Vera

A fine and sunny Summer’s day
And now our Vera’s slipped away.
Auf Wiedersehen, we’ll meet again;
We don’t know where, we don’t know when.

A proper looker in the day,
A smile to chase the blues away,
The sweetheart of our boys abroad
The lads of Juno, Gold and Sword.

With Spitfires swooping high and wide
Above the chequered countryside,
Invoking memories of the blitz
For schoolboys with their Airfix kits,

And steamy jungles heard the sound,
Those long-forgotten lads had found
Some solace in the songs she chose
On crackly, static radios.

Oh Vera, how we wish in vain
That you could light our lives again;
We’re stuck inside a different war,
A curse we’ve never known before.

We’re yearning for the days to be,
When distancing’s a memory
And high above the Dover Shore,
The Bluebirds will return once more.

 

 

Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon and particularly Hank Williams.


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24 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    A nice tribute to Dame Vera, and one that uses references specific to her World War II time period. The last two lines of the first quatrain quote lyrics from one of her most famous songs, and the allusion to “Juno, Gold, and Sword” in the second quatrain recalls the three beachheads where British forces landed on D-Day in Normandy.

    The Spitfires, the blitz, “crackly static radios,” the older aircraft called Bluebirds — I doubt if many persons born after 1970 would have the slightest clue as to what these are. But Eardley uses them anyway, because a true poet realizes that a poem’s primary concern is its OWN PERFECTION AS A FICTIVE ARTIFACT, and not obsession with “reaching an audience.”

    Audiences come and go. But a poem lives for ever on paper, and is “just a little machine for remembering itself,” as Don Paterson once said.

    Reply
  2. Jeff Eardley

    American lyricist Nat Burton (1901-1945) wrote “Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover” unaware that the Bluebird is not an indigenous species here in England and as far as I know, does not refer to an aircraft. The “Airfix” reference is about the very popular series of model kits of wartime aircraft. Every child of the fifties had loads of these doing dogfights on their bedroom ceilings.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      There was a bi-plane aircraft from the 1920s and 30s called “The Bluebird,” although it was no longer in production during World War II. The Airfix model kits may have had “The Bluebird” in their extensive series.

      The American Burton probably wrote that lyric about “bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover” as a generalized avian reference, with no intention of referring to the aircraft at all. Your capitalization of the word made me think that you were alluding to the aircraft. Sorry.

      Reply
  3. Jeff Eardley

    Joseph, I stand corrected re the Bluebird aircraft which was in service until 1937. Being a British design, it may well have flown over the white cliffs of Dover. What a lovely thought. Thanks for your kind words which are much appreciated. She was a lovely lady and meant so much to my parent’s generation. Cheers, Jeff.

    Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, I absolutely love your poem and its nod to an amazing era in history. My homeland is England. I come from Kent, the county of those white cliffs. My grandfather fought in WWII and Vera was a huge hit with him and my grandmother. I heard her voice rising from their record player on many a visit. Your discussion on the “bluebird” is most interesting. I wrote a poem on the day Dame Vera died, the first line being; “Birds of blue soar over cliffs of white”. I was alluding to the swallow. Apparently, “bluebird” is an old country name for the swallow, which shines with blue tints in the sunlight. Swallows cross the English Channel arriving from the continent in spring and leaving in the autumn. They can be seen flying over the white cliffs and as they are symbols of fine weather, they are expected to bring good fortune. I had no idea the song was written by an American. I learn something new every time I visit the pages of SCP, and for that I am grateful.
    Thank you very much for this fine tribute – it’s beautifully crafted and has brought many memories to the fore. Wonderful stuff!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      … also, my grandparent’s first house was in Eardley Road in Streatham, London. Your name has taken me on another trip down memory lane. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    Mrs. Bryant, your poem on Dame Vera was also beautiful, and I believe someone requested that it be included in a public tribute to her. Is that correct?

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Dr. Salemi. David Vickery (a voice artist and BBC tv announcer) has a YouTube channel YourPoemADay. After seeing my poem on here, he asked if he could read it. Of course, I said “yes”. I would love him to read some of my grittier works… perhaps I should ask, though I’m sure the BBC would never hire him again if he did.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, your poem should be on the Vera Lynn Appreciation Society Facebook page. I think you have to join to post but I am sure it would be a welcome contribution. Cheers Jeff

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jeff, I’m just off to the Vera Lynn Appreciation Society Facebook page. I look forward to reading and posting. Thank you.

  6. Mike Bryant

    I really love this beautiful tribute to Dame Vera Lynn. I also appreciate the amazing discussions that this site encourages.
    Here is a VE Day poster:
    https://www.rooftoppost.co.uk/free/ve-day-bunting/ve_day_poster_bluebirds_over_the_white_cliffs_of_dover/
    I am sure the Bluebird biplane did fly over those cliffs many times. Also, the American lyricist may have been very lucky that in choosing the word “bluebirds” as a vision of hope, he also tapped into the old country name for those swallows that symbolized hope as well. And certainly the plane yclept Bluebird, was a symbol of England’s defense, just as are the cliffs of Dover. Really perfect lyrics, set to lovely music and performed flawlessly by Dame Vera.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Mike, thanks for your kind words and the link to that fabulous poster. She really was a star and will never be forgotten. Cheers Jeff.

      Reply
  7. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, thanks for the kind words and great news about the BBC and your superb poem. I must explore the “grittier” stuff now that you have mentioned it. The name Eardley is very local here (after the village of Audley) and back in 2000, an American, Robert Jack Eardley from Lexington, Kentucky, who was chief of psychiatry to the American Justice Department, arranged a huge meeting at the parish church of Audley and invited anyone with the name to attend. There were over 2000 people there that day, from all over the world, and all named Eardley. It was a magic day and I was so sad when he passed away in 2015. Thank you so much for the reference to Swallows which I didn’t know and as you rightly say, we all learn something every day. Just off to mourn one of our great guitarists, Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac who passed away today. Best wishes, Jeff

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, what a wonderful and most certainly magical Eardley story – just the sort of story one loves to hear in these divisive times.

      I am a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac and so sorry to hear of the great Peter Green’s demise. I tapped into them from the late 70s on. I remember playing “The Chain” from their Rumors CD at full pelt while driving round the Kentish Countryside – I must’ve fancied myself as a Formula 1 racing driver!

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac played in my home town of Stoke on Trent in a dark, sweaty club called “The Place” in 1968. They were absolutely deafening and so good. At the time, I was in a pop band and I had a chat to Peter in the interval about guitar strings. It was the first time I heard Albatross and later in the evening, they brought on a special guest, Marsha Hunt. She was amazing too. Happy memories. I will look out for your wonderful poem on the Vera Lynn page and will be reading more of your work from now on.
        Best wishes, Jeff

      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, forgot to mention that just up the road from the night club where Fleetwood Mac performed, is the village of Butt Lane, the birthplace in 1895 of Reginald Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jeff, what an amazing musical experience you had back in 1968, especially for one who was in a band – what huge fun! I was 3 then and fell in love with Fleetwood Mac in the late 70s and 80s. I adore “Tusk”. Another of my favourites was Dire Straits, who seem so all American but are oh so British. I will always be grateful to the U.K. music scene of my youth. Thank you for all these great memories.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        … I like the little bit of info on Reginald Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire. I lived near Biggin Hill where I saw plenty of airshows with all the war planes flying overhead. I think you can book a spitfire experience and fly in one over the Kentish fields from Biggin Hill… I might do just that on my next home visit.

      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, Dire Straits, excellent band and Mark Knopfler is one of our best exports. Your BLM poem has touched a nerve here with all my friends. I think it sums up what we are all thinking but are afraid to express. Our recent spate of statue toppling mobs should really turn their attention to the modern day slavery going on under their noses, particularly in the virus infected, sweat shop clothing factories of Leicester.

  8. Rod Walford

    Jeff – I love this poem! It evoked so many memories for me. I’m originally from Brighton and have passed by Dover’s white cliffs by land and by sea a good few times. Also I used to drive through Ditchling, just outside of Brighton, where Dame Vera lived. I have just finished listening to a series of podcasts on the Spitfire put out by the BBC World Service which I heartily recommend to you – you too Susan would enjoy them – they are not hard to find on the BBC World Service Website. Great poem Jeff – I particularly liked the Airfix reference – still trying to get the glue off my fingers 60 years on! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Rod, did you ever have a go at the Lancaster bomber? That was a real pig to build. I must admit to moving on from aircraft to warships. I recall the Admiral Graf Spee was particularly challenging.
      Cheers, Jeff.

      I remember the Admira

      Reply
      • Rod Walford

        Can’t recall making the Lancaster Jeff – I do remember making a Spitfire and an American Mustang I think it was. Actually I wouldn’t mind having a go at one of those kits now that I am considerably older with (hopefully!) much more patience and experience…….and time! I’ll have to research as to whether or not you can still buy them……….

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Rod, thank you very much for the heads up on the Spitfire podcasts. I will definitely check them out.

      Reply
  9. Jeff Eardley

    Rod, if you are into model making, I can recommend the huge Norte Dame Cathedral by Cubicfun on Amazon. So rewarding to build and looks fabulous and NO GLUE. Cheers Jeff.

    Reply

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