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This article is taken from PN Review 125, Volume 25 Number 3, January - February 1999.

Shelf Lives: 3: Edmund Blunden Peter Scupham

Yes, I still remember
    The whole thing in a way;
Edge and exactitude
    Depend on the day.

I am writing this piece over those few November days which the Great War claims back from us, its heirs and successors, whether we know or care. In the still, drenching rain which seems appropriate to Remembrance Sunday I am surrounded by echoes and emblems: a piece of glass from Ypres Cathedral, a newspaper article which ends with a rollcall, a special litany which gives the 300 odd names of the known British survivors, a photograph of my father in his cadet's uniform: a touching pastiche of his brother Tommy, on leave from the Western front, who sits easily beside him, bandoliered, immaculate, affectionate. In our tiny church we have sung the appropriate hymns and heard one more proper name read aloud for his once-a-year resurrection - the only man from this scattered hamlet killed in action some eighty years ago. We have kept two minutes' silence, And for these few days, while we have been given by the media a newly-discovered poem by Sassoon, a draft version of Owen's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', I have been returning to the poems of Edmund Blunden, and particularly those poems which seem to me to display best his unobtrusive and singularly English gift for elegy; that intense keening for the dead, those memorials to the intensity of living he found serving with the Royal Sussex in France and ...


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