A new sonnet for H.R. Deighton Simpson of Eton & Harvard. Simpson famously left Harvard in the dead of night for war. He became a decorated pilot and died at age 20 on 20 Dec. 1916. Published 3 April 2017.
Lord Kitchener’s call to Cambridge came as class
Commenced in Harvard Yard. I left that day
With a first-class pass to the levy-en-masse.
Warriors don’t live incurvatus in se.
I thought of England’s ancient Lancelot,
As Joyous Guard became my Joyce Green.
I tied the Germans in a Windsor knot,
A mere nineteen in my flying machine
Liberating the oppressed! By request
I took a plane up for a test. That day
The steed stumbled. We tumbled to death’s rest.
Sub specie aeternitatis I pray,
“Lord, bless those who don’t yield, but seek and strive
To free their souls, and live fully alive.”
Incurvatus in se: St. Augustine of Hippo: Curving in on oneself
Sub specie aeternitatis: Under the aspect of eternity
The last line refers to St. Iraneus, “The glory of God is a man fully alive.”
Poets note: Some people are truly called to be warriors. Deighton was one such young man. This poem honors him and other warriors who are called to the military path. I am grateful for their service.
Brief biography: Born in the USA. Graduated from Eton and matriculated at Harvard in 1914. Left after three weeks to enlist in the British army as documented in this extraordinary set of letters kept in the Harvard University archives . These letters and his leaving were written into the novel HARVARD 1914 which was purchased by Sourcebooks and is now available as THE END OF INNOCENCE. Became a naturalized British subject and fought with British forces until his death three weeks short of his 21st birthday. He served primarily in the Royal Flying Corps and had multiple deployments to the front lines. Died at Joyce Green aerodome on 20 December 1916 at age 20 while testing a new speed scout plane for the Royal Flying Corps. His name is listed among Harvard’s war dead in its Memorial Church. He is buried at Crayford, England.