vrijdag 10 september 2010
"Achilles in the Trench" by Patrick Shaw Stewart (poetry reading)
Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart (17 August 1888 - 30 December 1917) was a brilliant Eton College and Oxford scholar of the Edwardian era who died on active service as a battalion commander in the Royal Naval Division during the First World War.
His career was one of great academic brilliance, matched by a steely determination to succeed. He came first in the Eton scholarship in 1901, a year after his friend, Ronald Knox, had come first in the same examination. He won the Newcastle scholarship at Eton in 1905. At Oxford, he won the Craven, the Ireland, and the Hertford Scholarships in Classics as well as taking a double first in Classical Moderations in 1908 and Greats in 1910. Elected to a fellowship of All Souls, he instead committed his career to Barings Bank, where he was appointed one of the youngest managing director in the bank's history, in 1913. At this time he became devoted to Lady Diana Manners and became a leading member of her "corrupt coterie," known simply as The Coterie. When war was declared in 1914, he joined the Royal Navy and, serving with Rupert Brooke, played a prominent role in the famed young poet's funeral in Greece. Promoted to lieutenant commander and in temporary command of the Hood Battalion, he was killed on 30 December 1917. He is buried at Metz-en-Couture in the British extension to the communal cemetery.
His fame today stems from one of his poems, today one of the most well-remembered of the war poems of the First World War, which begins:
I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die
I ask, and cannot answer,
If otherwise wish I.
The poem was written while Shaw-Stewart waited to be sent to fight at Gallipoli. He was on leave on the island of Imbros, overlooking Hisarlik (the site of the ancient city of Troy), and in the poem, Shaw-Stewart makes numerous references to the Iliad, questioning, "Was it so hard, Achilles / So very hard to die?" In the final stanza he evokes the image of flame-capped Achilles screaming from the Achaean ramparts after the death of Patroclus, and requests that Achilles likewise shout for him during the battle.