This review is taken from Stand 215, 15(3) October - November 2017.

Rod Madock, The Rising Flame: Remembering Sidney Keyes (Shoestring Press, 2015)

Rod Madocks’s The Rising Flame, Remembering Sidney Keyes, can be regarded as a homage to one of the Second World War’s ill-fated young poets, written by a man for whom Keyes was, and is, far more than what remains of his work.  

As Madocks explains in his introductory chapters, his father, J.E. Madocks, trained with Keyes as part of the same ‘A Company’ at Number 125 Infantry Training Centre in Omagh, and the Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) in Dunbar. As Madocks and his father often spoke about Keyes, The Rising Flame benefits from unique personal insights and recollections, lending the book considerable poignancy, and allowing us to understand Keyes’s poetry as being that of a sensitive undergraduate, who was deeply affected by the early loss of his parents, his unrequited passion for ‘the young refugee German artist, Milein Cosman’, and his not wholly satisfactory relationship with Renée-Jane Scott.

Understandably, anything but objective, Madocks’s contribution to our awareness of Keyes also constitutes a defence of his work against criticisms based on its romanticism and its lack of realism. Such criticism is equally understandable, however, given that among Sidney Keyes’s contemporaries were Keith Douglas, Alan Ross, and Alun Lewis. In contrast to Douglas, in particular, Keyes does seem archaic and overly reliant on mythologised conceptions of war and battle as means of acquiring nobility in death, and entering a Second World War variation of Valhalla, ‘from the Norse Poetic Edda, ...
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