An Armoured Inkwell
11th November 2020
On Armistice Day we would like to share An Armoured Inkwell by Aidan Andrew Dunn, grandson of Marie Rambert and Ashley Dukes.
Written for The New English Ballet Theatre as part of the Armistice Centenary celebrations, and featured in the film of Remembrance, largely based on the wartime romance of Marie Rambert and playwright Ashley Dukes (the poet’s grandfather). During his time as a cavalry officer in Normandy, he would use the inkwell to write letters to Rambert, who passed it on to Aidan many years later.
One night from the bureau you took
a small metallic object, placed it,
green in the light of the standard lamp.
Strangely it sat on the dining-table
like an oversize matchbox made of steel.
Slowly you hinged back the armoured lid.
As if you opened a casket of sealed time
into the dark room came the Western Front
all that nightmare of what men did
When old Germany, the most civilized, died
when fairs on English Downs were pulled up
and trenches filled the French countryside
When Sacre prophesied the Great War
its dissonance the anger of the guns
its Chosen One a generation damned.
Out of that bombproof inkwell came poems
against the heroic values: Nie Wieder Krieg.
And for a faraway young bride
From black depths came love-letters penned
as dolphins turned, phosphorescent
in Flanders, at the mouth of the Yser.
‘My most precious possession’ you said ’
yours now, since you’re a poet too.’
So came to me an armoured inkwell.
‘I shall not cease from mental fight.’
Often we chanted Blake’s mighty hymn
and I repeat it still by candlelight.
Remembrance and the making of the ballet is available to watch until the 15th December, accessible free of charge on YouTube.
Photo of students Nio Serrapiglio and Imogen Wallace who performed a duet earlier in the year inspired by An Armoured Inkwell.
Photo Credit: James Keates.