This undated poem by Mona Gould is found in her archived papers at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Room at the University of Toronto.
King George VI was crowned on 12 May 1937, as the world stood on the brink of another Great War. Mona Gould’s poem on the subject reminds me strongly of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway: so few of us can understand the reality of war, they tell us; its horrors should not be glorified.
It was Coronation Day.
Long live the King!
Flags flying… bands playing
And the City Fathers in their morning clothes and tall silk hats
Suitably speaking in the parks.
Ah… it was such a scene!
Purple and gold… scarlet and gold,
And long live the King!
God save the King!
And then the gun salute…
Twenty-one tremendous booms from the mouth of cannons.
Boom!… And somewhere in the cheering crowd
A veteran breaks loose
His face a mask of twisted horror…
His knees buckling beneath him… (It take 3 or 4 men to hold him!)
The guns boom on!
God save the King!
And the piteous soldier sinks to the ground
Tormented… shut away from reason
For the time being.
His brother veterans group around him
To shut away the eyes of the curious
A Catholic Father, hovers comfortingly near,
But he neither sees nor hears their presence,
His mind and heart obsessed with a terrible dread.
He is back again on the awful battle ground
Pursued by crashing death and chilling steel.
And there is no escape… no God… nothing but fear
And the terrible voice of the hungry horde of cannon!
Long Live the King!
The guns are quiet now.
The soldier’s face miraculously smooths itself.
He stands erect again
And gropes his way across the grass.
The band starts up
And troops go marching by.
Flags flutter… and a roar of cheering rises.
This is the glory and the paegentry…
Let us forget the soldier and his tortured eyes,
Lest our cheers stick in our throats
And choke us!!