Antaeus, Colinton, Craiglockhart, Edinburgh Napier University, hydra, Overtoun House, Pat Barker, Regeneration, Robert Graves, Salisbury Crags, Sassoon, Siegfried Sassoon, trench foot, war poetry, Wilfred Owen, Ypres
So, you are off up north, Candia, for a couple of days? Brassica looked
curious. We were sipping cold drinks in Costamuchamoulah’s courtyard,
as it was such pleasant weather.
Yes, Carrie wanted me to go and see her relations in Glasgow, but it is
always hectic when you are only there for a few days.
So, what will you do?
Scout around Edinburgh, probably. There is plenty to research. Last time I
went into Napier University, as I discovered that it was the original hospital of
Craiglockhart, where Wilfred Owen and Sassoon were rehabilitated. In the film
of Pat Barker’s novel, ‘Regeneration’, they made Overtoun House near
Dumbarton the setting instead. That interested me as I was born in that
house- in the Angel Ward- naturally. It was a maternity hospital in the
I suppose it was giving life, whereas Craiglockhart was dealing with those
whose lives had been taken from them in many ways.
Wow! Brassica was genuinely interested. We had been to see the film
together. Yes, it was spine-tingling to have access to the archives. When I
signed in, the name previous to mine on the signature list was Pat Barker’s
herself! I expect she was researching Captain Rivers’ work with the
shell-shocked and traumatised.
So, this visit had an impact on you, Candia?
Yes, I will send you a poem that I wrote about it and you can share it with my
readers. It will keep everyone interested till I return and let everyone know
what happened to Augustus Snodbury!
Note from Brassica: here is Candia’s poem:
CONFLICT AT CRAIGLOCKHART
Gales bombard barred windows. Down the line,
Ypres to Frise, they ask why I am warm,
wrapped in best British buff while they chitter
with Christ in no-man’s land. Blunt bayonets
are rusted by His tears, which trickle down,
augmenting quagmires. Celestial spires
could be seen from Salisbury Crags today:
Holyrood nimbused in a golden haar.
Over Colinton meteor showers
blaze like shells, or comets auguring death.
Soldiers have to learn to live with their dreams,
as do poets, who paeon ploughshares.
Now pale spirits make their way to my bed
past padded cells of wretches who inhale
corpse stenches, retching with no catharsis
in this decayed hydro, with trench fever.
I can’t subdue hydras any more.
Like Antaeus, I am strong just as long
as I keep my feet solidly entrenched.
It is time to return to my platoon
before my name is mud; my verse bare bones,
putrefying in Graves’ pre-planned rut,
with stammerers, neurotics with trench foot,
gangrened privates, nervous tics, the mute.
Now it is time to go over the top:
not a moment too soon, Siegfried Sassoon.