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Consider the Years

by Virginia Graham
Persephone book no:

21 22 23

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A Well Full of Leaves
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ISBN 9781903155110

The author of these wise and witty poems, written between 1938 and 1946, was Joyce Grenfell's closest friend and collaborator. The poems, many of which first appeared in Punch, span and highlight the war years; not all are about the war, but each conveys irony, wisdom, humour, realism and a superb eye for detail.

My thoughts are centred now on strange concerns.
No longer do I find my spirit yearns
To talk of theatres, or art, or books,
Or love affairs, or other people's cooks.
Dead as the dust of ancient dreams they lie,
And cannot comfort me, or edify.

But should you speak to me of bones, or tins,
Or swill for pigs, or sanitary bins,
My heart will leap to yours and in my eyes
The lust for aluminium will rise.
Ah me! A year ago I talked of Rome,
and Beatrice Lillie and the Hippodrome,

And roses and the Rhine and fruited trees
As yet unplundered by evacuees.
I did not seek a restless bed afraid
I had forgotten to inform Miss Wade

That through some misdemeanour unforeseen
Some forty cups were gone from the canteen...


The endpaper is taken from a 1943 printed rayon crêpe dress fabric derived from a series of propaganda posters by 'Fougasse', 'Careless Talk Costs Lives', published by the Ministry of Information in February 1940.

Picture Caption

'Section Officer Austen, WAAF Meteorologist', 1944 by Evelyn Dunbar © RAF Museum

Read What Readers Say

Time Out

A charm and wit that is irresistible – if you haven't come across her, think Hilaire Belloc meets an English Ogden Nash by way of Noel Coward, Light, deft, funny and embedded in surburban England. these are stories of aunts, crumpets and idyllic England – even though many were written during wartime.

Smithereens (blogger)

Those poems were published in Punch during the war, and meant to cheer up the British women struggling on the home front with severe food and resources shortage, uncertain news if any at all from their loved ones, refugees, cramped housing conditions and air raids. They address all those themes but still manage to be cheerful and witty. Sometimes, she quips in mock German about the possible invasion. Sometimes, despondency and grief creep up, but Graham has a great eye for the beauty and joys of everyday life that manages to push past the gloom. The poetry equivalent of the beloved slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”. In short, a short poetry ration when you see disaster around and still have to carry on with your day even if your heart is heavy, like these days in face of tragedy.

Categories: Poetry Social Comedy WWII

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