Excerpt Wednesday – In The Third Year Of War – Treece

IMG_2865Henry Treece was a published poet before World War II, so it is fitting he documented his experience as an intelligence officer in the Royal Air Force (from 1941 – 1946) in poetry as well. He wrote In The Third Year Of War from the center of a conflagration for which he could see no end. We have the benefit of history to know that in ~ 1944 the end of the war was indeed coming, but it does not lessen the despair we feel coming from his poem. After the war Mr. Treece focused on fiction and is primarily remembered today for his historical fiction novels for children. Mixed media collage and composition by me. To read the entire poem, click the “read more” button or scroll down.

In The Third Year Of War

I dream now of green places,
And the gentle kine
Wading knee-deep in rushes;

I dream of singing birds,
And summer rain,
And gracious, homely words.

But I wake to bitter winds,
And blown sand’s whine
Across forgotten lands;

And empty skies at night,
And cold star-shine
Where lonely spirits meet.

I feel all this, my dear,
Alone, my love, alone
With all the old fear.

I dream now there is no ending,
No golden, breathless dawn;
Only seeking, seeking without finding.

Henry Treece
(1911 – 1966)


    1. Thank you so much, Jilanne! I think that your words perfectly describe the atmosphere of the poem – it is this sense of hollowness, the starlight is “cold star-shine” and so many more people are going to die in this war…

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    1. Thank you, Olga! That phrase caught in my throat when I read it too. I could feel his despair echoing down through the years and resonating today with all the conflicts and wars that seem to go on without end.

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  1. The poem is very moving and with your illustration, it becomes haunting especially with the face beneath the shroud. Very eerie and beautiful.


    1. Thank you kindly! I pictured Treece writing this poem to his wife, whom he may not have seen for three years, whose face may have become fuzzy with time, sand, fatigue, and despair…

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