"Poems From the Desert"
Monty had a hand in creating a poetry contest for the 8th army in 1943, which culminated in a compilation of all the winning entries, “Poems From the Desert”, being produced. In addition to mass market editions, a “presentation” edition beautifully printed on rag paper and leather bound with a hard paper slipcase was created (see right). Each of the numbered 100 copies was signed by Monty. One poem, authored anonymously, stands out and I am copying it here. Monty later refers to it in his Personal Messages of December 28, 1944 and March 19, 1945.
A piece of paper, fluttering across the desert between Agheila and Tripoli, was blown in to the hands of a soldier, sheltering in a trench under heavy shell fire. On it was written this poem of strength and gentleness.
A SOLDIER, HIS PRAYER
Stay with me God. The night is dark
The night is cold: my little spark
Of courage dies. The night is long;
Be with me, God, and make me strong.
I love a game, I love a fight.
I hate the dark; I love the light.
I love my child; I love my wife.
I am no coward. I love life,
Life with its change of mood and shade
I want to live. I’m not afraid,
But me and mine are hard to part;
Oh, unknown God, lift up my heart
You stilled the waters at Dunkirk
And saved Your servants. All your work
Is wonderful, dear God. You strode
Before us down that dreadful road.
We were alone, and hope had fled
We loved our country and our dead
And could not shame them; so we stayed
The course, and were not much afraid.
Dear God, that nightmare road! And then
That sea! We got there – we were men.
My eyes were blind, my feet were torn,
My soul sang like a bird at dawn!
I knew that death is but a door;
I knew what we were fighting for,
Peace for the kids, our brothers freed,
A kinder world, a cleaner breed.
I’m but the son my mother bore,
A simple man, and nothing more.
But – God of strength and gentleness,
Be pleased to make me nothing less.
Help me, God, when Death is near,
To mock the haggard face of fear
That when I fall, if fall I must,
My soul may triumph in the dust.
Published in “Poems from the Desert – Verses by members of the Eighth Army”. Published by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1944