In an earlier post (March 22, 2010), I quoted these lines from Edmund Blunden's poem "The Sunlit Vale":
I saw the sunlit vale, and the pastoral fairy-tale;
The sweet and bitter scent of the may drifted by;
And never have I seen such a bright bewildering green,
But it looked like a lie,
Like a kindly meant lie.
Poems: 1914-1930 (1930). When the poem was originally published in The London Mercury of October, 1929, it was titled "The Failure." Blunden changed the title to "The Sunlit Vale" when it was published in Poems: 1914-1930.
The feelings expressed in these lines are explored at greater length in Blunden's "Report on Experience":
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.
Near and Far (1929).
Blunden was by all accounts a kind, gentle man with a gift for friendship. His poetry and prose are characterized by loving attention to the natural world. But -- to borrow a word from the title of the book for which Blunden will likely be remembered -- the "undertones" of his war experience were never distant. If you read Undertones of War, you understand why it could not be otherwise.