Wednesday, August 4, 2010

James Reeves On Edmund Blunden: "Nor Very Much To Give His Time Of What His Time Expected"

James Reeves wrote a poem in tribute to Edmund Blunden.  The poem was first published in 1958.  Blunden died in 1974.  When the poem was later published in his Collected Poems, Reeves added the dedication that now appears below the title.

                    On a Poet

             E. B. 1896-1974

Having no Celtic bombast in his blood,
Nor dipsomaniac rage, nor very much
To give his time of what his time expected,
He saw his Muse, slight thing, by most neglected.

She was no exhibitionist, and he,
With only the Queen of Elfland's gift to Thomas,
Could not afford to school her in the taste
For stolen gauds and ornaments of paste.

When he is dead and his best phrases stored
With Clare's and Hardy's in the book of gold,
She with her unpresuming Saxon grace
In the Queen's retinue will take her place.

James Reeves, Collected Poems: 1929-1974 (Heinemann 1974).

There are several versions of the ballad of "Thomas the Rhymer" or "True Thomas."  In all of them, Thomas, a mortal, is brought to Elfland (i.e., "fairyland") by its Queen.  After a stay of seven years, Thomas returns to the world.  Before he departs, the Queen offers him a gift:  the choice of becoming either a harper or a seer.  He chooses to become a seer.  Thus, as Walter de la Mare notes in his anthology Come Hither (1923):  Thomas "was famous as a Wise One and a Seer (a See-er -- with the inward eye)."

The following passage comes from Barry Webb's Edmund Blunden: A Biography (1990):

"Among the group standing by the side of [Blunden's] grave was a small unobtrusive figure:  he was Private A. E. Beeney of the 11th Royal Sussex Regiment, who had been Edmund's runner at Ypres and Passchendaele.  Stepping forward he let fall from his hand a wreath of Flanders poppies which fluttered down on the coffin in fond and final salute."

                 Harry Epworth Allen (1894-1958), "Crowlink, Sussex"

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