Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Rare Aviation-Themed War Poem

Night Flying

By F.V. Branford
Illustration by Francois Flameng

Aloft on footless levels of the night 
A pilot thunders through the desolate stars, 
Sees in the misty deep a fainting light 
Of far-off cities cast in coal-dark bars 
Of shore and soundless sea; and he is lone, 
Snatched from the universe like one forbid, 
Or like a ghost caught from the slay and thrown 
Out on the void, nor God cared what he did. 

Till from these unlinked whisperers that pain 
The buried earth he swings his boat away, 
Even as a lonely thinker who hath run 
The gamut of greatlore, and found the Inane, 
Then stumbles at midnight upon a sun 
And all the honor of a mighty day. 

About Frederick V. Branford

Born Frederick Victor Rubens Branford Powell in 1892, the Scottish poet was educated at Edinburgh University and Leiden University.

Serving as a captain in the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I, Branford was very badly wounded at the Battle of the Somme, when he was shot down over the Belgian coast and swam ashore to Holland, where he was interned. Most of his poems were written in a long period of recovery from his injuries, which left him totally disabled. He lived on a disability pension for the rest of his life.

Branford stopped writing poetry in 1923, disillusioned with the prospects for future peace. He remarried in 1937; his second wife was his cousin Margaret Branford, the playwright daughter of John Branford. He died in 1941.

1 comment:

  1. Night flying in the Great War.

    That is truly a frightening thought.