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About this poet

Vera Brittain was born on December 29, 1893, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. In 1914 she began studying English literature at Somerville College, Oxford. The following year, she left to serve as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment, in hospitals in London and France. She published her first poetry collection, Verses of a V.A.D (Erskine Macdonald), in 1918. After the war ended, she completed her studies at Somerville College. She went on to publish Poems of the War and After (Macmillan, 1934); several novels, including Honourable Estate (Macmillan, 1936); and several historical studies, including Lady into Woman: a History of Women from Victoria to Elizabeth II (Macmillan, 1953). A lifelong pacifist after her experiences in World War I, she served as chairman of the Peace Pledge Union. She was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1946. She died in London on March 29, 1970.

To My Ward-Sister

Night Duty, December 1917

Through the night-watches of our House of Sighs
     In capable serenity of mind
     You steadily achieve the tasks designed
With calm, half-smiling, interested eyes;
Though all-unknowing, confidently wise
     Concerning pain you never felt, you find
Content from uneventful years arise
     As you toil on, mechanically kind.

So thus far have your smooth days passed, but when
     The tempest none escape shall cloud your sky,
And Life grows dark around you, through your pain
You'll learn the meaning of your mercy then
     To those who blessed you as you passed them by,
Nor seek to tread the untroubled road again.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain was born in 1893 in Staffordshire. She served as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment during World War I before publishing her first poetry collection, Verses of a V.A.D (Erskine Macdonald), in 1918. She died in London in 1970.

 

by this poet

poem

("Died of Wounds")

Because you died, I shall not rest again,
     But wander ever through the lone world wide,
Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain
               Because you died.

I shall spend brief and idle hours beside
     The many lesser loves that still remain,
But

poem

(In Memory of July 1, 1916)

Your battle-wounds are scars upon my heart,
     Received when in that grand and tragic "show"
You played your part
     Two years ago,

And silver in the summer morning sun
     I see the symbol of your courage glow—
That Cross you won
     Two

poem

One long, sweet kiss pressed close upon my lips,
     One moment's rest on your swift-beating heart,
And all was over, for the hour had come
                    For us to part.

A sudden forward motion of the train,
     The world grown dark although the sun still shone,
One last