Two classes of calamity

Submitted by Matthew on 27 March, 2015 - 12:07 Author: Janine Booth

Edward Harold Physick was born in 1878 in Ealing, London, and from 1910 wrote under the name E H Visiak.

He became a clerk with the Indo-European Telegraph Company, but was sacked from his job when he wrote poetry opposing World War One. This short poem is from his 1916 collection, The Battle Fiends.

After the government introduced conscription in 1916, Visiak became a conscientious objector. After the war, he stopped publishing poetry, and spent the rest of a low-profile career writing novels, short stories and literary criticism.


Calamity by E H Visiak

The people mourn. Grief’s wireless singnals speed
From heart to heart. O, all the world’s affine;
And in the pulsing human core, there burns
The electric spark divine !

However, the poem needs clarifying on one point. The British Army only sent telegrams to the families of its officers who were killed; lower-ranked men’s deaths were reported on Form B104-82, sent by ordinary (and often slow) post. This 2014 poem addresses this point.

B104-82 by Janine Booth

Visiak’s Calamity once said
From heart to heart grief’s wireless sped
No officer, this Hoxton lad
No telegram to mum and dad
Grief’s letters only slowly plod
Five weeks through Flanders’ shell-churned sod
‘Til death’s cold-morning cockerel crowed
Outside a house on Edgware Road
Five weeks false hope for Private Ted
At last they learned their son was dead 

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