Witley, June 9, 1917

Saturday         Nothing much doing today cleaned up for inspection tomorrow. Very hot, on duty & writing [Janie]

At the top of this page is a cryptic line:

Argument:- Loved & lost etc

Are the men of the 55th Battery discussing Tennyson?

I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Percy agreed with Tennyson — at least in this mood among the many expressed in In Memoriam. Better to suffer than to live without risk or moral principle, and better, ultimately, to suffer the loss of love than never to have known it. Perhaps someone in the Witley huts has had his heart broken by a girl at home. Or perhaps Percy is reacting to those around him who had no intention of plighting troth.

24b Caught unawares 2 crop.jpg“George Peters … ‘picked up’ a couple dandy looking girls & excorted [sic] them home 3 ½ miles. Us Canadians are a bad lot over here as it is a shame the way we make these country girls think we are in love with them. We always start to make violent flirtations with them right away – they nearly all fall to it. But of course we are always working for a home as we call it – some place where we can go for the evening – well Peter & I were successful last night as we have an invite for tomorrow night.”(1)

The snap, labelled “Caught unawares,” is from Percy’s large album. This young woman is attended by a man who is not in uniform, and so is safe from the predations of the Canadians.

(1) Calder, William. Letter to his parents,June 14, 1917. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”



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