Churchill’s ‘only’ poem emerges after 110 years

  • PTI, London
  • |
  • Updated: Feb 08, 2013 01:19 IST

Former UK prime minister Winston Churchill's one and only effort at poetry as an adult will go under the hammer more than 110 years after he wrote it, while serving British empire in countries like India and Sudan.

Despite being a lover of poetry, Churchill was only known to have written verse once for a school competition.

The 40-line poem - describing the eve of a naval battle - penned over two pages in blue crayon by Churchill while he was in the Army, has emerged for sale at auction in London.

The poem is a rousing celebration of the British Empire and of going to war to defend her. It is said to have been influenced by Rudyard Kipling and Alfred Tennyson, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

The poem is signed by Churchill and was written over two sides on the headed notepaper of his regiment, the 4th Hussars, in about 1898.

The first two lines of the work, entitled Our Modern Watchwords, read: 'The shadow falls along the shore. The search lights twinkle on the sea'.

The poem makes reference to obscure cities under the rule of the British Empire like Wai-hai-wai - Weihai in China - Sokoto in Nigeria and Karochaw in Japan.

The poem was acquired several years ago by Roy Davids, a retired rare manuscript dealer from Oxfordshire.

"This is the only poem in Churchill's handwriting as an adult. There is one at Harrow School but that was one he wrote as a boy and it was for a competition," Davids said.

The archive at the Churchill College at Cambridge University has never heard of another poem and that is a pretty certain statement, the report said.

"I don't think it's a bad effort, it is quite competent. It is quite rousing stuff and is an imperial celebratory poem that references cities that stretch across the British Empire.

"It is interesting that nearly 50 years after the death of the most famous Englishman of the 20th century, we are still discovering new aspects of his life," said Davids.

Churchill was an Army war correspondent when he wrote the poem, and had served in countries such as India and Sudan.

He produced it before he fought in the second Boer War a year later.


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