World Poetry Day

My thanks go to Lucy London who has shared this poem by Trevor Allen from 1918, which she discovered in “The English Review” of 1920 (p199).

Dust of Macedonia

I

Ever, I taste your dust between my teeth.
It clings about the nostrils, blinds the eyes,
And lingers subtly in the touch of things. . .

Dust is the fevered breath of this parched land.
On arid hill-tracks where the convoys wind,
On roads where limbers jolt, and marching men
Blink in the glare, and spit, and stumble on,
Even from the withered grasses of the plain,
It lifts in clouds, like smoke before the sun.
Burdens the heat, and clogs the track unending.

And when those dry winds from the Vardar sweep
The land is blinded by a drifting shroud.
Camps are engulphed. Wayfaring mules and men
Blunder, unseeing, while the dust-storm rages.

II

In your dust, O land time-worn, is the tang of Death,
In your dust is the odour of dying things, and dead ;

Old wars, old creeds, old tyrannies lade your breath ;
Dust of dead villages, dust of the men who bled.

These; and your untilled lands where roots decay;

Your febrile swamps, your flowers of burnt-up Springs-
They rot in the dust our young lives breathe to-day;

In the ancient dust that to our bodies clings.

Dear dust of England, too, your dust will be

Where whitened crosses in the fierce light gleam —

Dust of my comrades I no more may see. . . .

Even so. The Faith, the Home-love, and the Dream-

These will be England’s own, eternally.


Albert Thomas Trevor Allen (d. 1983) was born in Brompton. He left school at 14 and worked initially at a junior job in the Mechanical Engineer’s Department, District Underground Railway. He wrote satirical verses for A.R. Orage’s New Age, and met literary people while working for two years as a shorthand-typist in C.F. Cazenove’s Literary Agency. Early in 1915 he enlisted with the R.A.M.C., serving with a Field Ambulance. He began writing articles on army life for the Daily Chronicle, which he continued while serving with 11/Royal Welsh Fusiliers on the Doiran front, which later gave him the background material for his novel Jade elephants.

Allen was demobilized in 1919, and worked as a free-lance contributor to the Daily Chronicle, Sunday Observer, and other papers and magazines. He took the University of London’s two-year journalist course on his ex-service grant, before becoming a Fleet Street reporter for 7 years on the morning paper, Westminster Gazette. From this came his first book, Underground, a biography of Soho criminal Grant Richards. He was invited to join the Daily Chronicle as Literary Editor, editing the leader page. He left to edit The London Opinion, before working as a free-lance, mainly for the Newnes and Pearson magazines. He was also Book Reviewer for the John O’London weekly, and for many years wrote regular reviews for the Daily Telegraph and Contemporary Review. He was Chairman of the London Writer’s Circle. Allen died on 23 November 1983.

Allen’s works include the books Underworld: the biography of Charles Brooks, Criminal (1931), Ivar Kreuger (1932), The tracks they trod: Salonika and the Balkans, Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine revisited (1932), Jade elephants (1934), London lover: songs of a city’s romance (1947) (verse), We loved in Bohemia (1953), and Roads to success (1957).

Author: Robin B

Robin's interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Fred, who served as a cyclist with the BSF from 1915 to 1917, mainly in the Struma valley. Robin joined the SCS in 2003 and served on the committee for 18 years as journal and web editor. Opinions expressed in these posts are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society.

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