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Culture

Shorts




Churchill as poet 

An unpublished poem that Winston Churchill wrote 115 years ago has been discovered and the original draft will shortly go on auction. Called Our Modern Watchwords, the ten-verse poem is characteristically imperialist in theme and tone and waxes forth about Britain's vast empire. It is written in blue crayon on the official stationery of the Fourth Hussars, where Churchill was a cornet. Churchill, who has the distinction of winning the Nobel Prize for both peace and literature, is known for his elegant and fiery essays and speeches, but not for writing poems. However, he was fond of quoting poetry and won the headmaster's prize at Harrow for reciting from memory the 1, 200-line The Lays of Ancient Rome, by Thomas Macaulay. The newly discovered poem has been called "passable" and "heavy-footed", and is clearly influenced by Tennyson and Kipling. Here's an extract: 

The shadow falls along the shore The search lights twinkle on the sea The silence of a mighty fleet Portends the tumult yet to be. The tables of the evening meal Are spread amid the great machines And thus with pride the question runs Among the sailors and marines Breathes there the man who fears to die For England, Home, & Wai-hai-wai.


Exhuming Neruda

The body of Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda will be exhumed for an autopsy seeking clues to what killed him. Neruda died days after the 1973 military coup that ended the life of his close friend, socialist President Salvador Allende. With Gen Augusto Pinochet's forces killing prominent leftists, friends had a plane waiting to carry Neruda into exile. Neruda was hospitalised with cancer at the time, but friends have said that the official cause of extreme malnutrition was suspicious because Neruda weighed 220 pounds. Forensic scientists have said it would be very difficult to determine from his remains whether drugs were given in doses big enough to kill him. One is reminded of Neruda's immortal words when Pinochet's soldiers came to raid his house:

"There are no weapons here but words. "

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