May I call you this, for I feel I know you? I MUST write this letter to you because you are so real to me. I agree with the Irish poet W.B.Yeats, who described you as ‘the handsomest young man in England’. You are one of my favourite poets – not only for your good looks, but because of your poems too. One of your famous poems, and one of my favourite is ‘The Soldier’, and I quote it below.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
I know you died in a French hospital ship moored in a bay off the Greek island of Skyros, 23rd April 1915 – ironically from an infected mosquito bite – not from a bullet sustained in the first world war. You were on your way to Gallipoli, weren’t you? You were commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant shortly after your 27th birthday, on 3rd August 1914.
Did you really go skinny-dipping with Virginia Woolf as once she boasted? You were a member of the Bloomsbury Set, the same as her, as I remember.
I know you were bi-sexual and had a nervous breakdown because of this. Even nowadays, there is still prejudice in some quarters, but, on the whole, sexual differences are accepted. I wish you were alive now, and, possibly, you wouldn’t be tormented by your sexuality as you were then.
There have been many changes since you were alive – too many to go into now. The first world war ended in 1918, and sadly, the second world war started just 22 years later. But I am afraid, Man will not learn from history, wars still go on in the world.
On a lighter note, there may be some Tahitian descendants of yours if it is true that you fathered a daughter with a Tahitian woman called Taatamata, with whom you seem to have enjoyed the most satisfactorily emotional relationship in your life.
I note you were born in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, the same County as the playwright and poet, William Shakespeare. If there is a heaven, I hope you have met him. I’m sure he will appreciate your poems.
Farewell my friend, I must this letter end.
Yours very sincerely,
K J Rollinson