'Sunset hails a rising'
|Francis Webb is buried in the catholic section of the
Macquarie Park Cemetery in Sydney Australia. His epitaph is
taken from his poem The Stations.
Francis Webb's Grave
|Webb was born in Sydney and was brought up by his
paternal grandparents. His mother died when he was 2 years
old and his father was hospitalised a year later. As a child
he developed an early interest in poetry and, while at
secondary school, he had work published in the Bulletin
His plans for university were interupted by
the Second World War and in 1944 he joined the Royal
Australian Airforce and was posted to Canada - where he
served as wireless air gunner. After the war he travelled to
England where he suffered the first of a series of mental
breakdowns which would confine him to mental institutions
for the rest of his life.
In the late 1950s he was
moved to the David Rice Hospital at Drayton near Norwich in
Norfolk. This was a very productive time for him where he
wrote many poems that were inspired by the Norfolk landscape
and, in particular, a long sequence entitled Around
As a practising catholic, Webb was
allowed to walk from the David Rice Hospital to the nearby
catholic church at Costessey. Costessey Hall had once been
the home of a recusant family the Jerninghams and this may
have fired Webb's interest. Webb was also inspired by fellow
catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Webb's collections of poetry include A Drum for Ben
Boyd (1948), Leichhardt in Theatre (1952),
Birthday (1953), Socrates and Other Poems
(1961), The Ghost of the Cock (1964).
1958 Webb was awarded a Commonwealth Literary Fund
Fellowship (arranged for him by Douglas Stewart and other
Australian poets) and he was given his passport back and
returned to his homeland. However, he once again entered the
mental health system.
Today, Webb is regarded as one
of Australia's finest poets and there is a new version of
his collected poems published by Macquarie University and
edited by Dr Toby Davidson.
Beneath me the sad frescos
of the clouds:
Towerings and defiles through intense grey
Huge faces of kings, queens, castles -
And monuments, and shrouds.