Yours and Yours and Yours

Yours and Yours and Yours

This is a special edition of Poet’s Day for Nicola. The poem is “The Life That I Have” by Leo Marks, also known as “Yours”. It should have been published yesterday but was delayed by a technical issue.

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

Leo Marks (1920—2001)

Poem 281. The Life That I Have

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
For the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
But death shall be but a pause

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

Way back when I started this blog in 2020, I covered “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare as one of my first choices because it was Nic’s favourite poem. Since then, I have talked about a lot of poems I shared with her: The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, Adlestrop by Edward Thomas, and Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley to name just a few. I don’t remember if I shared this one with her but the story behind it is touching and inspiring in equal measure.

I mentioned this poem already in November 2020 but I will repeat the story here: Leo Marks wrote this poem in memory of his girlfriend Ruth who was killed in an air crash in Canada just before Christmas 1943:

On Christmas Eve I learned from Ruth’s father that she had been killed in a plane crash in Canada. I went up to the roof of Norgeby House, which was the closest I could get to her.

There was a quick way down from it, but she wouldn’t have approved. Looking up at God’s pavement for signs of new pedestrians, I transmitted a message to her which I’d failed to deliver when I had the chance:

[poem as rendered above]

Leo Marks, Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941–1945.

At the time, Marks was responsible for the security of the codes being used for secret transmissions by SOE agents and was changing the procedures for encoding messages so that rather than using familiar passages of text from books like the Bible, songs like the National Anthem or poems like Ozymandias, which were easy for cryptographers on the other side to crack, agents would use poems written for them by Marks and other members of the SOE. This was an initial step towards other practices that made the lives of SOE agents more secure, though they were never free of danger.

He taught “The Life That I Have” to the SOE agent Violette Szabo before she left for her first SOE mission. It was later immortalized in the film “Carve Her Name With Pride” where it was credited to Violette’s husband Etienne since Marks had only allowed it to be used if he was not identified as the author.

The message of the poem is very simple—our life and love are all we have to offer another and even death is no barrier to these offerings.

I like it because it’s a very personal poem about a tragedy in Marks’s life that he used to try to save another life. Sadly, Violette Szabo was betrayed to the Germans on her second mission, and she was captured, tortured and executed. She received a posthumous George Cross for her courage and rightly so.

It has also introduced me to Leo Marks’s memoir of his work in the SOE, which is a funny and fascinating account of his time in the code-breaking offices of SOE (as distinct from the work at Bletchley Park) and well worth reading.


  • Read about the poem and its role in secret messages at Wikipedia.
  • You can get Leo Marks’s memoir of his war work at Amazon, or read it for free online (you have to register but I believe it’s free otherwise).
  • Watch Virginia McKenna’s performance of the poem in “Carve Her Name With Pride” on YouTube.
  • Read about Violette Szabo at Wikipedia.