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Undertones of War

“I took my road with no little pride of fear; one morning I feared very sharply, as I saw what looked like a rising shroud over a wooden cross in the clustering mist. Horror! But on a closer study I realized that the apparition was only a flannel gas helmet. . . . What an age since 1914!”

In Undertones of War, one of the finest autobiographies to come out of World War I, the acclaimed poet Edmund Blunden records his devastating experiences in combat. After enlisting at the age of twenty, he took part in the disastrous battles at the Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele, describing them as “murder, not only to the troops but to their singing faiths and hopes.”

All the horrors of trench warfare, all the absurdity and feeble attempts to make sense of the fighting, all the strangeness of observing war as a writer—of being simultaneously soldier and poet—pervade Blunden’s memoir. In steely-eyed prose as richly allusive as any poetry, he tells of the endurance and despair found among the men of his battalion, including the harrowing acts of bravery that won him the Military Cross.

Now back in print for American readers, the volume includes a selection of Blunden’s war poems that unflinchingly juxtapose death in the trenches with the beauty of Flanders’s fields. Undertones of War deserves a place on anyone’s bookshelf between Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry and Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That.

252 pages | 5 1/4 x 8 | © 1928

Biography and Letters

History: Military History

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition

i The Path without Primroses
ii Trench Education
iii The Cherry Orchard
iv The Sudden Depths
v Contrasts
vi Specimen of the War of Attrition
vii Steel Helmets for All
viii The Calm
ix The Storm
x A Home from Home
xi Very Secret
xii Caesar Went into Winter Quarters
xiii The Impossible Happens
xiv An Ypres Christmas
xv Theatre of War
xvi A German Performance
xvii Departures
xviii Domesticities
xix The Spring Passes
xx Like Samson in his Wrath
xxi The Crash of Pillars
xxii Backwaters
xxiii The Cataract
xxiv 1917 in Fading Light
xxv Coming of Age
xxvi School, not at Wittenberg
xxvii My Luck

A Supplement of Poetical Interpretations and Variations

A House in Festubert
The Guard’s Mistake
Two Voices
Preparations for Victory
Come On, My Lucky Lads
At Senlis Once
The Zonnebeke Road
Trench Raid near Hooge
Concert Party: Busseboom
Rural Economy
E. W. T.: On the Death of his Betty
Battalion in Rest
Vlamertinghe: Passing the Chatêau, July, 1917
Third Ypres
The Welcome
Gouzeaucourt: The Deceitful Calm
The Prophet
II Peter ii
La Quinque Rue
The Ancre at Hamel: Afterwards
’Trench Nomenclature’
Their Very Memory
On Reading that the Rebuilding of Ypres approached Completion
Another Journey from Béthune to Cuinchy
Flanders Now
Return of the Native
The Watchers

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