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Alun Lewis - The Sentry: Poems and Stories (Corgi Series: 6)

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Manylion a Disgrifiad y Llyfr | Book Details & Description

  • ISBN: 9780863817069
  • Author: Alun Lewis
  • Publication March 2003
  • Edited by Meic Stephens
  • Format: Paperback, 148x105 mm, 98 pages

A collection of the work of Alun Lewis (1915-44) comprising 21 poems and two short stories reflecting his serious outlook on life and death, including short biographical notes.

Gwales Review
This introduction to the work of Alun Lewis contains twenty-one poems and two short stories. In his brief introduction, Meic Stephens describes Lewis's premature death in India in 1944 as 'the single greatest loss sustained by Welsh letters during the second world war'; it is difficult to disagree.

Stephens prints twice as many poems from Lewis's posthumously published second volume, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945, not 1943 as the bibliography states), as from his first, Raider's Dawn (1942), but it's a selection that fairly reflects the greater maturity of the later book. Stylistically, Lewis was an inheritor both of the lushness and rhetoric of nineteenth-century Romanticism and, chiefly through the work of Edward Thomas, of the plainness and calculatedly limited horizons of the English existential tradition. The two styles frequently clash in Lewis's earlier poems, but are triumphantly married in 'Goodbye', where he speaks on the one hand of fixing on labels and putting a shilling in the gas, and on the other of 'Time's chalice and its limpid useless tears' and of striding 'across the seven seas of death'.

Lewis died by his own revolver, and his experience of India intensified the embrace of eros and thanatos already present in his work:

The dark is a beautiful, singing sexless angel
Her hands so soft you scarcely feel her touch
Gentle, eternally gentle, round your heart.
She flatters and unsexes every man.

('Burma Casualty')

The stories draw on Lewis's experience as a soldier (he was never in combat), and each contains a death. In 'They Came' – from The Last Inspection (1942, not 1943 as the bibliography states) – Lewis contrives an upbeat ending, but it's unconvincing. Much stronger is the suspended, unresolved closure of 'The Orange Grove', from In the Green Tree (1948), where the protagonist, his driver murdered and his truck broken down, travels lost with a company of gypsies.

Richard Poole