Monday, 25 April 2016

Edward Wyndham Tennant (1897 - 1916) - British Poet

Portrait of Edward by John Singer Sargent
The Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant was born on 1st July 1897 in Stockton House, near Warminster in Wiltshire, UK.  His parents were Edward Priaulx Tennant, a Scottish Liberal politician who became Lord Glenconner in 1911, and his wife Pamela Adelaide Genevieve, nee Wyndham, a writer.  Edward had two brothers - Stephen and David.
Known to his friends and family by the nickname ‘Bim’, Edward was educated at  West Downs School, Winchester where he excelled at cricket, wrote poetry and edited the school magazine.  He went on to Winchester College and was to have worked in the Diplomatic Service but joined the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards when war broke out.  He was posted to the Western Front.

A week after the loss of his friend Raymond Asquith, who was in the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, Edward was killed by a German sniper on 22nd September 1916.  He was buried in Guillemont Road Communal Cemetery near to the grave of Raymond Asquith.

“The Mad Soldier June 13th, 1916” by Edward Tennant

I dropp’d here three weeks ago, yes – I know,
And it’s bitter cold at night, since the fight –
I could tell you if I chose – no one knows
Excep’ me and four or five, what ain’t alive.
I can see them all asleep, three men deep,
And they’re nowhere near a fire – but our wire
Has ’em fast as fast can be. Can’t you see
When the flare goes up? Ssh! boys; what’s that noise?
Do you know what these rats eat? Body-meat!
After you’ve been down a week, an’ your cheek
Gets as pale as life, and night seems as white
As the day, only the rats and their brats
Seem more hungry when the day’s gone away –
An’ they look big as bulls, an’ they pulls
Till you almost sort o’ shout – but the drought
What you hadn’t felt before makes you sore.
And at times you even think of a drink . . .
There’s a leg across my thighs – if my eyes
Weren’t too sore, I’d like to see who it be,
Wonder if I’d know the bloke if I woke?
Woke? By damn, I’m not asleep – there’s a heap
Of us wond’ring why the hell we’re not well . . .
Leastways I am – since I came it’s the same
With the others – they don’t know what I do,
Or they wouldn’t gape and grin. – It’s a sin
To say that Hell is hot – ’cause it’s not:
Mind you, I know very well we’re in hell. –
In a twisted hump we lie – heaping high,
Yes! an’ higher every day. – Oh I say
This chap’s heavy on my thighs – damn his eyes.

(written three months before Edward was killed).

Edwards poems ‘Worple Flit and other poems’ were published by Blackwell, Oxford in 1916 and the following year his mother Pamela published “Edward Wyndham Tennant: a memoir” (John Lane, The Bodeley Head, 1917). In 1922, Pamela married Sir Edward Grey after the death of her husband in 1920.