Prewett, Frank

Canada, (1893-1962)

Rain Descends

  1. June with oppressive air long threatening rain
  2. Hot leafy season, the birds rendered mute,
  3. Dried up the ponds, scorched the shadeless plain,
  4. Limp hung the elm, drought in his deep root.
  5.  
  6. The gaunt husbandman sees in pasture dry
  7. His cattle, head hung, cluster under hedge,
  8. The dust across his withered mangolds fly,
  9. His dusty wheat stand thin with flagging fledge.
  10.  
  11. Then a thin haze spreads on the glaring sun
  12. The limp leaves flap in a cooler air,
  13. The old sows in the orchard run
  14. Bearing straw in their jaws for a dry lair.
  15.  
  16. Then the rain slowing from the hill
  17. Descends on the plain and lays the dust.
  18. The husbandman under an oak sees the rain spill
  19. And earth open her bosom with an eager lust.
  20.  
  21. Sun, eager life’s maker, too eager sun;
  22. Rain, life’s nurture, soothing healing rain.
  23. The cattle feeding move from the hedge as one,
  24. The corn new washed glistens and blooms again.

© Frank Prewett. Collected Poems of Frank Prewett, edited by Robert Graves. London: Cassell (1964).

About the Poet:

Frank Prewett (1893-1962), was a Canadian poet. Born in Ontario, Prewett remains an obscure literary figure who spent most of his life in the United Kingdom.

During World War I, Prewett served in the Canadian Army and later accepted a commission in the British Army, serving in the Royal Field Artillery. He was a war poet of World War I, and was taken up by fellow Georgian poet, Siegfried Sassoon, and the British arts benefactress, Lady Ottoline Morrell. A series of unsatisfying academic and farm labor jobs, a failed marriage and periods of depression, drinking and bad health followed.

During World War II he served in the RAF, staying on in the Air Ministry until 1954. Retiring because of poor health, he farmed near Abingdon until his death in Inverness.

His poetry was recognized by inclusion in the final Georgian Poetry Anthology by Oxford Poetry, and by publication by the Hogarth Press. This was followed by a poetry collection The Rural Scene (1922). The poet Robert Graves, a friend from Oxford days, edited his Collected Poems (1964), where Graves’ introduction provides the longest printed account of Prewett’s life available. A Selected Poems was published in 1987. [DES-07/14]

Editor’s Note:

While much of Prewett’s poetry concerned his war experiences, his early Ontario farm life and the countryside would also influenced his writing. Prewett’s thoughts often returned to memories of the land and the farming he so enjoyed and were reflected in his writing.

Here is an excerpt from a prose piece,“Farm Life in Ontario Fifty Years Ago,” from three broadcast talks made in 1954 by Prewett about his childhood in Ontario and reprinted in Collected Poems:

Swine were many. We called them Yorkshires. Nowadays I think they are known as Large Whites. The swine were never at large except the sows, which had the run of the Old Orchard in summer. Always during the winter and early spring there would be a litter of pigs. We spent hours leaning over the sty wall, looking at a sow stretched on her side while she suckled her squealing babies. The sow grunted with bliss as she suckled them. Suddenly she would get to her feet and nose about in the litter of her sty as though her family had never existed.

Now was the time for the baby pigs to play. They scampered back and forth, snatching mouthfuls of straw and making mock attacks upon one another. They grunted all the while that they played: short, staccato grunts. Then a baby pig would halt suddenly and stare at us from light blue eyes under long blond eyelashes. Then another baby pig would stop and stare. Soon the whole litter would be lined up, staring in silence with quivering snouts. But such inactivity and concentration do not belong to pig childhood, and the baby pigs whirled round to renew their games.

In the end sty the boar lived, a tusked, shaggy, slobbering beast as big as a cow. I used to have nightmares that the boar had broken out of his sty and was chasing me, while I slipped and stumbled. Still, we used to stare at him from a distance, and he in turn stared at us from sunken eyes while he champed his jaws.

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