Saturday, 23 July 2011

Almost Canonised

At the end of an interview between Romana Koval and Harold Bloom on ABC Radio National last week, Harold Bloom recited a poem by John Manifold. He went on to say that Manifold was a fine poet, although not a great one, and also that he was a Communist. Neither of these things seemed to diminish Bloom's enthusiasm for John Manifold. The poem he read was this one, which, he commented, showed evidence of AE Housman's influence:

For Sixth Platoon, 308th I. T.C. 
   One morning in spring 
   We marched from Devizes 
   All shapes and all sizes 
   Like beads on a string, 
   But yet with a swing 
   We trod the bluemetal 
   And full of high fettle 
   We started to sing. 
   She ran down the stair 
   A twelve-year-old darling 
   And laughing and calling 
   She fussed her bright hair; 
   Then silent to stare 
   At the men flowing past her--There 
   were all she could master 
   Adoring her there. 
   It's seldom I'll see 
   A sweeter or prettier; 
   I doubt we'll forget her 
   In two years or three, 
   And lucky he'll be 
   She takes for a lover 
   While we are far over 
   The treacherous sea.

Meanwhile, on this day in 1916, my grandfather, John Manifold's uncle, was about to discover just how nasty things could get on the Western Front.


  1. I've read the poem, probably in an anthology that is upstairs. I can't see the Housman influence, but am no expert on the topic.

  2. Harold Bloom may well have the same one. As to Housman, I'm too ignorant to know, but I just looked him up on the Google machine and was diverted by the fact that he was born in a place called Fockbury - which may give you a bit of a picture of what sort of a trivial personality you're dealing with here.