedgerows green,
    Shares casual beams all welcome creeping
            Where sleet and wintry blast have been.

    They bide where still the skylark mounting
            On quivering wing till lost in light,
    Pierces the cloudless sky, not counting
            The sun's meridian blaze too bright.

    There rooks on trees ancestral cluster,
            To twiggy nests uncouthly lined
    Sally with solemn caw, or muster
            To eager young they left behind.

    Aloft on balanced wing suspended,
            Athwart the new-sown field they sail
    E'er yet the swains their toil have ended,
            Or scare-crow flaunts his ragged tail.

    And there the keen-eyed cuckoo nesting,
            Exchanged her egg with homelier bird;
    From depredations never resting
            Till rasp of sharpening scythe was heard.

    Yes, there the trees are, firm though ageing;
            Each stem attached to parent root;
    Where yester-winter storms were raging,
            Extending branches bend with fruit.

    And there, as chief of feathered singers,
            The thrush at lingering eve is heard;
    From harp woke by angelic fingers,
            So rare might kindred notes be stirred.

    When Adam's fall distressed creation,       
            And thorns obtained and weeds and woes,
    Such songster sure had slight relation
            To aught that from defection grows.

    Glad bird! if men yet fail in bringing
            Due anthems to their Maker's praise,
    Still let the woods and plains be ringing
            With melodies like those you raise.


    Yet should the outlook be dismaying,
            The breaking clouds soon disappear,
    While voices unreproved are saying,
            'The Great Deliverer's day is near.'

    Unfading bliss the morn is bringing:
            Shall vision fair fond hope elude?
    Nay, hark! 'The bird of morning' singing -
            'All creatures sigh to be renewed.'

    S. Fowler Wright.


    We had paid danegeld to the Turks, - betrayed
    The nation that we egged to fight them, - smoothed
    The soil above the planted seeds of War
    Murmuring 'Tranquillity,' - had cast aside
    The most consummate trickster Wales has bred,
    Not for his tale of complex perfidies,
    Not for our honour, in his hands so low,
    But for one instant's manhood, when he stayed
    The tide that rose to whelm the Thracian plain
    At Chanak, - bleated ineffectual fears
    When France went forward, - meekly queued to buy
    The German's cheating marks, - had toiled to fill
    The German cradles, while our own are bare, -
    Had cried Peace where Peace is not, - had suppressed
    Bokhara's anguish, when it called in vain
    To God and England, lest the nations heard,
    (Am I my brother's keeper? Must I not
    Do trade with Moscow in my leading lines?) -
    We had done these and baser things, as though
    The people of the four years' fortitude,
    The soul that once was England, lived no more, -
    For England lies in Flanders. England lies
    Beneath the blue of Hellespontine skies;
    Or where the mists of Jutland shroud her dead; -
    And if they thought impune their piracy,
    We gave them cause to think it.

        But the sea
    Is our inviolate heritage, and the lion
    That lies so wearily, but is not dead,
    Growled, and the lean claws of the Muscovite
    Shrank backward, and released the intended prey.

    S. Fowler Wright.


    (From 'Songs Of Baluchistan.')

    What prince to loose her girdle claims?
    Shiren is still the name of names

    The old king asked, "In lands afar
    What princes as my daughter are?"

    They told, "There is no prince is meet
    To hold her velvetsandaled feet.

    "What hand the restless zebra tames?
    Shiren is still the name of names.

    A stone a hundred maunds in weight
    Was rolled beside the temple gate.

    "Who would Shiren, my daughter, wed
    Must grind this stone to dust," he said.

    The madman backward bound his hair:
    He stripped his arm and shoulder bare.

    Alone within her tent she prayed,
    "Allah, my lover's smiting aid."

    A year with ceaseless toil he smote: -
    The dust is in his parching throat:

    The stone dissolves beneath his blows:
    As black surma the powder flows.

    The old king spake, "This churl to slay
    I will not tale the price I pay.

    "Red gold I will not count nor weigh
    To whom shall steal his life away."

    "For gold unweighed," the beldam said,
    "Is none that lives who were not dead."

    With words of craft she sought Parat -
    "I greet thee with a grieving heart.

    "In Allah's book the maiden read:
    The grave became her bridal bed."

    Beneath the wall the bearers trod.
    She asked, "Who goeth forth to God?"

    "Tis young Parat," the bearers said,
    "Who swifter than the dawn was dead."

    "O nurse," she said, "the child ye nurst
    Is for her lover's arms athirst;

    "And you must rise and braid my hair,
    And the red chadar I will wear."

    "No prince was young Parat," she said,
    "Ye would not weep a craftsman dead?"

    "O Dai, foolish words ye speak;
    I was not made, to princes, meek."

    In Allah's book the maiden read:
    The grave became her bridal bed.

    He in that other world than this
    Her velvet-sandaled feet shall kiss.

    No prince to loose her girdle claims:
    Shiren is still the name of names

    S. Fowler Wright.


    From 'Scenes From The Morte D'Arthur.')

    But when with night at Fourstone Tower they met,
    In secret wise, with joys that those who meet,
    Love-drawn, in life's despite, alone may know;
    And deemed that none, but where their trust was set
    In certain faith, their thither paths could show,
    And no threat seemed, and passed the midnight hour,
    And wide night-silence held the sleeping tower,
    And over all a cupped moon sailed, and far
    Lit the blue void, and paled a following star,
    And the great woods round that lone hold that lay,
    Wind-stirred, breathed softly, as in sleep; and they
    Slept also at the last; along the heath
    Were shadows from the deep wood's shades that crossed
    Its clearer space, and in the wall were lost,
    And ceased; and then, their turret height beneath,
    Bust turmoil, and the shouts of angered men;
    Steel clashed: a death-cry sounded: noise of feet
    Rushed upwards, clanging on the stones; and then
    On the barred door were sudden blows that beat,
    And broke it through, and entered there the twain
    Of her fierce sons, Gaheris and Agravain,
    That least she loved or loved her.

        Lamorack said:
    "If from your hearts all filial fear be dead,
    And reverence for her right, and knightly shame
    Be lost in hatred for my father's name,
    That thine of old in equal field he slew,
    Then turned ye to my life the swords ye show
    Unseemly here."

        Gaheris him answered: "Nay,
    No sword is mine a fenceless knight to slay;
    And that she willed ye scarce might choose but do.
    Is one remede." And instant with the word
    Leapt the swift steel, and smote. The sword-blade bare
    Steamed with his mother's blood: his mother's hair
    Clung to it: and her head between them rolled,
    Half-hidden in its own abundant gold.

    And Agravain turned, and stumbled on the stair.

    S. Folwer Wright.


    From 'Scenes From The Morte D'Arthur.')

    Then came there to Sir Lancelot where he lay
    A dream of good. To that wild beach there came,
    Through the great deep, and on the dawn aflame
    A darkness lifted by the heaving sea,
    A ship; but all rose-light to closer view,
    And like the calyx of a flower half spread
    It shaped. Nor sail nor oar its motions led,
    But toward him seeking like a sentient thing
    Its course it chose; and in this surance grew
    Joy beyond aught of seeming cause, and past
    All joys before, its shoreward course to know.

    But when it grounded on that beach, and low
    The falling tide lapped round it, while he sought,
    Advancing toward its shining side, to see
    The inward meaning of that mystery,
    He waked.

            No more the thunderous floods upcast;
    Of darkness, and wild strife of storm was nought,
    But wide quiet sands, and ever lessening sea;
    And dawn was on the waters.

        Dawn aflame
    Devoured half heaven, and midst its burning core,
    A blackness on the heaving seas, there bore
    Down on the land - but like an opening flower
    Of shining pearl, rose-flushed, to nearer view
    A ship that mast nor sail nor oar controlled;
    But sentient-seeming toward the land it came,
    Though tide nor wind allied it. In that hour
    Joy, beyond aught of seeming cause, he knew,
    As inward to that barren beach it drew,
    And round it lapped the falling tide; and bold
    In that belief of joy, he sought its side,
    And clomb, and no man hailed him. Undenied,
    Crossed the still decks, and past his dream there grew
    Joy beyond cause, before its cause he knew.
    For midmost in that windflower's heart was laid,
    As flower in flower, as noon in heaven, a maid,
    The sister of Percival. As when she died,
    Ere from her heart the vain-shed life had dried,
    More fair than sinful thought may dream or say,
    Corruptless as the eternal skies she lay;
    And Lancelot, nearing, felt such peace as ne'er
    Before he knew. For here might no sin dare,
    Nor pain, nor grievance of remembered wrong,
    Nor thirst of human need, nor hunger here,
    Nor misery of regret, nor future fear.
    But that great peace a cloak around her lay,
    God's peace, that here to rede is no man may.

Publisher's Announcements.

Recommended Books Of New Verse.

Scenes From The Morte D'Arthur.

S. Fowler Wright.   4/-

Some Songs Of Bilitis.

S. Fowler Wright.   1/-

Just Published.

Poets Of Merseyside. 2/6 & 3/6

Birmingham Poetry, 1923-24, 2/6 & 3/6

Now In Preparation.

A Manchester Anthology. 2/6 & 3/6

Some Yorkshire Poets. 3/6


This is a companion to 'Voices on the Wind.'

        Its intention is to introduce the contemporary poetry of the various centres of literary culture scattered throughout the Empire, both to each other, and to English readers.

First Published 1922, 3/6 net.

VOICES ON THE WIND. (Second Impression.)

An Anthology Of Contemporary Verse By Nearly A Hundred Of The Best Of Our - Living Poets -

        With A Preface by S. Fowler Wright.

Now In The Press.

VOICES ON THE WIND. Second Series.

A second volume of contemporary verse representing the work of nearly a hundred English poets of today. It is not representative of any school or clique, and its Editor is entirely indifferent to established reputations. He has contributed a stimulating preface, dealing with the progress which has been made in the emancipation of contemporary poetry, since the first series was published.

        These are books which no lover of poetry will be content to miss, and no student of the literature of our own day can afford to disregard the only volumes which endeavour to exhibit its poetic tendencies with impartiality.

The Merton Press Ltd., Abbey House, Westminster, S.W1.


President: Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, M.A., D. Litt.


Miss Lillian Baylis.Thomas Moult, Esq.
Sir Frederick Black, K.C.B.Sir Gilbert Parker Bart.
Dr. F.S. Boas, LL.D.Mrs. Dorothy Una Ratcliffe
Clive Carey, Esq.Sir Landon Ronald.
Lady Carrickfergus.Mrs. Jopling Rowe, R.A.
Mrs Paterson Cranmer.E. Marston Rudland, Esq.,
W.H. Davies, Esq.Sir Owen Seaman.
Dr. C. de C. Ellis,.Henry Simpson, Esq.,
Sir Gilbert Frankau.Miss Muriel Stuart.
Miss Rose Fyleman.Miss Sybil Thorndike.
The Hon. Lady Gordon.E. Temple Thurston Esq.,
Sir Sydney Lee.Hugh Walpole, Esq.,
Dr. Habberton Lulham.Israel Zangwill, Esq.
Dr. L.H. Allen (Australia).Mrs. Ida M. Cooke (Wellington)
Dr. P.S.G. Dubash (Karachi)Dr. Ernest Fewster (Vancouver)
D.O.H. Holland, Esq., (South Africa)Fredoon Kabraji, Esq., (Bombay)
Dr. J.D. Logan (Toronto)J.E. Clare MacFarlane, Esq. (Jamaica)
Mrs. D.H. Wilcox Syndney).Chairman: L.H.B. Knox, Esq.
Deputy Chairman: Miss M.O. Curle.

Hon. Sec.: Miss Fowler Wright, Abbey House, Westminster, S.W.1.
Hon. Treasurer: Mrs. Hamilton Scott, 9. Queen's Gate Gardens, S.W.7.

        This league is a fellowship of those who are interested in poetry, and are banded together with a view to extending the love and knowledge of all imaginative literature.

        Full particular's, programmes, &c., can be obtained on application to the Hon. Sec. as above.

Loren H.B. Knox, Chairman.

Note. - The Birmingham Centre of 'The Empire Poetry League' meets at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, New Street, on alternate Fridays.

        Programmes and all particulars can be obtained from H. E. Britton, Esq., 10. Milford Rd., Harborne.

        Those in other districts who desire to support the movement should communicate with the Hon. Sec. at Abbey House, as above, who will be pleased to enrol them as members, and will put them in touch with others interested in their locality, or with their nearest centre if desired.

The End