First published in 1944, during the darkest days of the war, Lord Wavell's great anthology of English poetry - enhanced by his own introduction and annotations - encouraged and delighted many thousands of readers.
It has remained in print every since, proving beyond doubt that, whatever the fashion of the day, poetry can fulfil its ancient function, finding its way to the hearts of the many, not only to the minds of the few.
Field-Marshal Lord Wavell (1883-1950), educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst, was wounded at Ypres in the First World War and lost the sight of one eye. A professional soldier, he became known as an officer untrammeled by convention and as an exceptional trainer of troops. In 1939 he was given the Middle East Command and soon found himself fighting eight separate campaigns. His defeat of a numerically superior Italian army, with the capture of 130,000 prisoners, was as remarkable as his adroit conquest of Abyssinia. He was Viceroy of India from 1943 to 1947, and in the last years of his life in London he became president of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Kipling, Browning, Poetry and Virgil Societies.