Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Vera Brittain

1893–1970

Vera Brittain was born on December 29, 1893, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. In 1914 she began studying English literature at Somerville College, Oxford. The following year, she left to serve as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment, in hospitals in London and France. She published her first poetry collection, Verses of a V.A.D (Erskine Macdonald), in 1918. After the war ended, she completed her studies at Somerville College. She went on to publish Poems of the War and After (Macmillan, 1934); several novels, including Honourable Estate (Macmillan, 1936); and several historical studies, including Lady into Woman: a History of Women from Victoria to Elizabeth II (Macmillan, 1953). A lifelong pacifist after her experiences in World War I, she served as chairman of the Peace Pledge Union. She was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1946. She died in London on March 29, 1970.

Vera Brittain
Photo credit: The Vera Brittain Estate

By This Poet

5

To My Brother

(In Memory of July 1, 1916)

Your battle-wounds are scars upon my heart,
     Received when in that grand and tragic "show"
You played your part
     Two years ago,

And silver in the summer morning sun
     I see the symbol of your courage glow—
That Cross you won
     Two years ago.

Though now again you watch the shrapnel fly,
     And hear the guns that daily louder grow,
As in July
     Two years ago,

May you endure to lead the Last Advance
     And with your men pursue the flying foe
As once in France
     Two years ago.

Roundel

("Died of Wounds")

Because you died, I shall not rest again,
     But wander ever through the lone world wide,
Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain
               Because you died.

I shall spend brief and idle hours beside
     The many lesser loves that still remain,
But find in none my triumph and my pride;

And Disillusion's slow corroding stain
     Will creep upon each quest but newly tried,
For every striving now shall nothing gain
               Because you died.

France,
          February 1918.

St. Pancras Station, August 1915

One long, sweet kiss pressed close upon my lips,
     One moment's rest on your swift-beating heart,
And all was over, for the hour had come
                    For us to part.

A sudden forward motion of the train,
     The world grown dark although the sun still shone,
One last blurred look through aching tear-dimmed eyes—
                    And you were gone.

Related Poets