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Autumn 2011 - Poems on the Underground


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The Autumn 2011 set of Poems on the Underground commemorates wars past and present and celebrates the universal desire for peace. The poems on display:

The Morning After (August 1945) by Tony Harrison - A vivid personal memory of VJ Day in Leeds, ëjoy though banked with griefí. Reprinted by permission of the author and Penguin Books Ltd.

Passing-Bells The first 14 lines of a new poem by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, in memory of soldiers lost in wars that continue to this day. Reprinted from The Bees by permission of the author and Pan Macmillan.

Song in Space by Adrian Mitchell, a powerful advocate for poetry and a major anti-war activist. Reprinted from Love Songs of World War Three.

Lost in France by Ernest Rhys, the founder of Everymanís Library.

Futility by Wilfred Owen, who died in France seven days before the Armistice ending the First World War.

Lines from Isaiah, with an image from the British Library copy of the King James Bible (1611), in celebration of its 400th anniversary.

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Autumn 2011 - Poems on the Underground

  1. 1. The Morning After (August 1945) The fire left to itself might smoulder weeks. And that, now clouded, sense of public joy Phone cables melt. Paint peels from off back gates. with war-worn adults wild in their loud fling Kitchen windows crack; the whole street reeks has never come again since as a boy of horsehair blazing. Still it celebrates. I saw Leeds people dance and heard them sing. Though people weep, their tears dry from the heat. There’s still that dark, scorched circle on the road. Faces flush with flame, beer, sheer relief The morning after kids like me helped spray and such a sense of celebration in our street hissing upholstery spring wire that still glowed for me it still means joy though banked with grief. and cobbles boiling with black gas tar for VJ. Tony Harrison (b. 1937) Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books Ltd from Collected Poems (2007)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  2. 2. Passing-BellsThat moment when the soldier’s soul rung by a landlord in a sweating, singing pubpassed through his wounds, slipped or by an altar-boy at Mass – in Stoke-on-Trent,through the staunching fingers of his friend Leicester, Plymouth, Crewe, in Congresbury, Westgate,then, like a shadow, ran across a field Littleworth – an ice-cream van jingling in a park;to vanish, vanish, into empty air… a door pushed open to a jeweller’s shop;there would have been a bell in Perth, a songbird fluttering from a stalking, tinkling cat – in Ludlow,Llandudno, Bradford, Winchester – perhaps Wolverhampton, Taunton, Crieff … Carol Ann Duffy (b. 1955) Extract reprinted by permission of the author and Pan Macmillan from The Bees (Picador 2011)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  3. 3. nd they shall beate their swords into plow-shares, and their speares into pruning hookes: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learne warre any more. Isaiah 2.4 King James Bible (1611) Image ©The British Library Board. The Holy Bible, London 1611. C.35.l.13(1)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  4. 4. FutilityMove him into the sun — Think how it wakes the seeds —Gently its touch awoke him once, Woke once the clays of a cold star.At home, whispering of fıelds half-sown. Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sidesAlways it woke him, even in France, Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?Until this morning and this snow. Was it for this the clay grew tall?If anything might rouse him now — O what made fatuous sunbeams toilThe kind old sun will know. To break earth’s sleep at all? Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  5. 5. Lost in France He had the plowman’s strength And the sou’-west making rain; In the grasp of his hand. And the wheel upon the hill He could see a crow When it left the level road. Three miles away, He could make a gate, and dig a pit, And the trout beneath the stone. And plow as straight as stone can fall. He could hear the green oats growing, And he is dead. Ernest Rhys (1859-1946) Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ernest RhysMAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  6. 6. Song in SpaceWhen man first flew beyond the sky Why are the seas so full of tears?He looked back into the world’s blue eye. Because I’ve wept so many thousand years.Man said: What makes your eye so blue? Why do you weep as you dance through space?Earth said: The tears in the oceans do. Because I am the mother of the human race. Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008) Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Adrian Mitchell from Love Songs of World War Three (1988)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London