Given their different backgrounds, beliefs and life experiences it is hard to see what these celebrated men had in common. They were both great leaders at a time when nothing short of outstanding leadership was needed to overcome the implacable threats of their times. Perhaps less well known is that they both turned to poetry to strengthen their resilience in times of crisis. What worked for those great men may help leaders of today take a break from trying solving intractable problems and clear their heads for a moment.
As Eliot A. Cohen puts it so well ‘As the shutdowns of the coronavirus continue, we all tire of Zoom calls, Netflix bingeing, and even, perhaps, attempts to tackle once again War and Peace or Moby-Dick. Perhaps, then, it is not a bad time to turn to poetry’.
Robust poems committed to memory can counteract the corrosive effects of self-pity. They can offer a different way of viewing the world, particularly to generations that did not suffer the buffetings of the early and mid-20th century, and are now bewildered by the calamities that seem to arise from nowhere, and leave them powerless.