Music & Song
The website for Dr Martin Shaw OBE FRCM (1875 –1958)
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all, the very all in all. "
photo: War poet and soldier Geoffrey Dearmer on leave from the trenches in April, 1918
Geoffrey Dearmer was the author of Shaw's song Child of the Flowing Tide. He worked with Shaw again on the hymn books, and for the Oxford Book of Carols, translating Tschaikovsky's 'Legend', the carol The Crown of Roses - still frequently sung today.
Shaw's grand-daughter Isobel Montgomery Campbell wrote about Geoffrey Dearmer in an editorial published in the Summer 2010 Friends’ Newsletter of Poems in the Waiting Room, part of which is reproducted here:
A War Poet
Dearmer is, and I use the present tense in terms of his poetry, a War Poet.
And to fix his place in history it is humbling to realise that he was born in the same year as Wilfred Owen, went to The Great War before Owen, and survived, living through what he called 'the needless horror of the Dardanelles'.
Tragically two family members did not survive. His brother Christopher died at Gallipoli; his mother Mabel Dearmer only two months later –from enteric fever, caught whilst nursing wounded soldiers in Serbia.
Keats Before Action
Dearmer kept a copy of Keats’s poetry with him in the trenches, and identified with him as a poet of life –for, as a young man serving on the front line, he was, in effect, under sentence of death. He quotes from Keats' poem Ode on a Grecian Urn in his poem Keats, Before Action:
A little moment more –O, let me hear
(The thunder roles above, and star-shells fall)
Those melodies unheard re-echo clear
Before the shuddering moment closes all
They come – they come – they answer to my call.
That Grecian throng of graven ecstasies,
Hyperion aglow in blazing skies,
And Cortez with the wonder in his eyes.
In battle-wreaths of smoke they rise, and fall
Beyond – beyond recall.
The poem ends -
My body broken here, and here, and here,
Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all,
The very all in all.
Dearmer was a survivor, and lived to be 103. At the end of the war he echoed the feelings of many in saying:
Come, let us start freshly again together,
And let's remember to forget the rest.
Poetry Society Recognition
It is wonderful that the Poetry Society should honour this remarkable poet, a poet of celebration –and at his death their oldest member– by hosting the annual Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for new poets. As someone who had a natural affinity with the younger generation, it is most appropriate.