Causley was too often dismissed by people who should have known better as a children's poet, in part, I suspect, because he spent his working life time as a primary teacher and some of the poems by which he first became known drew on the experiences he had in that Cornish schoolroom. Indeed, I first encountered his work through the renegade Timothy Winter when I was studying for 'O' Level. However, if read with care and thought about deeply there is very little in Causley's work that doesn't speak of emotions far more intense than children would necessarily appreciate and as a primary teacher myself there were few that I felt comfortable offering to the classes I taught. 'O' Level (15-16) was about the right age to read him for the first time.
I love many of his poems and know a lot of them my heart bit if I have a favourite then it is probably the Sonnet For an Ex Far East Prisoner of War. Causley himself was in the navy during the Second World War and so I'm not certain for whom he actually wrote this. However, my father was a Far East Prisoner of War and there is much here that I recognise from his own struggle to come to terms with what had happened to him and his determination to put those depravations behind him and not let them destroy the rest of his life. It is not an easy poem to read, but I hope you think it as good a work as I do.
For an Ex Far East Prisoner of War
I am that man with helmet made of thorn
Who wandered naked in the desert place,
Wept, with the sweating sky, that I was born
And wore disaster in my winter face.
I am that man who asked no hate, no pity,
I am that man, five wounded, on the tree.
I am that man, walking in native city,
Hears his dead comrade cry, Remember me!
I am that man whose brow with blood was wet,
Returned, as Lazarus from the dead to live.
I am that man, long counselled to forget,
Facing a fearful victory to forgive:
And seizing the two words, with the sharp sun
Beat them, like sword and ploughshare, into one.