10:30am Wednesday 10th April 2013
By Dominic Sutton
A handwritten poem by Winston Churchill will go under the auctioneer’s hammer later today.
The poem, entitled Our Modern Watchwords, is thought to have been written between 1899 and 1900 when the former Prime Minister and MP for Woodford was serving in the army during the Boer War.
Written in blue crayon on army notepaper stamped with the words ‘4th Hussars, India’ the manuscript is expected to fetch at least £15,000 when it is sold at London auction house Bonhams this afternoon.
The 40 line poem written in 10 stanzas is a tribute to the British Empire and is dotted with references to remote outposts.
It was discovered by retired manuscript dealer Roy Davids, and is one of only two poems known to have been written by Churchill- the other was written when he was a child at Harrow.
Churchill was MP for the old constituency of Woodford from 1945 until 1964 when he retired at the age of 89.
Denis Keeling of the Wanstead Historical Society said: “He wasn’t known as a poet of course, and something like this is more of interest for its novelty value than anything else.
“I’m sure he would have read a lot of poems at school and would have learnt them by rote.”
Churchill was a prolific writer and wrote three volumes of memoirs and several history books.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."
Mr Keeling said: “I understand he had a lot of researchers helping him with his works of history.
“But I’m sure the style was all his own. That sense of style and historical resonance came over in his speeches as well.
“With his connections to the area, anything like this poem is of interest to us.”
Diana Kurakina, who works for Bonhams, has extra reason to be interested in today’s auction.
She said: “I went to school at Woodford County High so I saw the statue of him on the Green every day when I was a girl.
“It’s very exciting to see something as unusual as this come up for auction. We are hoping it will realise more than the £15,000 estimate.”
The Churchill Estate holds copyright on the poem and has only released the following extract:
The shadow falls along the shore
The search lights twinkle on the sea
The silence of a mighty fleet
Portends the tumult yet to be.
The tables of the evening meal
Are spread amid the great machines
And thus with pride the question runs
Among the sailors and marines
Breathes there the man who fears to die
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