Effie M Roberts – Wartime Poetry

AWPJ-coverWinter Jasmine, The Golden Glory has Fled, and A Wartime Poetry Journal, by Effie M Roberts.
Effie is Fractal’s most popular writer. Any of these books would make a wonderfully special gift for anybody interested in poetry or history. Her work is unique in telling the story of a working class woman’s life, in England, in the Second World War, in the most lovely and accessible poetry.
Effie's weddingThis is a photo of the young Effie, on her wedding day. She loved her husband, Charles, very deeply, and he supported her in her life and in her writing. Those with memories of World War 2, (and those who don’t), will love her poetry, which tells her family’s story with humour and courage. She wrote the poetry as a kind of journal, from day to day.Effie2Effie was born, Effie Lawrence, in Sheffield, in 1896. After her marriage, in the 1920s, she and Charles lived in Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, though she had spent her childhood and in Sheffield. Life was very hard. Charles had been a soldier in  WW1, and in WW2 he was a hairdresser in Tewkesbury Rd, Cheltenham. The family lived in cramped quarters above the shop. Effie’s poems give glimpses into the hardship they endured, but she rarely complained, and most of the poems are full of her bright, positive energy, and her love for her family.
Do you realise Christmas is near?
I’m afraid there’ll be but little of cheer;
It just seems a farce when hearts are sore
And war’s destruction lies right at our door;
Still I suppose we must see it through
And say yet again, “A merry Christmas to you.”
I guess you are hoping that I will make
A nice rich spicy and iced Christmas cake,
Well, there will be a cake of some sort, it’s true
Of currants and raisins, I have just a few;
But icing! – dear me, you may look aghast, –
But icing sugar’s a thing of the past!
A Christmas pudding, with brandy sauce! –
Really good people, – I’d love to, of course, –
But that’s disappeared, along with the whisky,
There’s nothing this year to make you feel frisky;
But we’ll be thankful for what we can get,
Even though the fare’s plain, we haven’t starved yet.
Effie’s poems cover many of the problems of life in World War 2: rationing; the silence of the church bells;the black-outs, the lack of holidays, etc. They are often humorous, but sometimes sad. These two are about the end of the war.
April 23rd, 1945
Mark it well, – tonight, tonight
We walk from darkness into light, –
A symbol of triumph, victory near,
Of a precious freedom we all hold dear. –
In suburban street and city square
Twinkling lights are everywhere,
No sirens feared, no terror, dread
Of approaching horrors overhead;
The fearful drone of death is gone,
Hurray! Hurray! the lights are on!
Aug 14th, 1945
Peace has come to all the world,
Banners are again unfurled,
Hopes are high and spirits gay,
It’s come, it’s here, it’s V.J. day!
Doors are opened, neighbours call,
‘Hear the news?’ asks one and all;
‘The war is over,’ and so it’s spread,
And awakens many a sleepy head.
Out in the street, they congregate,
And excitedly plan, ‘though the hour is late;
Young folk too, have their own ideas,
With noisy prattle and rousing cheers,
On through the streets they go their way,
Light-heartedly they swing and sway,
Greeting a pal with, ‘Hello, what cheer!
Come along with us, my dear.
‘Trees illumined in the ‘Prom,’
Draw the crowd magnetically on,
Dancing here – a ‘show’ staged there,
Jostling together, devil-may-care,
Trumpets, streamers, waving flags,
Music, fireworks, student ‘rags,’ –
‘Tis thus, – the exuberance of youth, –
(Wild revellers in very truth)
In carnival dress and cap complete,
Bring gaiety, colour to every street,
They shout and laugh with all their might,
And dance and sing throughout the night;
But see! The older generation,
Seek quiet meditation;
With thankful hearts they kneel and pray,
Pray that peace has come to stay;
But gay or solemn be the mood,
All hearts are filled with gratitude,
Joyous in this glad release,
God grant it be a lasting peace.
No doubt, many people would have sympathised with the sentiments in the next poem!
I’m fed up! – I really am!
I’m fed up! – I really am!
I’m sick of margarine and jam,
We’d like some butter, thickly spread,
On a nice wafer of new, white bread; –
What wouldn’t I give for peaches and cream,
And wouldn’t I mop my dish up clean!
A rich cream puff, or a chocolate éclair,
Would help to sweeten the meagre fare; –
And what can one do with two ounces of cheese?
(Oh, give us a bigger ration, please,)
And a tender steak would be nice, of course, –
I could swear sometimes we’re eating horse; –
Bananas and nuts are quite ‘taboo,’
And oranges, well they’re far too few! –
Here’s just a little of what we’ve missed,
And somehow or other we still exist!
And what is more we’re better forsooth,
That’s what we’re told, so I suppose it’s the truth, –
But give me, oh give me the chance to pick,
I’d have them again and risk being sick.
Sometimes the poems were just about everyday things, unrelated to war. This one, which shows her keen, satirical humour at its best, was based on a true incident, which occurred in Sandford Park, Cheltenham.
Sixty beautiful goldfish
Lived happily in a pond,
Skimming along the surface,
Or resting beneath a frond.
Of this happy family, I’ve a story to relate,
It will grieve you, I know, to learn
The sad end of fifty eight.
A hungry out-sized otter,
Prowling along in the dark,
Hunting for his supper,
Found his way to the park.
‘Oh my, oh me, what luck!’ says he,
‘Oh what a scrumptious feast,’
And helped himself to all but two,
The greedy little beast!
Now, was he too fat to hurry,
Or still gloating o’er his feed? –
I cannot say, – but the dangers
Of the road, he did not heed.
A motor car in passing,
Struck the unfortunate otter,
And that, dear reader, was the end,
Of a greedy little rotter!
Please contact Pippa Roberts at philippa.roberts1@btinternet.com or by phone, on 07899401808, if you would like to order books or arrange a reading. Otherwise you can write to her at Fractal Publishing, 27 Welland Lodge Rd, Cheltenham. GL52 3HB. On all books we provide free P&P, within the UK.

One Response to Effie M Roberts – Wartime Poetry

  1. Thanks for making Effie Roberts’ poems available!

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