Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

(1878 - 1962 / England)

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
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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 ... more »

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Comments about Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

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  • Philip Hewitt Philip Hewitt (7/27/2016 10:59:00 AM)

    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!

  • Philip Hewitt Philip Hewitt (7/27/2016 10:55:00 AM)

    Your selection is missing by far his best-known poem. I make no excuse for including it here, as I do not seem to be able to add it to your list:

    Flannan Isle


    THOUGH three men dwell on Flannan Isle
    To keep the lamp alight,
    As we steer'd under the lee, we caught
    No glimmer through the night!

    A passing ship at dawn had brought
    The news; and quickly we set sail,
    To find out what strange thing might ail
    The keepers of the deep-sea light.

    The winter day broke blue and bright,
    With glancing sun and glancing spray,
    As o'er the swell our boat made way,
    As gallant as a gull in flight.

    But, as we near'd the lonely Isle;
    And look'd up at the naked height;
    And saw the lighthouse towering white,
    With blinded lantern, that all night
    Had never shot a spark
    Of comfort through the dark,
    So ghastly in the cold sunlight
    It seem'd, that we were struck the while
    With wonder all too dread for words.

    And, as into the tiny creek
    We stole beneath the hanging crag,
    We saw three queer, black, ugly birds-
    Too big, by far, in my belief,
    For guillemot or shag-
    Like seamen sitting bold upright
    Upon a half-tide reef:
    But, as we near'd, they plunged from sight,
    Without a sound, or spurt of white.

    And still too mazed to speak,
    We landed; and made fast the boat;
    And climb'd the track in single file,
    Each wishing he was safe afloat,
    On any sea, however far,
    So it be far from Flannan Isle:
    And still we seem'd to climb, and climb,
    As though we'd lost all count of time,
    And so must climb for evermore.
    Yet, all too soon, we reached the door-
    The black, sun-blister'd lighthouse door,
    That gaped for us ajar.

    As, on the threshold, for a spell,
    We paused, we seem'd to breathe the smell
    Of limewash and of tar,
    Familiar as our daily breath,
    As though 'twere some strange scent of death:
    And so, yet wondering, side by side,
    We stood a moment, still tongue-tied:
    And each with black foreboding eyed
    The door, ere we should fling it wide,
    To leave the sunlight for the gloom:
    Till, plucking courage up, at last,
    Hard on each other's heels we pass'd
    Into the living-room.

    Yet, as we crowded through the door,
    We only saw a table, spread
    For dinner, meat and cheese and bread;
    But all untouch'd; and no one there:
    As though, when they sat down to eat,
    Ere they could even taste,
    Alarm had come; and they in haste
    Had risen and left the bread and meat:
    For on the table-head a chair
    Lay tumbled on the floor.
    We listen'd; but we only heard
    The feeble cheeping of a bird
    That starved upon its perch:
    And, listening still, without a word,
    We set about our hopeless search.

    We hunted high, we hunted low,
    And soon ransack'd the empty house;
    Then o'er the Island, to and fro,
    We ranged, to listen and to look
    In every cranny, cleft or nook
    That might have hid a bird or mouse:
    But, though we searched from shore to shore,
    We found no sign in any place:
    And soon again stood face to face
    Before the gaping door:
    And stole into the room once more
    As frighten'd children steal.

    Aye: though we hunted high and low,
    And hunted everywhere,
    Of the three men's fate we found no trace
    Of any kind in any place,
    But a door ajar, and an untouch'd meal,
    And an overtoppled chair.

    And, as we listen'd in the gloom
    Of that forsaken living-room-
    O chill clutch on our breath-
    We thought how ill-chance came to all
    Who kept the Flannan Light:
    And how the rock had been the death
    Of many a likely lad:
    How six had come to a sudden end
    And three had gone stark mad:
    And one whom we'd all known as friend
    Had leapt from the lantern one still night,
    And fallen dead by the lighthouse wall:
    And long we thought
    On the three we sought,
    And of what might yet befall.

    Like curs a glance has brought to heel,
    We listen'd, flinching there:
    And look'd, and look'd, on the untouch'd meal
    And the overtoppled chair.

    We seem'd to stand for an endless while,
    Though still no word was said,
    Three men alive on Flannan Isle,
    Who thought on three men dead.


    Added by Philip Hewitt on 27.07.16

  • Philip Hewitt Philip Hewitt (7/27/2016 10:53:00 AM)

    Your selection is missing by far his best-known poem. I make no excuse for including it here, as I do not seem to be able to add it to your list:

    Flannan Isle

    image: http: //www.poetry-archive.com/t_pic.gif

    HOUGH three men dwell on Flannan Isle
    To keep the lamp alight,
    As we steer'd under the lee, we caught
    No glimmer through the night!

    A passing ship at dawn had brought
    The news; and quickly we set sail,
    To find out what strange thing might ail
    The keepers of the deep-sea light.

    The winter day broke blue and bright,
    With glancing sun and glancing spray,
    As o'er the swell our boat made way,
    As gallant as a gull in flight.

    But, as we near'd the lonely Isle;
    And look'd up at the naked height;
    And saw the lighthouse towering white,
    With blinded lantern, that all night
    Had never shot a spark
    Of comfort through the dark,
    So ghastly in the cold sunlight
    It seem'd, that we were struck the while
    With wonder all too dread for words.

    And, as into the tiny creek
    We stole beneath the hanging crag,
    We saw three queer, black, ugly birds-
    Too big, by far, in my belief,
    For guillemot or shag-
    Like seamen sitting bold upright
    Upon a half-tide reef:
    But, as we near'd, they plunged from sight,
    Without a sound, or spurt of white.

    And still too mazed to speak,
    We landed; and made fast the boat;
    And climb'd the track in single file,
    Each wishing he was safe afloat,
    On any sea, however far,
    So it be far from Flannan Isle:
    And still we seem'd to climb, and climb,
    As though we'd lost all count of time,
    And so must climb for evermore.
    Yet, all too soon, we reached the door-
    The black, sun-blister'd lighthouse door,
    That gaped for us ajar.

    As, on the threshold, for a spell,
    We paused, we seem'd to breathe the smell
    Of limewash and of tar,
    Familiar as our daily breath,
    As though 'twere some strange scent of death:
    And so, yet wondering, side by side,
    We stood a moment, still tongue-tied:
    And each with black foreboding eyed
    The door, ere we should fling it wide,
    To leave the sunlight for the gloom:
    Till, plucking courage up, at last,
    Hard on each other's heels we pass'd
    Into the living-room.

    Yet, as we crowded through the door,
    We only saw a table, spread
    For dinner, meat and cheese and bread;
    But all untouch'd; and no one there:
    As though, when they sat down to eat,
    Ere they could even taste,
    Alarm had come; and they in haste
    Had risen and left the bread and meat:
    For on the table-head a chair
    Lay tumbled on the floor.
    We listen'd; but we only heard
    The feeble cheeping of a bird
    That starved upon its perch:
    And, listening still, without a word,
    We set about our hopeless search.

    We hunted high, we hunted low,
    And soon ransack'd the empty house;
    Then o'er the Island, to and fro,
    We ranged, to listen and to look
    In every cranny, cleft or nook
    That might have hid a bird or mouse:
    But, though we searched from shore to shore,
    We found no sign in any place:
    And soon again stood face to face
    Before the gaping door:
    And stole into the room once more
    As frighten'd children steal.

    Aye: though we hunted high and low,
    And hunted everywhere,
    Of the three men's fate we found no trace
    Of any kind in any place,
    But a door ajar, and an untouch'd meal,
    And an overtoppled chair.

    And, as we listen'd in the gloom
    Of that forsaken living-room-
    O chill clutch on our breath-
    We thought how ill-chance came to all
    Who kept the Flannan Light:
    And how the rock had been the death
    Of many a likely lad:
    How six had come to a sudden end
    And three had gone stark mad:
    And one whom we'd all known as friend
    Had leapt from the lantern one still night,
    And fallen dead by the lighthouse wall:
    And long we thought
    On the three we sought,
    And of what might yet befall.

    Like curs a glance has brought to heel,
    We listen'd, flinching there:
    And look'd, and look'd, on the untouch'd meal
    And the overtoppled chair.

    We seem'd to stand for an endless while,
    Though still no word was said,
    Three men alive on Flannan Isle,
    Who thought on three men dead.


    Added by Philip Hewitt on 27.07.16

  • Michael Bully Michael Bully (1/24/2015 4:00:00 PM)

    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.

  • James Fletcher (8/9/2007 1:55:00 PM)

    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

Read all 5 comments »
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...

Read the full of The Stone

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