Autumn poplars and a chapel

It was in West Berlin that I discovered autumn.  Perhaps not so much discovered as amplified my experience of it, coming, as I do, from a two-season country.  The camp site where we stayed was lined with poplar trees.  The road leading to the camp site was lined with poplars, as were the footpaths leading into the country side.  I left my fellow-travellers and took a late-afternoon stroll in the blood-gold of the large poplar leaves.  Autumn and spring had been things you read about in books.

On the way, by a field, I saw a chapel.  The door was open.  I ventured in.  Probably Lutheran.  I don’t have a clear memory of the interior, but what remains with me was the marble plaques on the wall, with a date over them – 1939-1945.  Yes, we’ve all seen them in our own world … those names … the ones that keep coming.  Somehow though, this was different.  I was a young man.  My new wife was a German-speaking South African.  Gradually, my stereotypes of Germans, the easy judgements about the war, had faded.  The process came to an end in that chapel.

There were, as I remember, about 150 names.  I couldn’t help wondering how many of these had fallen in the surrender of Berlin itself, a time of hell beyond any imagining.  How many of them had fallen further afield?  Who was this Hans?  This Klaus?  Somebody’s son, somebody’s father,  brother, cousin, friend … The easy judgements were gone.  These had been human beings like me.  Yes, they had fought my father in North Africa, at Montecassino in Italy.  Fate had placed them in that history, to use such language.  How many who had known them had sat on those worn pews in that chapel and wept?

I left.  The late-afternoon sun was fading on the reddish gold of the leaves.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2018


My drawings





Armistice, 11th November, 2018

It is with feeling that I reflect on this moment in history.  With my own health in question, I think of the millions (hell, can we ever forgive ourselves?) who died in that terrible war from 1914 – 1918.  I think of the humiliation of Germany by the smug victors and the revenge exacted for this, a little over 20 years later.  In 1919, two South Africans, Smuts and Botha, warned the League of Nations about their course of action.  This was ignored.

In the first 33 years of the 20th-century there were more war casualties than in the rest of human history.  The next world war, worse than all wars, was to come.  What are we?

While I have been blessed with no war in my life, my father was in the Second World War.  Claudie’s father was in both wars.

Recently, on Facebook, a past student, probably from 40 years ago, remembers me reading to the class Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est, probably written in his last year before he died in the trenches.  I remember apologizing to the students that I would not read this well.  I almost choked over the last lines and the class stared at me in silence.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

Scheduled for 11th November, 2018, at 11:11



Casualties – Pinterest

Wilfred Owen – Academy of American Poets (Note that Owen was British)

Verdun – The Straits Times


                               “And at the going down of the sun,

                               And in the morning,

                               We will remember them

                               Those names who lie in our hall.”

                                                      Sappers Rus, Magaliesberg, South Africa


Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)

Many years ago I was privileged to see a retrospective exhibition on the work of Henry Moore.  What made it special too, was that it took place on the hill above Florence, the city where, centuries before, Moore’s role model Michaelangelo had fashioned his art.

For me Moore is the giant of modern sculpture.  His work is monumental.  He stretches our consciousness and takes us deeper into reality.

If range of emotion is the criterion of greatness in an artist’s work, then Moore is great.  In this Mother and Child we see anxiety.

He can depict threat.

He can produce symbols.

Above all, he sculpts the grace of woman, elegantly strong, quietly confident.  We see this, amongst others, in his Madonna and Child.

Then, there is a being from another dimension …

On a desolate mountain on an unknown planet, the king and queen are waiting …

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2018



I have had these images since the 1960s and am not in a position to state their origins.


Henry Moore















Colour Images

It goes without saying that in our time we are saturated with imagery, good or bad – internet, TV, films.  Perhaps I’m carrying a cup of water to the Pacific Ocean, but I’d like to share what I’ve been collecting since long before computers became general.  In the process of many years I did not foresee that I would use these images in this way and express regret than I can’t, in most cases, name photographers.

This image, as I remember, was done by Obie Oberholzer in the South Africa of the 1980s.  It was a dark period in our history, shot through with the fear of civil war.  The vast majority of us are happy that things turned out differently.


This image “Matador” by Ernst Haas is characteristic of his impressionistic photographs.  Just a pity about that page divide.

Photography of nature has at times been astounding.  This image is delicately out-of-focus with sharp colour-contrasting focus at the centre.  


In the 1990s the Hubble camera photographed scenes from deep space that have become legendary.

At the other end of the cosmic spectrum, there is micro-photography.  Each year NikonSmall awards such photographers and publishes their images.  Images of beautiful abstraction.

This image from the film “Space Odyssey 2001” is an extreme close-up of the actor’s eye as he sees the visions of Jupiter before him.  This could even be an image of the surface of the planet.

A photographer, unlike a painter, sometimes has a mere second to decide and here is an example of that.  I have no idea where this stadium may be and no, this image, like its subjects, is not upsidedown.

Allow me the cheek to insert one of my own images, here amongst great photographers.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2018



I have acknowledged photographers where I can.  



Black-and-White: a few images

Nicéphone Niépce produced the first photograph in 1826 or 1827.  From that moment a new medium had arrived.  In the 1840s there were experiments in colour photographs, though they were only realized by Gabriel Lippman in 1886.  In 1895, the Lumiére brothers invented the cinematograph — images could move.  The magnificence of black-and-white photography (really only shades of grey) was clear long before the 20th-century.   I share images that I have had for so long that I have lost the names of the photographers.  I pay tribute to you whoever you may be. I have the cheek to include one of my own.

In this image, with its sharp focus on rough textures, there is tension in the composition:  does the visual line flow from left to right or from right to left?  I find that interesting.

This image from the 1960s captures the thin line between life and death, the flowing into the other.  I call it the “Grave City”.  I think the city is New York.


This image takes me quietly by storm.  It is by photographer Jerry Uelsman in 1961.

What smitten emotion does this image portray?  The inner feeling is amplified by the blown winters tree.

Most of us see things like this happening.  Some of us grab a camera and capture the image.  In many respects, this is well composed, contrasting plain black and white surfaces with frenetic shadows.

I’ve quite been unable to say what the appeal is here.  This Russian photographer captured his subject on a patch of melted snow somewhere in St Petersburg.  It probably has to do with the three contrasting textures, elegantly placed.

Call me arrogant.  I still think this image I took of the Pieke in Stellenbosch was rather successful.

I would love to retrace the source of this image.  I think it was on a train in the then-Rhodesia, that is, prior to 1980.  The image appeared around the world.

This image from the Dutch Volkskrant was labelled Ransdaal which left me unsure whether this is the photographer who took or the place it was taken.  An image that takes your eye further along the road, while the young mother tends to her baby.

This image comes from the war in Bosnia in the 1980s-1990s.  It is the texture of shattered glass that brings out the tragedy of this child caught up in a war.

I am not sure city is in the background.  But the agony of that wire lost in the snow does it for me.  I think the image is from the 1960s.

This strange and dynamic image could come from a dream.  It begins to show us that the medium of photography is not limited.  A truly creative image.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



I regret not being able to acknowledge photographers.  Some of these images I have had before there were computers, never mind blogs.




Two poems from the French Resistance

I struggle to understand and appreciate the poems from the French Resistance.  When I do grasp, by means of translation, I am moved.  For various reasons, it lets me think of poems by Louis Leipoldt after the Anglo-Boer War.

Combat, with Albert Camus as editor, was the chief underground newspaper of the Resistance in which poems were published, always under noms des plumes.

Leo Marks, British writer and cryptologue, maintained contact with the various resistance movements in occupied countries.  His Code Poem was used extensively in the French Resistance, for the funerals of the fallen.  The reference to yours is to the occupied country, in this case, France.

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the love that I have

For the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours


A sleep will I have

A rest will I have

Yet death is but a pause.

The peace of my years

In the long green grass

Is yours and yours and yours

Liberté is a much longer poem written in 1942 by Paul Éluard.  So doing, he becomes targeted by the Gestapo and the French Milice as a terrorist.  With whetted skill, he survived the war.

The poem has twenty verses, each with the same refrain: I write your name, with the your name referring to freedom.  As I read the full poem, it becomes a pounding anthem for me.  I share a few verses.

On golden images

On weapons of warriors

On the crown of kings

    I write your name


On the plains of the horizon

On the wings of birds

On the mill of shadows

   I write your name


On the fruit cleft in two

On the mirror and in my room

On the empty shell of my bed

   I write your name


And by the power of a word

I begin my life again

I was born to know you

To give you a name



© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Poems: (my translation of Liberté);  Funeral Helper

Wikipedia:  Leo Marks;  Paul Éluard



Marbling – source lost

Graffiti bird (a la Cocteau)






Paul Éluard (1895 – 1952)

When I take my walk in the afternoons, I see his name, one of several poets — Breton, Jacob, Desnos, Apollonaire, Tzara and Prévert — after whom the streets in this area are named.  As with some of the others, Éluard was part of the French surrealist poets.

Paul Eluard, 1911

As a young man he realized that he had to be a poet.  His parents were not supportive of the idea, but his Russian lover by name Gala, supported him physically (he was not always well) and intellectually (she was his muse and critic).  After the Great War he met with the Surrealists and served their cause for life.

Eluard (top) and the Surrealists

After some years he and Gala parted.  She met Salvador Dali who worshipped her all his life.  From this time Éluard’s life became epic and in the Second World War he and a number of Jews hid from the Germans in an asylum.  They survived.

He and Louis Aragon are considered as the great poets of the French Resistance and his work is strongly political.  The poem Liberté was pamphlet-dropped by the RAF over areas of France.  It holds a special place in history and in the hearts of the French.  I offer one of his love poems which was probably dedicated to Gala, though he was happy in other relationships as well.


She stands on my eyelids

Her hair in mine

She takes the form of my hands

She takes the colour of my eyes

She sinks into my shadow

Like a stone from heaven


She always has open eyes

I cannot sleep

My dreams are full of light

Thus, let suns evaporate

Let me laugh and laugh again

Let me speak without saying anything


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Wikipedia:  Paul Éluard

Pinterest:  the poem  (my translation). 

I have a translation of Liberté in English, for those interested.  



My photograph

Wikipedia: Paul Éluard, 1911


See also, Two Poems from the French Resistance,, 27.10.2018


                                                “ A woman is more beautiful than the world

                                                         I live in …

                                                                I shut my eyes ”    –  Paul Éluard




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