The Poetry Of Edward Thomas
The steep farm roof, With tiles duskily glowing, entertained The mid-day sun; and up and down the roof White pigeons nestled. There was no sound but one. Three cart-horses were looking over a gate Drowsily through their forelocks, swishing their tails Against a fly, a solitary fly. The Winter's cheek flushed as if he had drained Spring, Summer, and Autumn at a draught And smiled quietly.
But 'twas not Winter— Rather a season of bliss unchangeable Awakened from farm and church where it had lain Safe under tile and thatch for ages since This England, Old already, was called Merry. Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved; Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.
Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest, Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I. All of the night was quite barred out except An owl's cry, a most melancholy cry. Shaken out long and clear upon the hill, No merry note, nor cause of merriment, But one telling me plain what I escaped And others could not, that night, as in I went. And salted was my food, and my repose, Salted and sobered, too, by the bird's voice Speaking for all who lay under the stars, Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.
They have taken the gable from the roof of clay On the long swede pile. They have let in the sun To the white and gold and purple of curled fronds Unsunned. It is a sight more tender-gorgeous At the wood-corner where Winter moans and drips Than when, in the Valley of the Tombs of Kings, A boy crawls down into a Pharaoh's tomb And, first of Christian men, beholds the mummy, God and monkey, chariot and throne and vase, Blue pottery, alabaster, and gold.
But dreamless long-dead Amen-hotep lies. This is a dream of Winter, sweet as Spring. Will you ride So late At my side? O, will you come? Will you come If the night Has a moon, Full and bright? Would you come If the noon Gave light, Not the moon?
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Beautiful, would you come? Would you have come? Would you have come Without scorning, Had it been Still morning? Beloved, would you have come? If you come Haste and come. Owls have cried; It grows dark To ride. As the team's head-brass flashed out on the turn The lovers disappeared into the wood. I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm That strewed an angle of the fallow, and Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square Of charlock. Every time the horses turned Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned Upon the handles to say or ask a word, About the weather, next about the war.
Scraping the share he faced towards the wood, And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed Once more. I could spare an arm. I shouldn't want to lose A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so, I should want nothing more. Only two teams work on the farm this year. One of my mates is dead. The second day In France they killed him. It was back in March, The very night of the blizzard, too.
Now if He had stayed here we should have moved the tree. Everything Would have been different. For it would have been Another world. The horses started and for the last time I watched the clods crumble and topple over After the ploughshare and the stumbling team. Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed The speculating rooks at their nests cawed And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass, What we below could not see, Winter pass. Gone the wild day: A wilder night Coming makes way For brief twilight. Where the firm soaked road Mounts and is lost In the high beech-wood It shines almost.
The wood is black, With a misty steam. Above, the cloud pack Breaks for one gleam. But the woodman's cot By the ivied trees Awakens not To light or breeze. Die, and forget The hill of trees, The gleam, the wet, This roaring peace. Like the touch of rain she was On a man's flesh and hair and eyes When the joy of walking thus Has taken him by surprise:.
With the love of the storm he burns, He sings, he laughs, well I know how, But forgets when he returns As I shall not forget her "Go now. Those two words shut a door Between me and the blessed rain That was never shut before And will not open again.
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- Poems (Edward Thomas, 1917).
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Running along a bank, a parapet That saves from the precipitous wood below The level road, there is a path. It serves Children for looking down the long smooth steep, Between the legs of beech and yew, to where A fallen tree checks the sight: The path, winding like silver, trickles on, Bordered and even invaded by thinnest moss That tries to cover roots and crumbling chalk With gold, olive, and emerald, but in vain. The children wear it. They have flattened the bank On top, and silvered it between the moss With the current of their feet, year after year.
But the road is houseless, and leads not to school. To see a child is rare there, and the eye Has but the road, the wood that overhangs And underyawns it, and the path that looks As if it led on to some legendary Or fancied place where men have wished to go And stay; till, sudden, it ends where the wood ends.
The Combe was ever dark, ancient and dark. Its mouth is stopped with bramble, thorn, and briar; And no one scrambles over the sliding chalk By beech and yew and perishing juniper Down the half precipices of its sides, with roots And rabbit holes for steps. The sun of Winter, The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds Except the missel-thrust that loves juniper, Are quite shut out. But far more ancient and dark The Combe looks since they killed the badger there.
Dug him out and gave him to the hounds, That most ancient Briton of English beasts. The rent I shall ask of her will be only Each year's first violets, white and lonely, The first primroses and orchises— She must find them before I do, that is.
But if she finds a blossom on furze Without rent they shall all for ever be hers, Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch, Roses, Pyrgo and Lapwater,— I shall give them all to my elder daughter. What shall I give my daughter the younger More than will keep her from cold and hunger? I shall not give her anything. If she shared South Weald and Havering, Their acres, the two brooks running between, Paine's Brook and Weald Brook, With pewit, woodpecker, swan, and rook, She would be no richer than the queen Who once on a time sat in Havering Bower Alone, with the shadows, pleasure and power.
She could do no more with Samarcand, Or the mountains of a mountain land And its far white house above cottages Like Venus above the Pleiades. Her small hands I would not cumber With so many acres and their lumber, But leave her Steep and her own world And her spectacled self with hair uncurled, Wanting a thousand little things That time without contentment brings. If I were to own this countryside As far as a man in a day could ride, And the Tyes were mine for giving or letting,— Wingle Tye and Margaretting Tye,—and Skreens, Gooshays, and Cockerells, Shellow, Rochetts, Bandish, and Pickerells, Martins, Lambkins, and Lillyputs, Their copses, ponds, roads, and ruts, Fields where plough-horses steam and plovers Fling and whimper, hedges that lovers Love, and orchards, shrubberies, walls Where the sun untroubled by north wind falls, And single trees where the thrush sings well His proverbs untranslatable, I would give them all to my son If he would let me any one For a song, a blackbird's song, at dawn.
He should have no more, till on my lawn Never a one was left, because I Had shot them to put them into a pie,— His Essex blackbirds, every one, And I was left old and alone. Then unless I could pay, for rent, a song As sweet as a blackbird's, and as long— No more—he should have the house, not I: And you, Helen, what should I give you? I would give you youth, All kinds of loveliness and truth, A clear eye as good as mine, Lands, waters, flowers, wine, As many children as your heart Might wish for, a far better art Than mine can be, all you have lost Upon the travelling waters tossed, Or given to me.
If I could choose Freely in that great treasure-house Anything from any shelf, I would give you back yourself, And power to discriminate What you want and want it not too late, Many fair days free from care And heart to enjoy both foul and fair, And myself, too, if I could find Where it lay hidden and it proved kind. When first I came here I had hope, Hope for I knew not what. Fast beat My heart at sight of the tall slope Or grass and yews, as if my feet.
Only by scaling its steps of chalk Would see something no other hill Ever disclosed. And now I walk Down it the last time. My heart beat so again at sight Of any hill although as fair And loftier. For infinite The change, late unperceived, this year,. The twelfth, suddenly, shows me plain. Hope now,—not health, nor cheerfulness, Since they can come and go again, As often one brief hour witnesses,—. Just hope has gone for ever. Perhaps I may love other hills yet more Than this: One thing I know, that love with chance And use and time and necessity Will grow, and louder the heart's dance At parting than at meeting be.
The downs will lose the sun, white alyssum Lose the bees' hum; But head and bottle tilted back in the cart Will never part Till I am cold as midnight and all my hours Are beeless flowers. He neither sees, nor hears, nor smells, nor thinks, But only drinks, Quiet in the yard where tree trunks do not lie More quietly. After you speak And what you meant Is plain, My eyes Meet yours that mean— With your cheeks and hair— Something more wise, More dark, And far different. I know your lust Is love. It was a perfect day For sowing; just As sweet and dry was the ground As tobacco-dust.
I tasted deep the hour Between the far Owl's chuckling first soft cry And the first star. A long stretched hour it was; Nothing undone Remained; the early seeds All safely sown. And now, hark at the rain, Windless and light, Half a kiss, half a tear, Saying good-night. When we two walked in Lent We imagined that happiness Was something different And this was something less.
But happy were we to hide Our happiness, not as they were Who acted in their pride Juno and Jupiter:. For the Gods in their jealousy Murdered that wife and man, And we that were wise live free To recall our happiness then. The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood This Eastertide call into mind the men, Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should Have gathered them and will do never again.
There they stand, on their ends, the fifty faggots That once were underwood of hazel and ash In Jenny Pinks's Copse. Now, by the hedge Close packed, they make a thicket fancy alone Can creep through with the mouse and wren. Next Spring A blackbird or a robin will nest there, Accustomed to them, thinking they will remain Whatever is for ever to a bird: This Spring it is too late; the swift has come.
Better they will never warm me, though they must Light several Winters' fires. Before they are done The war will have ended, many other things Have ended, maybe, that I can no more Foresee or more control than robin and wren.
Rereading: The poetry of Edward Thomas | Books | The Guardian
He himself was like a cob, And leather-coloured. Also he loved a tree. For the life in them he loved most living things, But a tree chiefly. All along the lane He planted elms where now the stormcock sings That travellers hear from the slow-climbing train. Till then the track had never had a name For all its thicket and the nightingales That should have earned it. No one was to blame. To name a thing beloved man sometimes fails. Many years since, Bob Hayward died, and now None passes there because the mist and the rain Out of the elms have turned the lane to slough And gloom, the name alone survives, Bob's Lane.
Early one morning in May I set out, And nobody I knew was about.
There was no wind to trouble the weathercocks. I had burnt my letters and darned my socks. I heard the brook through the town gardens run. O sweet was the mud turned to dust by the sun. A gate banged in a fence and banged in my head. I could not return from my liberty, To my youth and my love and my misery. The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet, The only sweet thing that is not also fleet. The cherry trees bend over and are shedding On the old road where all that passed are dead, Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding This early May morn when there is none to wed.
It rains, and nothing stirs within the fence Anywhere through the orchard's untrodden, dense Forest of parsley. The great diamonds Of rain on the grassblades there is none to break, Or the fallen petals further down to shake. And I am nearly as happy as possible To search the wilderness in vain though well, To think of two walking, kissing there, Drenched, yet forgetting the kisses of the rain: Sad, too, to think that never, never again,. Unless alone, so happy shall I walk In the rain.
When I turn away, on its fine stalk Twilight has fined to naught, the parsley flower Figures, suspended still and ghostly white, The past hovering as it revisits the light. The judge at Salisbury Can't give him more than he undoubtedly Deserves. Look at his photograph! Hanging's too good by half For such as he. But at the inn the Gipsy dame began: He went along with Carrie, and when she Had a baby he paid up so readily His half a crown. A crown'd have been More like him. For I never knew him mean. Last time we met he said if me and Joe Was anywhere near we must be sure and call.
He put his arms around our Amos all As if he were his own son. I pray God Save him from justice! Nicer man never trod. I have come a long way to-day: On a strange bridge alone, Remembering friends, old friends, I rest, without smile or moan, As they remember me without smile or moan. All are behind, the kind And the unkind too, no more To-night than a dream. No traveller has rest more blest Than this moment brief between Two lives, when the Night's first lights And shades hide what has never been, Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.
At hawthorn-time in Wiltshire travelling In search of something chance would never bring, An old man's face, by life and weather cut And coloured,—rough, brown, sweet as any nut,— A land face, sea-blue-eyed,—hung in my mind When I had left him many a mile behind. All he said was: It's A footpath, right enough. You see those bits Of mounds—that's where they opened up the barrows Sixty years since, while I was scaring sparrows. They thought as there was something to find there, But couldn't find it, by digging, anywhere. To turn back then and seek him, where was the use?
There were three Manningfords,—Abbots, Bohun, and Bruce: All had their churches, graveyards, farms, and byres, Lurking to one side up the paths and lanes, Seldom well seen except by aeroplanes; And when bells rang, or pigs squealed, or cocks crowed, Then only heard. Ages ago the road Approached. The people stood and looked and turned, Nor asked it to come nearer, nor yet learned To move out there and dwell in all men's dust. And yet withal they shot the weathercock, just Because 'twas he crowed out of tune, they said: So now the copper weathercock is dead.
If they had reaped their dandelions and sold Them fairly, they could have afforded gold. Many years passed, and I went back again Among those villages, and looked for men Who might have known my ancient. He himself Had long been dead or laid upon the shelf, I thought. One man I asked about him roared At my description: He's dead, sir, these three years.
Adam's Point you'll see Marked on the maps. Encouraged by critic James Ashcroft Noble, Thomas compiled and published his first book, The Woodland Life in , a collection of essays about his long walks. They married in , while she was pregnant with their son, Merfyn. Shortly after their first child was born, Thomas won a scholarship to Lincoln College in Oxford and later graduated with a degree in history, further diverging from the career path his father hoped he would follow.
For many years, Thomas supported his family through a series of reviewing positions. He succeeded Lionel Johnson as a regular reviewer for the Daily Chronicle , reviewing contemporary poetry, reprints, criticism, and country books, but was earning less than 2 pounds a week, forcing him to sacrifice creative writing for more necessary work. The Thomases moved five times in a ten year span, during which their two daughters were born, Myfanwy in , and Bronwen in During this time, Thomas published a number of important critical and biographical studies, including Richard Jefferies , Maurice Maeterlinck , Algernon Charles Swinburne , and Walter Pater Unsatisfied by work which he felt repressed his creativity, and under the constant stress of financial strains, Thomas endured poor health and recurrent physical and psychological breakdowns.
His unhappiness was a great strain on his marriage, as were a few platonic friendships with women, such as the writer, Eleanor Farjeon. However, Thomas's well-being improved significantly following the family's move to Steep Village in , where he began writing more creative and often autobiographical work. Frost was just at the start of his career, and the two men developed a strong friendship, taking long walks in the countryside together and gathering with a lively community of local writers in the evenings.
Later, Frost wrote of their time together: He wrote his first real poem in , the blank-verse dialogue "Up in the Wind," which was published, along with much of his later work, under the pseudonym Edward Eastaway. Thomas himself helped build Frost's reputation by writing a rave review of North of Boston in As the literary market collapsed during the war, Thomas found more time to write poetry.
The short poem In Memoriam exemplifies how his poetry blends the themes of war and the countryside. The Poetry is in the pity. At least nineteen of his poems were set to music by the Gloucester composer Ivor Gurney. In December the National Museum of Wales at Cardiff displayed a sculptural installation by the Herefordshire artist Claire Malet depicting a holloway and incorporating a copy of Thomas's Collected Poems , open at 'Roads':. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other people named Edward Thomas, see Edward Thomas disambiguation.
Retrieved 13 October Retrieved 6 July The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Retrieved 1 January Archived from the original on 30 September Retrieved 8 August First World War", Travel , London: Retrieved 23 June Debt of Honour Register. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Retrieved 2 February Words by Edward Thomas". Ivor Bertie Gurney — ".
Retrieved 24 July Retrieved 23 June — via Internet Archive. Books to furnish a room Guardian News and Media.