Sir Osbert Sitwell
Biography of Sir Osbert Sitwell
Sir Osbert Sitwell was born in London on 6 December 1892, the son of Sir George Sitwell. He was raised in Derbyshire and educated at Eton. He sat for the exam for entry to Sandhurst twice but failed both attempts but later during the First World War Sitwell served as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, in France for various periods from 1914 to 1917. His experiences left him with hatred of war.
Along with sister Edith and brother Sacheverell, Osbert Sitwell was a patron and pioneer of style, remembered chiefly for his five-volume autobiography, Left Hand, Right Hand! (1945-50, comprising Left Hand, Right Hand!; The Scarlet Tree; Great Morning; Laughter in the Next Room and Noble Essences). A late addition to his autobiography, Tales my Father Taught Me, followed in 1962. His autobiography is full of marvellous evocative pictures of an age and a culture that now seem almost entirely vanished, and are remarkable for the portrait of the eccentric, exasperating figure of his father, Sir George. His memoirs achieved tremendous success in both Britain and the US.
Sitwell was the author of poems, short stories, novels and memoirs. The majority of his poetry is light and satiric. Though his earlier poem The Winstonburg Line (1919), was markedly pacifist in tone. His short stories include Triple Fugue (1924); the novel Before the Bombardment (1926), a novel describing the shelling of Scarborough in 1914 and its effect on the lonely, genteel female society of the town; Collected Poems and Satires (1931) and Selected Poems (1943).
Upon his father's death in 1943, Sitwell became 5th baronet. Sir Osbert Sitwell, who never married, died in 1969 after succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease.
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Sir Osbert Sitwell Poems
WHEN Orpheus with his wind-swift fingers Ripples the strings that gleam like rain, The wheeling birds fly up and sing, Hither, thither echoing;
The Blind Pedlar
I STAND alone through each long day Upon these pavers; cannot see The wares spread out upon this tray —For God has taken sight from me!
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
How Shall we Rise to Greet the Dawn?
Continually they cackle thus, Those venerable birds, Crying, 'Those whom the Gods love Die young' Or something of that sort.
On The Coast Of Coromandel
On the coast of Coromandel, Dance they to the tune of Handel; Chorally, that coral coast Correlates the bone to ghost,
The city's heat is like a leaden pall— Its lowered lamps glow in the midnight air Like mammoth orange-moths that flit and flare Through the dark tapestry of night. The tall
Their youth was fevered - passionate, quick to drain The last few pleasures from the cup of life Before they turned to suck the dregs of pain And end their young-old lives in mortal strife.
The Next War
The long war had ended. Its miseries had grown faded. Deaf men became difficult to talk to, Heroes became bores.
Silence o'erwhelms the melody of Night, Then slowly drips on to the woods that sigh For their past vivid vernal ecstasy.
WHEN Orpheus with his wind-swift fingers
Ripples the strings that gleam like rain,
The wheeling birds fly up and sing,
Hither, thither echoing;
There is a crackling of dry twigs,
A sweeping of leaves along the ground,
Fawny faces and dumb eyes
Peer through the fluttering screens
That mask ferocious teeth and claws