Transcript

The first time I fell in love with poetry - Mr Valentine was reading Keats 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' out loud to us. We were in our third year, none of us 15 yet, and we were 'walking in the valley of the shadow of death'; I remember thinking just that , in just those words out of the psalm on the way to the school that morning. It was the time of the Cuba crisis and everybody was scared, even the grown-ups. No-one on the bus talked much, but those who did talked about nothing else and everyone's face was grim. On a placard outside the newsagents, black block capitals spelled WAR INEVITABLE. Even the newsreaders on television looked scared when they talked about 'the grave international situation'. As Mr Valentine read to us about ... the lake where no birds sang - out of the flat normal November sky behind his head we really expected that death. And the bombs might come falling. The poem hurt us. Everyone in the class felt it, even the science boys and the maths geniuses who hated English, and the sporty class captain and Mr Valentine himself. You could feel it in the silence and the shared held breath when the voice stopped.