Winston Churchill was a prolific writer. Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his numerous published works, especially his six-volume work The Second World War. At the ceremony he was awarded the prize “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”. Now, Winston Churchill’s only poem which he wrote as an adult appeared 110 years after it was created. Signed by Churchill and written on the headed notepaper of his regiment, the 4th Hussars, in about 1898, a 40-line poem will be sold at Bonhams’ sale of The Roy Davids Collection. Part III. Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets in London, on April 10. It has been given a conservative estimate of £15,000 ($23,500).
The poem, describing the eve of a naval battle – penned over two pages in blue crayon by Churchill while he was in the Army, is a rousing celebration of the British Empire and of going to war to defend her. It is said to have been influenced by Kipling and Tennyson.
The first ten lines of the work, entitled Our Modern Watchwords, read:
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.
The poem makes reference to obscure cities under the rule of the British Empire like Wai-hai-wai – Weihai in China – Sokoto in Nigeria and Karochaw in Japan.
The poem was acquired several years ago by Roy Davids, a retired rare manuscript dealer from Oxfordshire.
“This is the only poem in Churchill’s handwriting as an adult. There is one at Harrow School but that was one he wrote as a boy and it was for a competition,” Davids said.