Thursday, June 24, 2010

Siegfried Sassoon: "Blunden's Beech"

Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Blunden met just after the end of the First World War.  Their friendship lasted nearly 50 years -- until Sassoon's death in 1967.  In a previous post ("Edmund Blunden and Thomas Hardy": April 22, 2010), we saw Sassoon express his affection for Blunden in the context of comparing him with Thomas Hardy.

Their underlying bond was, as one might expect, their shared experience of the War.  And an important element of that bond was their love of the men that they served with.  But they also shared a love of poetry, the English countryside, and -- importantly -- cricket.

                               Blunden (left) and Sassoon (center):
                                       listening to a cricket match.

The following poem appears in Sassoon's collection Rhymed Ruminations (1940):

                      Blunden's Beech

I named it Blunden's Beech; and no one knew
That this -- of local beeches -- was the best.
Remembering lines by Clare, I'd sometimes rest
Contentful on the cushioned moss that grew
Between its roots. Finches, a flitting crew,
Chirped their concerns. Wiltshire, from east to west
Contained my tree. And Edmund never guessed
How he was there with me till dusk and dew.

Thus, fancy-free from ownership and claim,
The mind can make its legends live and sing
And grow to be the genius of some place.
And thus, where sylvan shadows held a name,
The thought of Poetry will dwell, and bring
To summer's idyll an unheeded grace.

                               W. H. Burgess, "An Old Beech Tree" (1827)


Anonymous said...

A copy of the poem engraved on stone is attached to a wall at the east end of Yalding's village green, at the opposite end of which was the Cleaves School, where Blunden's parents were schoolmaster and mistress 1900-1913, and Edmund first went to school, before going on to Christs Hospital.

Stephen Pentz said...

Anonymous: Thank you very much for visiting, and for that information, which is lovely to know -- I was not aware of that. It is a fitting tribute.

Thank you again.