Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.
An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.
3. “That great force of life”
World War II changed everything. Both Christopher and Jacquetta joined the civil service, though they continued to publish on archaeological topics. Jacquetta was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1940. Jacquetta began in the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction, moving later to the Ministry of Education. She seems to have found the work congenial, remarking that it brought her “immense interest, amusement and some understanding of the higher bureaucracy”.
At the same time, she was drawn to poetry. Her surviving notebooks delightfully juxtapose notes of formal civil service meetings and drafts of poems. Nature, the past and “things” continued to inspire her: poem titles include “On Staring at a Celtic Ornament”, “Rooks”, “The Seal”, “Kuban”, “Pear and Cherry”, “A Glass”. Her poems are also a moving testament to love found and lost, with poet and critic Walter Turner, who died suddenly in 1946. “Symbols and speculations” (1949) was her only published volume of poetry. Afterwards, she turned to other forms of creative expression.
“Man in Time”, shown here in typescript, is perhaps her greatest poem, describing a mystical, ecstatic experience she had at Mount Carmel watching a caravan of camels. It gives the reader a flavour of the way Jacquetta felt about the past and the present: “As I stood by the cave whose walls had known / How that great force of life, how love, had formed / Men, women, music and the skeleton.”