I t was the evening of Saturday April 17, 1915, eight months into the First World War, and the British troop ship SS Grantully Castle was moored off the Greek island of Skyros, awaiting deployment to Gallipoli. In the officers’ quarters, two magnificent-looking young men were conversing about literature, as they’d done on several previous occasions since their first meeting back in September at the appropriately-named ‘Ship Restaurant’ in London’s Guildhall. Bristling with patriotism and a sense of adventure, they were anxious to get into action, but it was becoming increasingly unlikely, as already they’d been turned back after approaching within just a few miles of the Dardanelles coast. And now, with each passing day, new platoons from their elite Hood Battalion were being deployed on reconnaissance missions to suspected Turkish strongholds, leaving the remaining forces depleted and thus ill-equipped to participate in any major offensive.


The SS Grantully Castle, on board of which Kelly started on his Elegy

The younger among them, aged 27, had already been dubbed “the handsomest young man in England” by no less a judge than the great Irish writer W.B....