Week 115: On A Poet, by James Reeves

I think the E.B. of this poem must be Edmund Blunden, as the initials fit, the dates fit (except that Blunden actually died in January 1974, not 1973) and Blunden was a friend of Reeves. The only problem is that Blunden was actually quite well recognised as a poet in his lifetime, assuming that the award of the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry, election to the Oxford Professorship of Poetry, and commemoration on a stone in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey count as recognition.‘By most neglected’, therefore, may be a bit of an overstatement and one can’t help wondering if the poem is more an expression of Reeves’s own relatively unrewarded devotion to his craft.

The Queen of Elfland’s sometimes inconvenient gift to Thomas was, of course, a tongue that was incapable of lying: see ‘Thomas the Rhymer’, Child Ballad no. 37.

On a Poet

E.B. 1896 – 1973

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

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