Sunday, 29 April 2018

T R Hodgson

       Thomas Rahilley Hodgson 1915 -1941 'This Life This Death' 

          A longer version of this article has now appeared on the
          Michael Bully, 11th November 2018 

                                         'Blue Runway Study' by Alexander Johnson
                                         Used with kind permission of the artist.

Thomas   Rahilley   Hodgson,  Pilot Officer RAF Volunteer Reserve, was killed in action on 17th May 1941 aged 25. He was survived by his parents and his wife. Hodgson is  listed on the Runnymede memorial , which commemorate around 20,000 individuals who served with the RAF during World War 2 and had no known grave.

In 1943, a collection  of his poems titled ' This Life This Death' was published by Routledge, London. Hodgson had been writing poetry since 1932, and only seven out of the fifty-five poems could strictly be called 'war poems'.

It is not known how many of his poems were published in his life time but Hodgson's poetry has been included in two crucial World War 2 poetry anthologies,'The Terrible Rain ' and  'I Burn For England' .

Robert  Graves has been quoted as stating "No war poetry can be expected from the Royal Air Force"
( source Daniel Swift -'Bomber County') .

Certainly seems that World War 2 War in the Air poetry is even less known that its land and sea counterparts.  One exception is Timothy Corsellis  (1921- 1941 ), who served in the RAF for only a
matter of months in 1941, produced a couple of highly reclaimed poems such as 'Dawn After The Raid' and 'News Reel of Embarkation .' His work was anthologised in eleven anthologies of war poetry. In 2014 the 'Timothy Corsellis Prize' was established by the Poetry Society, in conjunction with the War Poets Association and the Imperial War Museum, to encourage young people aged 14- 25 to write poetry about World II.

Two poems worthy of note are 'Searchlights Over Berlin' , written before the Allies saturation bombing of Germany started. Hodgson indicated being part of the War effort couldn't be explained -"And he is rising mad who searches here for meaning."

Searchlights Over Berlin

"Their silver scalpels probe the wound of night
seeking out doom, a death
to death. And now
no highflung phrase, no braggart
gesture of the hand or jaw
can still the double fear. Who fly
ten thousand feet about in the shrill dark
are linked with those who cover
under earth to hear, vague as sea
upon an island wind. the murmur
which is, for some
eternity, for some
an ending,
And he is rising mad who searches here
for meaning."

Whilst 'It is Death Now We Look Upon " , commemorates a similar lack of meaning. Death is the ultimate negation of life, there is no value placed on dying whilst fighting in a war .

Both poems are bleak, and without a clever subtext, and not a single word is wasted. There's probably little to be gained in trying to analyse them. There is a strange sense of loss of self, when faced by the sheer enormity of the War.

It is Death Now We Look Upon. 

murmurous the river-
which is a memory -

it is death now we look upon.

hands have no meaning
eyes no longer speak
kisses call
sorrow like a dream
out of the dusk remembering

it is death now we look upon .

call home the old,
and let him lie
lapped in their shaken
yet unshaken,faith

call home tomorrow's quick
the beautiful, the glad,
the unrelenting
Call home the children
we have made
but shall we not know.

Cancel all tears,
and let all love
grow cold,
that pain we may ease,

it is death now we look upon."


More artwork from Alexander Johnson :  Alexander has been working on a World War 2 related art projects  and is also inspired by his father' s service as a pilot during the War.

A Burnt Ship   A blog about Stuart era poetry and prose related to warfare . Companion blog to this one.

Timothy Corsellis   Page maintained on the 'Discover War Poets' website.


Copies of 'This Life This Death' can still be found on Amazon UK but the book has been out of print for decades now.

'The Terrible Rain :   War Poets 1939- 1945 , an anthology selected and arranged by Brian Gardner'  , Magnum Books, 1977

'I Burn for England . An Anthology of the poetry of World War II Selected and Introduced by Charles Hamblett, Leslie Frewin, 1966

'Bomber County The Lost Airman of World War 2 ' , Daniel Swift, Hamish Hamilton , 2010.

1 comment:

  1. I love the spare-ness of this poet Hodgson, he does what I try to do with my visual work in terms of paring back material so only the essential lines are left. Thanks for posting, a wonderful discovery for me.