Edith Sitwell


The past and the present
Are as one -
Accordant and discordant
Youth and age,
And death and birth.
For out of one came all -
From all come one.

Dame Edith Sitwell is buried in the extension to St Mary's Churchyard, Weedon Lois, Northamptonshire, England. Her headstone was made by Henry Moore and features a bronze plaque with two hands signifying youth and age.

Edith Sitwell's Grave

Photo by Iain MacFarlaine

Edith Sitwell was brought up at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire where she had an unhappy childhood - but enjoyed the company of her two literary brothers Osbert and Sacheverell.

She began writing poetry at an early age and her first volume The Mother and Other Poems appeared in 1915. She was particularly prolific during WW2  when she produced Street Songs, Green Song and The Song of the Cold - but her reputation faded in the 1950s when Movement poetry became more popular.

Influenced by the French symbolists, she became an early ambassador for Modernism and edited an anti-Georgian journal entitled Wheels.
In 1923 her work Facade was set to music by William Walton and she performed it from behind a curtain - but through a mouth constructed by John Piper. The general public were both bemused and impressed.

She also wrote a novel entitled I live Under a Black Sun (1937) based on the life of Jonathan Swift and a biography of Alexander Pope. She was also a good friend to Dylan Thomas and was instrumental in getting the poetry of Wilfred Owen published after his death.

Throughout her life she attracted attention for her theatrical dress style and exaggerated and controversial manner. However, F. R. Leavis once said that the Sitwells 'belong to the history of publicity, rather than that of poetry'.

Who knows what beauty ripens from dark mould 
After the sad wind and the winter's cold? -
But a small wind sighed, colder than the rose
Blooming in desolation, 'No one knows.'

From The Sleeping Beauty





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