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Pollitici Meliora

October 27, 2014

By Frank Thompson

The author of To Iruska (click here) was much more than one of Iris Murdoch’s early boyfriends. Scholar, soldier and poet, his heroic death made him one of the most famous casualties of the Second World War, inspiring at least three books, one by his brother, the historian E.P Thompson, and most recently Peter Conradi’s  A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson (2012) . A kindergarten, railway station and village are named after him in Bulgaria, but cold war politics and his supposed communist sympathies scuppered any ideas for a posthumous award from his own country.

Thompson_memorial_in_Tompsan     English_Hero1

On VJ day in 1945 The Times printed this poem, and on the 5o-year anniversary, the actor Edward Fox read it on television (click here; 4 mins 20 secs).

Polliciti Meliora*

As one who, gazing at a vista
Of beauty, sees the clouds close in,
And turns his back in sorrow, hearing
The thunderclouds begin.
So we, whose life was all before us,
Our hearts with sunlight filled,
Left in the hills our books and flowers,
Descended, and were killed.
Write on the stones no words of sadness –
Only the gladness due,
That we, who asked the most of living,
Knew how to give it too.

Frank Thompson

*Latin. “Having promised better things”

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