DUNSANY, LORD [Edward Drax Plunkett] Two poems addressed to Adolf Hitler, probably written circa 1940, original manuscripts in his flamboyant hand, probably unpublished.

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HITLER, DUNSANY and the ‘RED DEAN’

The poems with a manuscript covering note signed ‘D.’, on his addressed notepaper, from Dunstall Priory in England, addressed to ‘Dear Hale’. Both poems are written on fine quality laid paper watermarked ‘Eynsford’.

In the first poem, ‘Over the Fragments’, eight lines, signed ‘D.’, Dunsany addresses Hitler directly. ‘Hitler, you had the curious luck to hold / Germany’s civilisation in your hand / If not all Europe’s, like a vase of old / Made by rare craftsmen in an ancient land. / That were an honour of enormous worth / ... But what a pity that you let it drop!’ The second is a curious poem headed ‘One Day at Doorn’, three stanzas of four lines, the page headed ‘To Wish You a Happy Christmas’, with coloured drawings of holly, signed ‘Dunsany’. ‘Doorn’ evidently refers to Doorn Manor in the Netherlands near Utrecht, a large country house where the deposed German Emperor Wilhelm II lived in exile after World War I, from 1920 until his death in 1941.

Dunsany’s poem is spoken in the persona of Wilhelm, addressing another deposed German leader [i.e. Hitler] who has come to Doorn as a servant. ‘Well! Well! You’ve come! You’ll find the work here light: / No ceremonial, we live simply here / .. I shall expect you always to be neat / And keep things tidy. Breakfast is at 9. / We lunch at 1; at half past 12 you eat. / Then you bring tea at 5. At 8 we dine. / My royal sons may sometimes come to call / I’m sure they will not trouble you at all. / You merely lay an extra place or more / And by the way, why DID you make that war?’

Needless to say, Hitler never came to Doorn Manor. After the Second World War, the house was taken over by the Dutch Government and is now a museum. A strange pair of poems, possibly written circa 1940. The covering note to ‘Hale’ thanks him for a letter. ‘It will hearten me when the Dean counterattacks, unless he suffers me with Christian resignation or Russian patience’ (a reference to the ‘Red Dean’ of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson, a supporter of the Soviet Union during World War II, whom Dunsany had evidently criticised).

Dunsany (1878-1957) was a prolific writer, whose output included plays, short stories, science fiction and verse. He had homes in England and Ireland. Perhaps his greatest service to literature was his encouragement of the young Meath poet Francis Ledwidge in the years before the First World War.

Dunsany served as a second lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards in the Second Boer War. Volunteering in the First World War and appointed Captain in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, he was stationed for a time at Ebrington Barracks in Derry. Hearing while on leave of disturbances in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916, he drove in to offer help and was wounded by a bullet lodged in his skull. After recovery at Jervis Street Hospital and what was then the King George V Hospital (now St. Bricin's Military Hospital), he returned to duty. His military belt was lost in the episode and later used at the burial of Michael Collins. Having been refused forward positioning in 1916 and listed as valuable as a trainer, he served in the later war stages in the trenches and in the final period writing propaganda material for the War Office with MI7b. There is a book at Dunsany Castle with wartime photographs, on which lost members of his command are marked.

[L4BC1 Black File 1921]

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