Who said: "Poetry is like fish: if it's fresh, it's good; if it's stale, it's bad; and if you're not certain, try it on the cat."

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"Poetry is like fish: if it's fresh, it's good; if it's stale, it's bad; and if you're not certain, try it on the cat." - Osbert Sitwell

The SitwellsThe English writer Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell was born in London in 1892. His father, Sir George Reresby Sitwell, was a genealogist and antiquarian. He was educated at Eton, then joined a Cavalry regiment, but found that the cavalry wasn't to his liking and transferred to the Grenadier Guards at the Tower of London where he was able to indulge his love of theatre and art galleries when off-duty.

In 1914 his civilized life was exchanged for the trenches of France, near Ypres, and it was here that he started to write poetry. His first published poem, Babel, was printed in The Times newspaper in 1916. After leaving the army in 1918 he devoted himself to poetry, art criticism and controversial journalism. He published a number of books (novels, poetry and short stories) but is best remembered for his five volume autobiography. He died in 1969 near Florence, having suffered from Parkinson's disease for several years.

His eldest sister, Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell, and younger brother are also remembered for their own writings, and Edith as the editor of the annual poetry anthology, Wheels, which provided an early forum for poets such as Ezra Pound, T S Eliot and Wilfred Owen.


Babel

Therefore is the name of it called Babel

And still we stood and stared far down
Into that ember-glowing town
Which every shaft and shock of fate
Had shorn into its base. Too late

Came carelessly Serenity.
Now torn and broken houses gaze
On the rat-infested maze
That once sent up rose-silver haze

To mingle through eternity.
The outlines, once so strongly wrought,
Of city walls, are now a thought
Or jest unto the dead who fought...
Foundation for futurity.

The shimmering sands where once there played
Children with painted pail and spade
Are drearly desolate, - afraid
To meet Night's dark humanity,

Whose silver cool remakes the dead,
And lays no blame on any head
For all the havoc, fire, and lead,
That fell upon us suddenly.

When all we came to know as good
Gave ways to Evil's fiery flood,
And monstrous myths of iron and blood
Seem to obscure God's clarity.

Deep sunk in sin, this tragic star
Sinks deeper still, and wages war
Against itself; strewn all the seas
With victims of a world disease.
- And we are left to drink the lees
Of Babel's direful prophecy.

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This quote & biography originally ran in an issue of BookBrowse's membership magazine. Full Membership Features & Benefits.

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