afl.ob.bcl – hn – harp – pno – vln.vla.vcl
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Sidney Keyes died in Tunisia in April 1943 at the age of 20. Although usually spoken of as a war poet, none of the poems he is believed to have written during his short period of active service survive. However, of the poems I have chosen to set, all but one (The Island City) were written after he had enlisted in April 1942. Their mood is darker than his earlier work, but it is significant that his major ‘war’ poem The Foreign Gate was written while he was still at Oxford in February 1942. He is probably best known for Tippett’s 1950 settings of The Heart’s Assurance and Remember Your Lovers, but his Collected Poems (a volume of little more than 100 pages) reveal a remarkably sophisticated perspective, heavily influenced by Rilke and Yeats but demonstrating an exceptional, individual voice, brutally cut short. Victoria Sackville-West wrote of ‘the astonishing maturity of his mind, the intense seriousness of his outlook, and his innate pre-occupation with major things’.