PRIVATE NORMAN BOYD
12TH OCTOBER 1917 AGE 39
BURIED: AIX-NOULETTE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTNESION, FRANCE
The Internet kept trying to persuade me that these words came from the Book of Job Chapter 38 verse 7. But this is what Job says:
"When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy".
It's close but it's not exact. Nor is this:
"Where sing the Morning-stars in joy together,
And all things are at home."
But nevertheless I think that this is the source of the inscription and if so it's rather interesting. The lines are close to those in The Open Secret, a poem written by Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) and published in 1905 in the fourth part of his book Towards Democracy. Carpenter was an extraordinary man: a radical free thinker and socialist writer, a vegetarian and a teetotaller, and a defender, even a proponent of, homosexuality, who lived openly - if remotely - with his homosexual lover for many years at a time when it was illegal to do so. The Open Secret promotes his other great passion, the simplification of life, living in the open:
Sweet secret of the open air -
That waits so long, and always there, unheeded.
Something uncaught, so free, so calm large confident -
The floating breeze, the far hills and broad sky,
And every little bird and tiny fly or flower
At home in the great whole, nor feeling lost at all or forsaken,
To Carpenter it is only man who hides himself away behind walls:
He, Cain-like from the calm eyes of the Angels,
In houses hiding, in huge gas-lighted offices and dens, in ponderous churches,
Beset with darkness cowers;
While man surrounds himself with 'ramparts of stone and gold',
... still the great world waits by the door as ever,
The great world stretching endlessly on every hand,
In deep on deep of fathomless content -
Where sing the morning-stars together,
And all things are at home.
Norman Boyd's father chose his inscription, changing the last word from 'home' to 'rest'. His son now rests in the wide open world, in eternity.
Norman Boyd was born and brought up in Burley-in-Wharfdale in Yorkshire where his father was an insurance agent. In 1898 he emigrated to Canada, from where he enlisted in February 1916. He served with the 2nd Canadian Infantry the Eastern Ontario Regiment. On 6 October 1917 the regiment went into the trenches at Lievin where working parties undertook repairs to the trench system and where they were periodically shelled and bombed. The war diary makes no mention of casualties. Boyd is buried at a Field Ambulance burial ground a few kilometres from Lievin.