This poem by Douglas LePan – a Canadian poet who fought in the Adriatic Sector of Italian campaign (1943-1945) – is a literary interpretation of Tinning’s watercolours painted in the Rimini area during World War Two. (Tempio Malatestiano is a church.)“An artilleryman should be able to draw you a panorama.
But the rose and purple clouds, flowering out of
The vase of the roofless temple, and the ceaseless traffic –
guns, jeeps, transports, tanks and tank transporters –
flowing one way over a Bailey-bridge and the other way
over the stone bridge built by the Emperor Tiberius,
past floral confusion of corps and divisional signs,
on through the ruined city and out to a new campaign-
these all fail to compose into a sunset battle-piece,
as he looks up from the pages of Pound’s Malatesta Cantos,
his mind wandering, looking for coherence somewhere,
anxious to throw off the taint of Rimini’s vicious Lord,
anxious to find some solace for the restless dead,
but finding only a whole civilization with the roof blown off.”
Another LePan poem – “Icon on a Sullen Ground” – is illustrated by Tinning’s painting (below) of an encampment of itinerant “Gypsies” caught in the maelstrom of war.
“It was first in the Romagna (where Dante imagined Hell)
that he slipped through boredom into disgust, slipped almost into
despair. The mud. The cold. The seemingly endless
succession of infernal fosses and river-courses,
that led, so they claimed, to the valley of the Po, but instead
seemed only to lead to more casualties – and pointlessness.
As his gorge rose, he took to smoking one cigarette after
another (until he was wolfing down three packs a day)
to quiet his frazzled nerves that had been rubbed raw
by fields pitted and pock-marked by shell- fire, mortar-fire.
With the shrapnel whistling every which way, a signalman
comes running, then suddenly drops as though he has been hit;
but no! he squats there bare-assed to the wind, crippled with
dysentery – as a rude image of heroism in a field of fire.”