click on the small image to see a larger version
English author and critic, now remembered as one of the great poets of the First World War (he is one of the 16 war poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1985).
Blunden was still a teenager when he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1915. Unlike other war poets, notably Wilfred Owen, he arrived home in one piece after two years at the Front in some of the bloodiest fighting, at Passchendaele, Ypres and the Somme (he won the Military Cross). No other poet witnessed the horrors for so long.
He was 22 when the war ended but lived for another 53 years, haunted by what he had seen, suffering from nightmares virtually every night of his remaining life.
He found catharsis in his poetry, writing about the war until he could no longer write. Blunden’s final poem, 'Ancre Sunshine' (about survivor guilt) was written in 1966 on the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Beaumont Hamel.
He didn’t just write poetry about the war. His 1928 memoir, Undertones of War, is a classic prose account of the conflict.At Blunden’s funeral in Long Melford, a small figure stepped up to the graveside and threw a wreath of Flanders poppies on top of the coffin. It was Private Beeney, of the 11th Royal Sussex Regiment, who had been Blunden’s runner (the soldier who carries messages from trench to trench) at Ypres and Passchendaele.
From 1924 to 1927 Blunden had been Professor of English at the University of Tokyo. He returned to Japan in 1947 as a member of the British liaison mission in Tokyo, remaining there until 1950. This is a letter sent from Tokyo in 1948.
On a 7.5" x 4.5" sheet of notepaper, headed with a Foreign Office blindstamped seal (Tokyo, c/o Foreign Office London, SW1, March 14, 1948), Blunden writes in ink to the poet Francis Berry (1915-2006) , thanking him for a copy of a new book of poems.
(The book was "Murdock and Other Poems", published in 1947).
It's a kind and encouraging letter and reads, in part:
"I am glad to find you still blessed with new topics for your characteristic imagination and utterance; and above all 'Murdock' was a lucky number. This poem I see has already had an innings and it will go on; the rural superstition in it is kept in our mind with great spirit, and then you have a culmination which is hardly guessed and truly crowns the work. Your readers will all choose this Poem I think, then they will vary among the rest; in part 'Malta Elegy' strikes me as the best, and the dedicating stanzas.
With my thanks & congratulations,
One horizontal correspondence fold. In very good condition.