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Page 280

CHAPTER XIII
THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY

Every one has heard his Recessional, with its haunting refrain :
Lord God of hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget-lest we forget !

A great deal of Kipling's verse was topical. That is to say, it dealt with contemporary personalities, movements, and events. Topical too, but very different in substance, was much of the verse of Sir William Watson, 1858-1935. He first attracted notice with a very fine and thoughtful poem on Wordsworth's Grave, but it was the Turkish atrocities in Armenia, 1894- 1896, which gave him an opportunity to exercise his unique gift of richly coloured rhetoric tinged with heroic wrath against the wrong-doers.
The Purple East made lovers of English poetry aware that a man with a singularly eloquent and even overwhelming style was laying claim to a place in the ranks of the English immortals ; but Watson's stately verse did not win him wide popularity or worldly success, and his excellent epigrams fared no better.
Unlucky too was Francis Thompson, 1859-1907, not because he never won fame, but because it came to him when he was too weary and broken a man to enjoy it greatly, or for long. Bred a Roman Catholic, he studied medicine for a time, but his sensitive nature was not well fitted to the calling into which he was thrust, and after some ineffectual efforts as a commercial traveller he sank into the most desperate destitution, starving and homeless, sheltering sometimes under the old Adelphi arches and, when he had a little money, seeking forgetfulness in narcotic drugs. Yet all the time he was writing exquisite verse and prose, writing in pencil on odd scraps of paper, and

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