Biography of Leon Gellert
Leon Maxwell Gellert was born in 1892 and educated in Adelaide, Australia.His Grandparents were Hungarian immigrants. Leon was regularly beaten by his Father James, so at the age of 17 he began a course of self-defence lessons, which were to prove useful when, one day his father attacked him with a heavy piece of timber, James Gellert was thrown on his back. Leon, after leaving school worked for a time as a pupil-teacher until he enlisted as a private in 10th AIF. On October 22 1914, Gellert and the 10th Battalion set off for Egypt. Corporal Gellert became drunk for the first time in his life, on Melbourne Bitter whilst sailing on the Indian Ocean.
Gellert resumed writing poetry after arriving in Cairo; his output grew once the 10th set off for the Dardanelles. For seven weeks, his battalion was kept in reserve on their troop ship before being ordered to land at Ari Burnu beach at dawn on April 25.
Gellert survived nine weeks on Gallipoli before coming down with dysentery. He had to be evacuated to Malta, where he contracted typhoid and was sent to England to convalesce. This is where most of his poems were written, including
The Last to Leave. After collapsing into a coma that doctors suspected was epileptic, Gellert was discharged as medically unfit on June 30, 1916. Amazingly, he re-enlisted in November, only to be discharged four days later when his medical record was uncovered.
After the death of his wife Kathleen in 1969 in Sydney he moved back to Adelaide where he died on 22nd August 1977.
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Leon Gellert Poems
There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks: There’s a beach asleep and drear: There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea. There are sunken trampled graves:
The Last to Leave
The guns were silent, and the silent hills had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze I gazed upon the vales and on the rills, And whispered, "What of these?' and "What of these?
We always had to do our work at night. I wondered why we had to be so sly. I wondered why we couldn't have our fight Under the open sky.
The night has come,, I feel the desert dew, I lie in Afric's sands And breath the night, for night like these are few In other lands;
The Attack at Dawn
‘At every cost,’ they said, ‘it must be done.’ They told us in the early afternoon. We sit and wait the coming of the sun
Long before the dawn breaks With a bird's cry,
The island sleeps,-but it has no delight For em, to whom that sleep has been unkind. My thoughts are long of what seems long ago,
A Night Attack
Be still. The bleeding night is in suspense Of watchful agony and coloured thought, And every beating vein and trembling sense,
The Jester in the Trench
"That just reminds me of a yarn," he said; And look for the body of Lofty Lane
The Christmas Beetle
When Christmas comes the Christmas heat'll bring once more the Christmas Beetle The first inflammatory breeze'll set him buzzing like a diesel.
A red-roofed house is shining to the skies; A house red-roofed and brilliant in the wind: A house of colour filled with wandering eyes;
Waft on, thou upward breeze From the warm south! And on her wayward mouth Imprint my far farewells
The world rolls wet with blood, and the skinny hand of Death gropes at the beating heart.
Bluebeard’s First Wife
I lie by the garden wall, Buried and all alone; The brown camellias fall One by one on the stone.
There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks:
There’s a beach asleep and drear:
There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea.
There are sunken trampled graves:
And a little rotting pier:
And winding paths that wind unceasingly.
There’s a torn and silent valley:
There’s a tiny rivulet
With some blood upon the stones beside its mouth.