The rising sun shone warmly on the tower;
Into the clear pure heaven the hymn aspired,
Piercingly sweet. This was the morning hour
When life awoke with spring’s creative power,
And the old city’s grey to gold was fired.
Silently reverent stood the noisy throng;
Under the bridge the boats in long array
Lay motionless. The choristers’ far song
Faded upon the breeze in echoes long.
Swiftly I left the bridge and rode away.
Straight to a little wood’s green heart I sped,
Where cowslips grew, beneath whose gold withdrawn
The fragrant earth peeped warm and richly red;
All trace of winter’s chilling touch had fled,
And song-birds ushered in the year’s bright morn.
I had met Love not many days before,
And as in blissful mood I listening lay
None ever had of joy so full a store.
I thought that spring must last for evermore,
For I was young and loved, and it was May.
Now it is May again, and sweetly clear
Perhaps once more aspires the Latin hymn
From Magdalen tower,but not for me to hear.
I toil far distant, for a darker year
Shadows the century with menace grim.
I walk in ways where pain and sorrow dwell,
And ruin such as only War can bring,
Where each lives through his individual hell,
Fraught with remembered horror none can tell,
And no more is there glory in the spring.
And I am worn with tears, for he I loved
Lies cold beneath the stricken sod of France;
Hope has forsaken me, by death removed,
And Love that seemed so strong and gay has proved
A poor crushed thing, the toy of cruel chance.
Often i wonder, as I grieve in vain,
If when the long, long future years creep slow,
And War and tears alike have ceased to reign,
I ever shall recapture, once again,
The mood of that May Morning, long ago.
by Vera Brittain in “Testament of Youth” – “Verses of a V.A.D.
The writer commented: The concluding speculation is answered now – not only for me but for all my generation. We never have recaptured that mood; and we never shall
[Vera Brittain lost her brother, her fiance and other close friends on the battlefields of France during the First World War. She herself sacrificed a place at oxford university to serve as a nurse]