Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I'm dead.
As the processes of earth
strip off the colour and the skin
take the brown hair and blue eye
and leave me simpler than at birth
when hairless I came howling in
as the moon came in the cold sky.
—from “Simplify me when I'm dead”
By the time he was killed in Normandy in June 1944, at the age of only twenty-four, Keith Douglas had achieved a body of work that singled him out as the most brilliant and promising English poet of World War II. While his early poems deal with the wonder and pain of love, his later poems are focused on the misery and brutality of war and death. His body of work still conveys a rare immediacy and youthful power, marked—as Ted Hughes wrote in his introduction—by a “burning exploratory freshness of mind.”