"Other Men's Flowers"
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
I have gathered a posie of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own.
A.P. Wavell starts his anthology of verse with this reference of Montaigne's and it has resonated with me ever since. A mentor recommended this book right before my first adventure far away from home and urged me to keep a journal to reflect. To find inspiration in great thinker's prose and attempt to bind it together by incorporating their words or rhythm. This blog is a flower sprouting from a seed planted little under two decades ago by a caring professor.
Field Marshall Viscount Wavell was a senior British Army Officer who was wounded in WWI at the Second Battle of Ypres. He would go on to serve in WWII as the senior allied Commander in the Middle East than India and retired as the Viceroy of India. Throughout his adventures, he would read and memorize poems that made an impression on him. Later, he would write them into a notebook while campaigning to discuss with his son. That notebook of verse- written down from memory and arranged by the Field Marshall- is the origin of this book published in 1945.
A.P. Wavell arranges the poems into categories such as "Music, Mystery, and Magic" and "Good Fighting". In the margins, Wavell makes insightful comments on certain verses that resonates with him, such as the last verses of Rudyard Kipling's Boxing:
Read here the moral roundly writ
For him into battle goes--
Each soul that hitting hard or hit,
Endureth gross or ghostly foes.
Prince, blowen by many overthrows,
Half blind with shame, half choked with dirt,
Man cannot tell, but Allah knows
How much the other side was hurt!
Wavell adds a note about how these last two lines served as his favorite military maxim that "when things are going badly in battle the best tonic is to take one's mind off one's troubles by considering what a rotten time one's opponent must be having."
I have carried A.P. Wavell's book in my cargo pocket on a couple adventures now and still find in it both solace and inspiration of hope. There have been quite a few times, when my organization or team has experienced a recent setback, when I have recited the middle portion of John Masefield's TO-MORROW:
Oh yesterday our little troop was ridden through and through,
Our swaying, tattered pennons fled, a broken, beaten few,
And all a summer afternoon they hunted us and slew;
By the living God, we'll try the game again!
No matter what happened today to you and your team, you don't know what setbacks the other side had. And to-morrow, we'll try the game again!