FALL IN, GHOSTS
service; Robert Graves served for a year before injuries and ill-health kept him in England; Ivor Gurney was sent back to England, suffering from the effects of gas, in 1917 after about fourteen months in France; Siegfried Sassoon served sixteen months; Isaac Rosenberg nineteen months before his death in spring 1918. David Jones survived the opening of the Battle of the Somme, was wounded but back in action in October 1916, and after twenty-two months was sent home with trench fever. He died in 1974, the same year as Blunden.
Four of those five surviving poets wrote their memoirs of the war: Blunden’s Undertones of War came first, reprinted three times within a month of its publication on the tenth anniversary of the end of the war. Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928) was followed by Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930); between them came Graves’s Goodbye to All That, which infuriated both Blunden and Sassoon. They spent an enraged evening annotating a copy ‘with over 300 corrections and hostile comments in the margin’, which they intended to deposit in the British Museum. Blunden’s relationship with Graves did not mend for nearly forty years. Writing to the Keats scholar Takeshi Saito in Japan, Blunden excoriated his former friend: ‘It is the season of gross and silly war books, and he has succeeded in selling his. […] the distortion of men like Graves has been so widely commended; it is like using the cemeteries which crowd the old line of battle from north to south as latrines.’9
Jones was also working on his interpretation of the war in 1927, but In Parenthesis was not published until 1937. It is interesting to set his ‘writing’ (he does not label it as prose or poetry) beside Blunden’s, so different in kind – modernist beside modern – yet arising from the same deeply felt comradely and commemorative impetus. Jones’s Preface begins ‘THIS WRITING IS FOR MY FRIENDS…’: ‘it looks like a war memorial and sounds like a poem’, as Jon Stallworthy comments.10 The title of the first part is ‘THE MANY MEN SO BEAUTIFUL’ from