The Cell Window

Whilst reading Conscription and Conscience by John Graham, I came across this poem by Doncaster pacifist and conscientious objector, Oswald Clark. A Quaker, Oswald was a Tanner and Leather Merchant who served over two years in prison for his beliefs. The image above was painted by Oswald in his 9 year old neighbour’s  autograph book. Fellow Doncaster pacifist John “Bert” Brocklesby said of Oswald:

Oswald Clark of Doncaster had taken the initiative in founding a local branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship, a nationwide organisation to use democratic means to prevent conscription becoming the law of the land. Oswald, who was a moving spirit in the Fellowship, proved himself a stalwart pacifist and took the absolutist position from the start.

Oswald’s father was Joseph Firth Clark who had been Liberal Mayor of Doncaster. Joseph Frith Clark was a great character. While Mayor of Doncaster he had been invited by King Edward VII to meet him at the Royal Box at the Doncaster Race Course. He politely declined, saying that he had never been to the races in his life and felt he was too old to begin now. A Knighthood was not forthcoming! He resigned from the Liberal Party at the out break of war in 1914. Here is Oswald’s poem written in Armley Jail, Leeds after his Court Martial at Pontefract in June 1916:



Blue sky, grey flying clouds and shining stars
Are all that I can see between the bars
Of my cell window. Yet what more need
Of beauty, than the stars and clouds and sky ?
Blue sky that spans the earth, an azure dome,
I know is boundless. And when far from home.
Upon a cloudless day I glance above.
It tells me of a Father’s boundless love.
Grey stormy clouds, that hang aloft like lead.
While muttering thunder fills the earth with dread.
Are filled with God’s own rain, His precious gift.
And when the rain has fallen, clouds will lift.
Each tiny star, that shines above at night.
Is really one vast world. ‘Tis my poor sight
And human vision dwarfs the distant view.
As oft I dwarf God’s love and goodness too.
For limitless as is the boundless sky.
And filled with goodness, as the clouds that fly.
Magnificent as those vast worlds above.
So is the Father’s overwhelming love.