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The Collected Poems of Sidney Keyes – With Unpublished typescript Poem “Ode to Hitler”

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Published posthumously by Routledge, London a fourth impression, 1951. Small octavo, xxiv, 123 pages, original binding, very good condition. The typescript poem “Ode to Hitler’ is dated June 1941 (whilst he was till at Oxford – see below). There is a manuscript note on the endpapers “including unpublished poem”; also a note from Anthony Smith, Headmaster of Dartford Grammar School, which Keyes attended “Dear Professor Porter, I am returning three items we borrowed from you …”. This is October, 1987 and there had been a special Keyes Conference held at the school that year … it is possible that the unique poem was one of the borrowed items, and that this book was Porter’s Professor Porter is likely the Theologian who was at Oriel college, Oxford for 13 years from 1949.

The typescript poem contains an overtyped correction “Lonely” in the third last line – shown in the image. The manuscript date “June 1941” is surely in Sidney Keyes’ hand, by comparison with the facsimile of a hand written poem included in “Collected Poems”

This is a special story. Sidney Keyes (1922-1943) was raised by his maternal grandparent, his mother died shortly after his birth. He began writing poetry at a very young age, influenced by Wordsworth, Rilke and Jung. He won a scholarship to Queen’s College, Oxford. At University he wrote two books “The Cruel Solstice” and “The Iron Laurel” for which he was later awarded the Hawthornden Prize. He was very active at Oxford editing the Cherwell Magazine and forming a dramatic society. Leaving Oxford in 1942 he joined the army and sadly died in active service in Tunisia in April 1943.

All up there are 110 poems of which half relate to the War. All of his poems written during active service were lost.

“Ode to Hitler” is a seven verse poem the first six comprising seven lines, the last six. It is a serious matter, whilst being clear in meaning. We do not want to publish all here … but here are the final lines.

“You tapeworm of the mind, you will forgive
My wanderings, stung by a sudden fury;
Not even speaking for my country, only
A mouthing sharp-tongued poet for the lonely
And awkward speaking. But you will never thrive
While we, the sour and cunning, stay alive.”

A special writer and poet who gave his life too young and, a potentially important unpublished work.

ENQUIRIES WELCOME

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