Robert Graves was the son of a Gaelic scholar and poet and a mother who was related to an influential German historian of those times.
Graves turned down a scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford, to join the British Army. While serving, he published his first book of poetry in 1916. The title was Over the Brazier.
Over the Brazier
What life to lead and where to go
After the War, after the War?
We’d often talked this way before.
But I still see the brazier glow
That April night, still feel the smoke
And stifling pungency of burning coke.
I’d thought: ‘A cottage in the hills,
North Wales, a cottage full of books,
Pictures and brass and cosy nooks
And comfortable broad window-sills,
Flowers in the garden, walls all white.
I’d live there peacefully and dream and write.’
But Willie said: ‘No, Home’s no good:
Old England’s quite a hopeless place,
I’ve lost all feeling for my race:
But France has given my heart and blood
Enough to last me all my life,
I’m off to Canada with my wee wife.
‘Come with us, Mac, old thing,’ but Mac
Drawled: ‘No, a Coral Isle for me,
A warm green jewel in the South Sea.
There’s merit in a lumber shack,
And labour is a grand thing…but—
Give me my hot beach and my cocoanut.’
So then we built and stocked for Willie
His log-hut, and for Mac a calm
Rock-a-bye cradle on a palm—
Idyllic dwellings—but this silly
Mad War has now wrecked both, and what
Better hopes has my little cottage got?