Above pictures courtesy of Blue Cross


Fortunatino Matania

. Photo courtesy www.erbzine.com

Henry Chappell.

Photo courtesy www.bathintime.co.uk





The Poem and the Picture

The poem reproduced below was found in a national newspaper some years ago and appears to be about a soldier and his dying horse.The poem seems to describe how much the horse meant to its owner, more than just a means of transport.

It is not known whether the poem by Henry Chappell, was inspired by this picture, left, painted during the Great War by Fortunino Matania, or vice-versa, but one was to complement the other. However a biographic summary of Fortunino Matania and Henry Chappell may add some interest to this topic.

A Soldier's Kiss

by Henry Chappell

Only a dying horse! pull off the gear,

And slip the needless bit from frothing jaws,

Drag it aside there, leaving the road way clear,

The battery thunders on with scarce a pause.

Prone by the shell-swept highway there it lies

With quivering limbs, as fast the life-tide fails,

Dark films are closing o’er the faithful eyes

That mutely plead for aid where none avails.

Onward the battery rolls, but one there speeds

Needlessly of comrades voice or bursting shell,

Back to the wounded friend who lonely bleeds

Beside the stony highway where he fell.

Only a dying horse! he swiftly kneels,

Lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh

Kisses his friend, while down his cheek there steals

Sweet pity’s tear, "Goodbye old man, Goodbye".

No honours wait him, medal, badge or star,

Though scarce could war a kindlier deed unfold;

He bears within his breast, more precious far

Beyond the gift of kings, a heart of gold.

Shown left is the painting produced by Fortunino Matania during WW1 which seems to depict the scene set by the poem and captures the poem’s thread, and is especially relative to the fourth verse.

However, Matania was an illustrator for "The Sphere" magazine during the Great War and he produced a number of WW1 posters and the picture and poster both show a soldier on the battlefield of the Western front in WW1 cradling the head of a dying horse, This particular poster was produced for the American Red Star animal relief organisation, at Albany, New York in order to draw attention to the plight and relief of horses in the Great War.  It has the heading "Help the Horse to save the soldier" and has the title "Good bye, old man" in a panel under the main picture.

Fortunatino Matania 1881-1963

Fortinino Matania was born in Italy on April 16th 1881 and came from an established artistic Family. His father was an artist called Professor Eduardo Matania (1847-1929) and his cousin was Ugo Matania, another well-known artist. After spending a traning period under his father, Fortunatino went to Milan to work as an illustrator on a magazine called Illustrazione Italia. At twenty he was working on the Paris magazine Illustration Francaise and subsequently worked on The Graphic in London. At this point his career was interrupted by military service in Italy, but after this was completed he retuned to London to work for The Sphere. This enabled him to travel widely and in 1911 he went to Delhi to attend the Durbar. In 1905 he married Elvira di Gennarro and they had a son and a daughter. Alas, in 1952 Elvira died but Matania remarried Ellen Jane Goldsack in 1960.

He produced several hundred pictures depicting war themes. Having a photographic memory he tended to reconstruct rather than report events. He recorded scenes in fine technical detail many from the Russo-Japanese War and the Firrst World War. During WW1 he became a war correspondent for The Sphere and visited the Front on many occasions capturing incidents.

After WW1 he produced many illustrations which appeared throughout Europe and the USA. In 1931 he turned to writing historical stories and afterwards designed posters for various organizations, railway companies and Holiday resorts. He also exhibited in London and at the Royal Academy and many of his works were to be found in regimental museums. Awards included the Durbar Medal in 1911, and chevalier of the Crown of Italy 1i 1918. Matania died in London in1963 a year after he remarried.

Henry Chappell 1874-1937

Henry Lang Chappell was born in 1874 at Sennen, Cornwall. His family came originally from Cornwall and were French Huegenots. He was married and had two daughters.

In1869, before Henry was born, Frederick Newell, an uncle of Henry’s was on board HMS Topaz when it went to Easter Island to collect one of the heads for the British Museum. He was a gunnery officer and sadly drowned while at sea. There is a family headstone near the road at Sennen Church which relates to the Chappell family. Henry was left an orphan and went to live with his aunt and uncle (by marriage) in Putney. The uncle, was a vintner and had a shop in Paddington, which is believed to be the link to Henry's love of the railways. Henry became a porter and worked on Bath Station. He must have seen many leave for the Great War from Bath station and very few returned.

Through his poetry, Henry became known as the 'Bath Railway Poet' and in fact he turned down promotion to station master so he could keep in contact with people as they were his 'inspiration'. Henry became famous overnight with his poem 'The Day' published in the Daily Express on 22nd August 1914. It was aimed at the Kaiser, and it is said the Kaiser actually read it and was ‘furious”. It was translated into many languages and posted in railway stations up and down the country.

He also had poems published in the Daily Express on a regular basis. He had a book published in 1918 entitled 'The Day and Other Poems’. He also wrote a book about the railways called ‘Life on the Iron Road’. Unofficially it was suggested he should became the new Poet Laurette. He was close friends with Rudyard Kipling, who travelled especially from London to meet Henry. They became firm friends. Henry knew other famous poets of the time, too.

Another poem of Henry's is shown below:

The Day

by Henry Chappell

You boasted the Day, and you toasted the Day,

And now the Day has come.

Blasphemer, braggart and coward all,

Little you reck the numbing ball,

The blasting shell, or the "white arm's" fall,

As they speed poor humans home.

You spied for the Day, you lied the Day,

And woke the Day's red spleen.

Monster, who asked God's aid Divine,

Then strewed His seas with the ghastly mine;

Not all the waters of the Rhine

Can wash your foul hands clean.

You dreamed of the Day, you schemed for the Day;

Watch how the Day will go!

Slayer of age and youth and prime

(Defenceless slain for never a crime)

You are steeped on blood as a hog in slime,

False friend and cowardly foe.

You have sown for the Day, you have grown the Day;

Yours is the harvest red.

Can you hear the groans and the awful cries?

Can you see the heap of slain that lies,

And the sightles turned to the flame-split skies

The glassy eyes of the dead?

You have wronged for the Day, you have longed for the Day,

That lit the awful flame,

'Tis nothing to you that hill and plain

Yeild sheaves of dead men amid the grain;

The widows mourn for loved ones slain,

And mothers curse your name.

But for the Day there's a price to pay,

For the sleepers under the sod,

And He and you have mocked for many a day-

Listen and hear what He has to say:

"Vengeance is mine, I will repay."

What can you say to God?

Henry had been kicked in the face by a horse, and later in life it developed into a cancer. Henry died in Bath in 1937 aged 63.

Terry Powell

Henry Chappell biographical info courtesy Sue Sawyer

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