When Remembrance Day is almost here how do we not think of Wilfred Owen – so close to living, hours away from surviving the war – having his chest ripped open and his life ripped out by machine-gun fire during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal. Exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war. And for two mopping-up actions: think of Wilfred Owen promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death; and his mother receiving the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells in Shrewsbury were ringing out in celebration.
And that’s a scene-setter for this and two follow-up podcasts. All three of them very beautiful and very moving. They’re beautiful not least because Ruth voices them. Ruth with that infinitely beautiful BBC Radio 4 and actress voice of hers.
They’re taken from ‘War Girls’, Ruth‘s one-woman show about women’s poetry and prose in the First World War. It was made into a recording. Ruth has performed it in venues all over the country.
Three women of genius – four counting Ruth – responding to ‘The Great War.’
This first piece is by Katherine Mansfield. It’s a 1915 entry in her journal. It begins “I dreamed all night of Rupert Brooke.” It must have been written shortly after Rupert Brooke – the beautiful young English romantic Georgian poet – died (on April 23, 1915, St. George’s Day and the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death).