Robert Nichols

Robert Nichols Poems

Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
Other loves I have, men rough, but men who stir
More grief, more joy, than love of thee and thine.


It is midday; the deep trench glares….
A buzz and blaze of flies….

The beating of the guns grows louder.
'Not long, boys, now.'
My heart burns whiter, fearfuller, prouder;

For the last time, maybe, upon the knoll
I stand. The eve is golden, languid, sad.
Day like a tragic actor plays his role

Nearer and ever nearer...
My body, tired but tense,
Hovers 'twixt vague pleasure
And tremulous confidence.

Before, before he was aware
The 'Verey' light had risen… on the air
in hung glistering..
And he could not stay his hand

I must remember now how once I woke
To find the harsh lamplight stream upon her bed,
The ceiling tremble in its giddy smoke,

In a far field, away from England, lies
A boy I friended with a care like love;
All day the wide earth aches, the keen wind cries,

O Nightingale my heart
How sad thou art!
How heavy is thy wing,
Desperately whirrëd that thy throat may fling

The battery grides and jingles,
Mile succeeds to mile;
Shaking the noonday sunshine

In my tired, helpless body
I feel my sunk heart ache;

Exquisite stillness! What serenities
Of earth and air! How bright atop the wall
The stonecrop’s fire and beyond the precipice

All the loud winds were in the garden wood,
All shadows joyfuller than lissom hounds
Doubled in chasing, all exultant clouds

'Be warned! I feel the world grow old,
And off Olympus fades the gold
Of the simple passionate sun;

As I walk the misty hill
All is languid, fogged, and still;
Not a note of any bird
Nor any motion's hint is heard,


Something moves in his dust,
Flame sleeps beneath the crust;
O whence had he those eyes

How beautiful it is to wake at night,
When over all there reigns the ultimate spell
Of complete silence, darkness absolute,

Evenstar, still evenstar
If this twilight thou dost shine
On a more unhappy head,
On tears lonelier than mine,

AS round the cliff I came alone
The whole bay bared its blaze to me;

Put by the sun my joyful soul,
We are for darkness that is whole;

Put by the wine, now for long years

Robert Nichols Biography

Robert Nichols (1893-1944) was the wartime author of Ardours and Endurances; Also, A Faun's Holiday and Poems & Phantasies, a collection of war poetry published in 1917. Nichols, who struck up friendships with fellow war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke (the latter was killed in action in 1915), was a Winchester and Oxford-educated Georgian poet. Nichols' First World War military service - which lasted from from 1914-16 - saw him participate in the Battle of Loos in 1915 in the role of artillery officer. His front-line service was however brief - after just a few weeks serving in the trenches he was invalided home with shell shock; an illness which caused him to be sent home to England in 1916. Subsequently serving with the British Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Information, he went on to pen war poetry that he often read to large gatherings, which included tours of America. Ardours and Endurances; Also, A Faun's Holiday & Poems & Phantasies, published in 1917, perhaps Nichols' best known collection, represented his attempt to paint a canvas of the war on an epic scale. The name of Robert Nichols has its place on the memorial in Westminster Abbey to poets of the First World War, and his first collections, Invocation (1915) and Ardours and Endurances (1917), speaking directly to the mood of a nation in the throes of war, achieved real popular success. He went on to produce three more volumes of poetry, four plays that reached the London stage, and two novels. But these works of his maturity have been out of print for fifty years and until recently there was no biography of him. Now Anne and William Charlton have produced an authoritative study, Putting Poetry First: A Life of Robert Nichols 1893-1944. This is based on an extensive archive of unpublished papers and letters to and from him which had been preserved by the Nichols family. It starts with his childhood in a literary and artistic household privileged socially but overshadowed by his mother’s mental ill health. Nichols was a rebel at school but at Oxford and in later life came to be on friendly terms with many of the best known writers, composers, artists and actors of his day. Although his health was always poor he was accepted for the Field Artillery in September 1914. After a year’s training he reached the Western Front just before the Battle of Loos in September 1915. He was shell-shocked and the following year invalided out; and this gave him more time for writing and reflecting on the war than other poets who were either killed or kept in the trenches. In 1918 he was sent to America as a kind of representative of British war poets and artists. The book shows that the end of the war was not the end either of Nichols’s creative work or of his adventures. An affair with Nancy Cunard was the inspiration for his next book Aurelia (1920). He taught English Literature in Tokyo from 1921 to 1924, and took part in one of the most exciting periods in the development of the cinema in Hollywood from 1924 to 1926. In 1928 his play Wings Over Europe, which foretold the splitting of the atom and the consequences that would follow, was a success in New York. In 1933-4 he was in Austria and Germany, and quotations from the long weekly letters he wrote to Henry Head, the neurologist under whose care he had been for shell-shock, give a graphic eye-witness account of the rise of Hitler. As a result of chronic disorder both in his emotional and in his financial affairs, at the end of the 1930s he settled in France just in time to see the German occupation, and in June 1940 he was on the last ship to carry British refugees from the Cote d’Azur. Finally the book describes his work as a writer, broadcaster and inventor in the Second World War down to his death in 1944 at the age of 51. His life had been a turbulent one with alternating moods of infectious elation and deep unhappiness and indecision; but this book shows that one thing remained constant, his determination to pursue his vocation as a poet. He believed he was born to write poetry and for him that always came first. Nichols died in 1944.)

The Best Poem Of Robert Nichols


Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
Other loves I have, men rough, but men who stir
More grief, more joy, than love of thee and thine.

Faces cheerful, full of whimsical mirth,
Lined by the wind, burned by the sun;
Bodies enraptured by the abounding earth,
As whose children we are brethern: one.

And any moment may descend hot death
To shatter limbs! Pulp, tear, blast
Belovèd soldiers who love rough life and breath
Not less for dying faithful to the last.

O the fading eyes, the grimed face turned bony,
Oped mouth gushing, fallen head,
Lessening pressure of a hand, shrunk, clammed and stony!
O sudden spasm, release of the dead!

Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
O loved, living, dying, heroic soldier,
All, all my joy, my grief, my love, are thine.

Robert Nichols Comments

Tom Mummery 04 February 2006

In Comrades: An Episode, how is Gates injured - is he shot in the hand or elsewhere? If it is the hand, would that be serious enough for a soldier to die? I think I am missing something, I would appreciate any information about the poem or where to look for research.

2 1 Reply
Tom Mummery 04 February 2006

In Comrades: An Episode, what injury does Gates sustain? Is he shot in the hand or elsewhere? I can't work it out from the poem, but would a hand wound kill a soldier? Perhaps I'm missing comething, I would appreciate any advice on where to find more information about this poem.

2 0 Reply
Geoff Skellon 12 July 2017

It is incorrect to say that Rupert Brooke died in action. He died of blood poisoning following an insect bite.

0 0 Reply
Geoff Skellon 12 July 2017

Tom, a very belated reply because I have only just seen your comment. I suggest that the movement of his hand under the light was seen by a sniper. He fell with a body wound and when he put his hand to the wound it felt wet and so he knew it was still bleeding.

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yeetus_cleatus 04 December 2020

twenty characters lol

0 0 Reply
ian white 17 November 2019

anybody have a copy of To d'Annunzio by Robert nichols?

0 0 Reply
Kelly 20 March 2019

How did he die What was the cause of his death

0 1 Reply
Unknown 19 December 2017

Good reply. I use this website quite often.

0 0 Reply
Unknown 19 December 2017

This Website is amazing. Thanks

1 0 Reply

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