(Poem No.33 of my favourite short poems)
‘The Life That I Have’ is a short poem written by Leo Marks and used as a poem code in the Second World War.
During the war, famous poems were regularly used to encrypt messages. Later this was found to be insecure because enemy cryptanalysts were able to locate the original from published sources. Marks countered this by using his own written creations. ‘The Life That I Have’ was an original poem composed on Christmas Eve 1943, and was written originally by Leo Marks in memory of his girlfriend, Ruth, who had just died in a plane crash in Canada. On 24 March 1944, the poem was forwarded by Marks to Violette Szabo, a French SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent who was eventually captured, tortured, and killed by the Nazis.
It was made famous by its inclusion in the 1958 movie about Szabo, ‘Carve Her Name With Pride’. In the film the poem was said to be the creation of Violette’s husband Etienne. (Marks allowed it to be used under the condition that its author not be identified.)
[ Information adapted from Wikipedia]
The poem is given below:
- The life that I have is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
- A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause,
For the peace of my years in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
- (Quoted from Everyman’s Poetry: ‘Poetry Please’ – an Everyman Publication)
Here is a link to a version of Leo Marks’ poem spoken by Richard Armitage on YouTube . . .