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Forgotten war poet whose works rank with the greats Moving lines from trenches go on display

HIS moving words from the trenches ranked him alongside Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon.

But Joseph Lee, a Dundeeborn Black Watch soldier, is Scotland's forgotten war poet.

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John Buchan described Lee's The Green Grass as one of the best war poems in any language, and the Manchester Guardian described his work as "one of the most striking publications of the war".

However, there is no mention of Joseph Johnston Lee in first world war anthologies.

Dundee University is now trying to put his name back on the literary map with an exhibition which opens today.

Born in 1876, Lee was wellknown in his home town before heading to the trenches in France and Belgium. He worked on the Dundee Advertiser and People's Journal as well as producing and illustrating his own newspapers and magazines such as the City Echo.

While serving with the 4th battalion of the Black Watch, Lee had his first volume of poetry published in 1916 to critical acclaim in both Britain and the US. He was taken prisoner in 1917, the same year as his second volume was published.

While a prisoner in Karlsruhe and then Beeskow, near Berlin, he kept a diary in which, as well as recording his experiences, he made many accomplished sketches.

Although publishers were reluctant to continue producing work about the war after the armistice, such was his reputation that they continued to publish Lee's work.

After the war, Lee married Dorothy Barrie, a well-known viola player who, at 24, was 23 years his junior. The couple moved to London and Lee became a sub-editor on the News Chronicle.

For a time, he took lessons at the Slade School of Art. After his retirement in 1944, he returned to Dundee, where he died five years later. Lee's other published works were poems, Tales O' Our Town, and a short play Fra Lippo Lippi .

Caroline Brown, Dundee University's deputy archivist, who has organised the exhibition, said that when Lee moved to London he appeared to have stopped writing poetry.

"He never wrote it to be famous, " she said. "He wrote poetry because he enjoyed it.

He led quite a quiet life. After moving to London he was never published again. He had single poems published in newspapers but he never had any more anthologies published.

"As a poet, he is quite forgotten. Perhaps it was because he wasn't particularly educated - he left school at 14 - and he wasn't part of the literary establishment. He was very much a Dundee person.

"He is left out of first world war anthologies and we are trying to put him back on the map."

The exhibition was opened last night, to mark Armistice Day, by Nancy Blackwood, his great-niece who still lives in Dundee.

Original copies of his works are on display at the exhibition in Lamb Gallery, Tower Building, Perth Road, along with the many letters he sent back to his family in Dundee about his experiences.

The exhibition follows a book written last year by Bob Burrows, a former banker, which also attempts to bring Lee's poems back to the public's attention while examining the possible reasons for his fall into literary obscurity.

POIGNANT BALLADS

The Mother - published in Ballads of Battle, 1916.

My mother rose from her grave last night, And bent above my bed, And laid a warm kiss on my lips, A cool hand on my head;

And, "Come to me, and come to me, My bonnie boy, " she said.

And when they found him at the dawn, His brow with blood defiled, And gently laid him in the earth, They wondered that he smiled.

The Bullet 1916.

Every bullet has its billet;

Many bullets more than one:

God! Perhaps I killed a mother When I killed a mother's son.

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