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.

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