Ross Nichols NUINN

This photograph was taken by his hut at the Spielplatz Naturist Resort in Hertfordshire in the 1930's.

The poet sits on the windowsill, biting the nut of contemplation

Out of the subconscious a light, before the inner eye a crow

From Dionysiac Song

Ross was first and foremost a poet, a Bard. During the inter-war years he clearly poured most of his creative energy into writing poetry: we know that his poems were published in Horizon, Poetry Quarterly, Poetry (London) and Poetry (Scotland), the New Saxon and the New English Weekly, and reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, The Listener, The Birmingham Post, Scrutiny, the Yorkshire Post, the Manchester Evening News, New English Weekly, and Poetry Quarterly . He was a contemporary of T.S.Eliot and W.H.Auden, and in his last Will and Testament he asked that "Elliot be consulted by my Literary Executors for technical direction and advice generally offering him the sum of fifty pounds if he should do this, as a small mark of my admiration for his poetic work."

Remarkably, in the third year of the war, 1941, the year of Pearl Harbor and Hitlers invasion of Russia, despite a serious shortage of paper, Ross succeeded in getting two of his books published: the account of his 1939 trip to Scotland, Sassenach Stray, and Prose Chants and Proems. Most of the poems do not mention the war, but occasionally it appears, as in 1941.

With leaves at helter-skelter

            some turn the weary sod

some put their trust in shelter

              and some their trust in God

some dive into the chunnels

              and run beneath the drains.

Some climb up roofs and runnels

       to spot for aeroplanes.

Prophet, Priest and King

ROSS NICHOLS, who was a contemporary of Eliot, and rated highly by many including Edwin Muir, was Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids until his sudden and unexpected death in 1975. An accomplished prose writer, essayist, editor, and water colourist who exhibited at the Royal Academy, we can now see him as one of the "Apocalypse poets" of the '40's. As Chief of the Order from 1964, his contribution was substantial, re-introducing into contemporary Druid practice the Winter Solstice Festival and the four Celtic Fire Festivals, which he led in London and at Glastonbury.
Prophet, Priest And King is a long overdue selection of his poetry, which includes poems from Prose Chants and Proems (1941), The Cosmic Shape (with James Kirkup, 1946), Seasons At War (1947), and unpublished poems from the early '5o's onwards which continue the thread of his preoccupations with myth, redemption, and rebirth. Jay Ramsay's strong and perceptive selection helps us to see Ross Nichols not only as a poet of his own time, but as one of our own time, which his emphasis on the sacred anticipated, and with that, his grasp of what it means 'to stand before the Living God'.