The second youngest of fourteen children, my father did what a lot of young men did in the 1930s, he joined the army and became a Royal Engineer. He was already a serving soldier when World War II broke out and spent the last three years of the war as a PoW. Thankfully he came home to my mother who had married him after a whirlwind romance in 1942 and who waited faithfully for his return.
My father was a self-taught man, an avid reader who passed his love of books and poetry onto me. He used to walk around the house quoting lines from his favourite poems out loud "I wandered lonely as a cloud" was one he was fond of reciting.
This is one of his favourites.
An angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
'What writest thou?' The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, 'The names of those who love the Lord'.
'And is mine one?' said Abou. 'Nay not so',
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, 'I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men,'
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names who love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led of all the the rest.
(Leigh Hunt: 1784 - 1859)
I am very happy that my eldest son chose to name his first child Samuel.