Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson Poems

"And will you cut a stone for him,
To set above his head?
And will you cut a stone for him--
A stone for him?" she said.


So long had I travelled the lonely road,
Though, now and again, a wayfairing friend
Walked shoulder to shoulder, and lightened the load,
I often would think to myself as I strode,

When we were building Skua Light--
The first men who had lived a night
Upon that deep-sea Isle--
As soon as chisel touched the stone,

And since he rowed his father home,
His hand has never touched an oar.
All day he wanders on the shore,
And hearkens to the swishing foam.

The biggest crane on earth, it lifts
Two hundred ton more easily
Than I can lift my heavy head:
And when it swings, the whole world shifts,

The Lonely Road
So long had I travelled the lonely road,
Though, now and again, a wayfairing friend

A HANDFUL of cherries
She gave me in passing,
The wizened old woman,

"I cannot quite remember.... There were five
Dropt dead beside me in the trench—and three
Whispered their dying messages to me...."

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson Biography

Wilfred Wilson Gibson (1878-1962), a close friend of Rupert Brooke and a protégé of Edward Marsh, was born in Hexham, England in 1878. Gibson worked for a time as a social worker in London's East End. He published his first verse in 1902, Mountain Lovers. He had several poems included in various Georgian poetry collections prior to the war. He also wrote a play, Daily Bread, which was produced in 1910. After the outbreak of war, Gibson served as a private in the infantry on the Western Front. It was therefore from the perspective of the ordinary soldier that Gibson wrote his war poetry. His active service was brief, but his poetry belies his lack of experience, Breakfast being a prime example of ironic war verse written during the very early stages of the conflict. Following the armistice, Gibson continued writing poetry and plays. His work was particularly concerned with the poverty of industrial workers and village labourers. Collected Poems: 1905-1925 was published in 1926, The Island Stag in 1927, and Within Four Walls in 1950. Wilfred Wilson Gibson died in 1962.)

The Best Poem Of Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

The Stone

"And will you cut a stone for him,
To set above his head?
And will you cut a stone for him--
A stone for him?" she said.

Three days before, a splintered rock
Had struck her lover dead--
Had struck him in the quarry dead,
Where, careless of a warning call,
He loitered, while the shot was fired--
A lively stripling, brave and tall,
And sure of all his heart desired . . .
A flash, a shock,
A rumbling fall . . .
And, broken 'neath the broken rock,
A lifeless heap, with face of clay,
And still as any stone he lay,
With eyes that saw the end of all.

I went to break the news to her:
And I could hear my own heart beat
With dread of what my lips might say;
But some poor fool had sped before;
And, flinging wide her father's door,
Had blurted out the news to her,
Had struck her lover dead for her,
Had struck the girl's heart dead in her,
Had struck life, lifeless, at a word,
And dropped it at her feet:
Then hurried on his witless way,
Scarce knowing she had heard.

And when I came, she stood alone--
A woman, turned to stone:
And, though no word at all she said,
I knew that all was known.

Because her heart was dead,
She did not sigh nor moan.
His mother wept:
She could not weep.
Her lover slept:
She could not sleep.
Three days, three nights,
She did not stir:
Three days, three nights,
Were one to her,
Who never closed her eyes
From sunset to sunrise,
From dawn to evenfall--
Her tearless, staring eyes,
That, seeing naught, saw all.

The fourth night when I came from work,
I found her at my door.
"And will you cut a stone for him?"
She said: and spoke no more:
But followed me, as I went in,
And sank upon a chair;
And fixed her grey eyes on my face,
With still, unseeing stare.
And, as she waited patiently,
I could not bear to feel
Those still, grey eyes that followed me,
Those eyes that plucked the heart from me,
Those eyes that sucked the breath from me
And curdled the warm blood in me,
Those eyes that cut me to the bone,
And cut my marrow like cold steel.

And so I rose and sought a stone;
And cut it smooth and square:
And, as I worked, she sat and watched,
Beside me, in her chair.
Night after night, by candlelight,
I cut her lover's name:
Night after night, so still and white,
And like a ghost she came;
And sat beside me, in her chair,
And watched with eyes aflame.

She eyed each stroke,
And hardly stirred:
she never spoke
A single word:
And not a sound or murmur broke
The quiet, save the mallet stroke.

With still eyes ever on my hands,
With eyes that seemed to burn my hands,
My wincing, overwearied hands,
She watched, with bloodless lips apart,
And silent, indrawn breath:
And every stroke my chisel cut,
Death cut still deeper in her heart:
The two of us were chiselling,
Together, I and Death.

And when at length my job was done,
And I had laid the mallet by,
As if, at last, her peace were won,
She breathed his name, and, with a sigh,
Passed slowly through the open door:
And never crossed my threshold more.

Next night I laboured late, alone,
To cut her name upon the stone.

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson Comments

Penny Dedman 12 August 2018

W W Gibson was never a social worker! I am one of his granddaughters, and the correct information is out there! Please correct your biographical information. I am very glad that his work is living on, and very relevant to the 1914-1918 commemorations this year. Thanks

1 0 Reply
WILLFRED Owami DLUDLU 19 March 2018

This is what I call poem it speaks with the heart

0 1 Reply
Philip Hewitt 27 July 2016

My comment seems to have been added twice (second version below with a couple of typos) . Please only read the first version directly below this!

2 0 Reply
Michael Bully 24 January 2015

In fact Gibson was rejected for war service due to poor eyesight until 1917, then able to join the Army Service Corps Motor Transport. He never saw active service overseas. Largely forgotten from the mid-1930's onwards, attempts have been made to revalue his work. Martin Stephens in his 1996 work 'The Price of Pity ' paid his tribute to his use of the colloquial language of the ordinary soldier. Professor Tim Kendall included a section on Gibson in his 2013 anthology 'Poetry of the First World War ', stressing that Gibson's Battle (1915) was among the first volumes of poetry to convey the actualities of War as experienced by common soldiers'. Tim Kendall maintains that Gurney, Sassoon, Owen, Graves and Rosenberg all praised his work.

5 0 Reply
James Fletcher 09 August 2007

Great poet, you should realy post 'Mad' I felt that it was a very powerful verse and it's my favourite poem by Wilfred Gibson

14 13 Reply

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