A ‘First Impression’: Tokyo (1924)
No sooner was I come to this strange roof,
Beyond broad seas, half round the weary world,
Than came the pretty ghost, the sudden-sweet
And most sad spirit of my vanished child:
From the bare corners of the unknown room
She peeped with beauty’s eyes, till my eyes rained
Their helpless tears once more; and there, and there
Was my dead baby baffling with dream presence,
And singing, till I thought I must be mad—
Was not all silent? yet, I heard her song.
Child, will not Orcus yield you? that small voice
Wafts, as I know, from where I cannot come,
And that smile glimmers like the ethereal flowers
In your far meadows; would that earth’s kind flowers
Might now be golden in your toddling path!
Thus moved my musings, till at length I heard
From neighbouring doors slid back along their grooves
Small children scurrying, with the hastiest joy,
And quick young voices planning glorious play;
I looked, and saw some in their dresses bright
Laying themselves a garden in the dust,
With broad green leaves to be their noble trees,
With beds marked out, and buds desired to grow.
Oh, millions, millions in this world (I cried)
Are the glad children blossoming fast and fair,
Filling both homes and homeless hearts with airs
Of young eternity; and other worlds
Have their child millions too, so kind in this
Is nature; and though one of these dear blooms
Fall, still great childbirth lords it all the way,
And the whole earth may see and hear and glory.
The children shouted as this way and that
They hurried, and I glittered with their light,
And loved them, as if kindred of my own,
And felt deep faith in nature’s motherhood.
To me, were not two younglings given and spared?
I saw them in the Suffolk lane; high flowed
The tide of love and surety in my breast.
But still, I saw a ghost, and lacked one child.
For an overview of Blunden’s
relation with Japan see Edmund
Blunden and Japan in the Bibliography. ‘First Impression’
(BD1a) first appeared in
London Mercury 10 (1924), p. 574, and was reprinted in A
Japanese Garland (BD18) and
several later collections.
Several Blunden titles are in print,
including Undertones of War (BD19),
written in Tokyo, available in the UK here,
the US here,
and Selected Poems, available in the UK here.