Image by Edmund Blunden Estate

Poem introduction

Blunden: It is odd but one or two of those which seem to me to cover all I've got to say in a way [Interviewer: yes] have come without any modification afterwards. Another is called 'Report on Experience'.

Report on Experience

Interviewer: I was going to mention just that poem - this was obviously a poem where you were excited, it comes with a kind of authority and I would have said that it took a lot of trouble to live it, perhaps, but not all that trouble to write.

Blunden: No for some odd reason it is given you now and again like Balaam's Ass - as Coleridge might have told us - to speak.

Interviewer: I wish you would read 'Report on Experience' because it is one of your best-known poems and I don't know how many people have actually heard you read it. Could you do that because it is in that book in front of you.

Blunden: It's not all accurate, no - especially the first words - but I think my readers don't mind about that.

Report on Experience

I have been young, and now am not too old;
And I have seen the righteous forsaken,
His health, his honour and his quality taken.
This is not what we were formerly told.

I have seen a green country, useful to the race,
Knocked silly with guns and mines, its villages vanished,
Even the last rat and last kestrel banished -
God bless us all, this was peculiar grace.

I knew Seraphina; Nature gave her hue,
Glance, sympathy, note, like one from Eden.
I saw her smile warp, heard her lyric deaden;
She turned to harlotry; - this I took to be new.

Say what you will, our God sees how they run.
These disillusions are His curious proving
That He loves humanity and will go on loving;
Over there are faith, life, virtue in the sun.


from Undertones of War (Penguin Classics, 2000), copyright © Estate of Mrs Claire Blunden 1928, by permission of PFD (www.pfd.co.uk) on behalf of the Estate of Mrs Claire Blunden. Recordings used by permission of the BBC.

Recordings

Books by Edmund Blunden