Monday, 1 April 2013

To Edward Thomas

I have just come across this beautiful poem to Edward Thomas, from the pen of Welsh poet Alun Lewis who died in 1944.  I know I should leave it until the 97th anniversary of his death, on 9th April, but in typical Aries fashion I cannot wait that long to share it with you.  I am beginning to think I should have a separate Edward Thomas blog so that those of you who are already tut-tutting and about to visit elsewhere in blogland will at least have a choice in future!  The picture above shows the band of yew trees amongst the beautiful woodland girdling Shoulder of Mutton hill, where the Edward Thomas memorial stone is.  Yew trees love chalk downland.

 To Edward Thomas
(On visiting the memorial stone above Steep in Hampshire)
On the way up from Sheet I met some children
Filling a pram with brushwood; higher still
Beside Steep church an old man pointed out
A rough white stone upon a flinty spur
Projecting from the high autumnal woods...
I doubt if much has changed since you came here
On your last leave; except the stone; it bears
Your name and trade: 'To Edward Thomas, Poet.'
Climbing the steep path through the copse I knew
My cares weighed heavily as yours, my gift
Much less, my hope
No more than yours.
And like you I felt sensitive and somehow apart,
Lonely and exalted by the friendship of the wind
And the placid afternoon enfolding
The dangerous future and the smile.
I sat and watched the dusky berried ridge
Of yew-trees, deepened by oblique dark shafts,
Throw back the flame of red and gold and russet
That leapt from beech and ash to birch and chestnut
Along the downward arc of the hill's shoulder,
And sunlight with discerning fingers
Softly explore the distant wooded acres,
Touching the farmsteads one by one with lightness
Until it reached the Downs, whose soft green pastures
Went slanting sea- and skywards to the limits
Where sight surrenders and the mind alone
Can find the sheeps' tracks and the grazing.
And for the moment Life appeared
As gentle as the view I gazed upon.
Later, a whole day later, I remembered
This war and yours and your weary
Circle of failure and your striving
To make articulate the groping voices
Of snow and rain and dripping branches
And love that ailing in itself cried out
About the straggling eaves and ringed the candle
With shadows slouching round your buried head;
And in the lonely house there was no ease
For you, or Helen, or those small perplexed
Children of yours who only wished to please.
Divining this, I knew the voice that called you
Was soft and neutral as the sky
Breathing on the grey horizon, stronger
Than night's immediate grasp, the limbs of mercy
Oblivious as the blood; and growing clearer,
More urgent as all else dissolved away,
--Projected books, half-thoughts, the children's birthdays,
And wedding anniversaries as cold
As dates in history--the dream
Emerging from the fact that folds a dream,
The endless rides of stormy-branched dark
Whose fibres are a thread within the hand--
Till suddenly, at Arras*, you possessed that hinted land.
Alun Lewis (1915-1944)


  1. What a lovely poem, I didn't know of Alun Lewis. How sad that he too died as a result of war. I looked him up after reading the poem.

  2. So glad you have decided to start an Edward Thomas blog and I really look forward to more posts.

    I am currently re-reading some of Richard Jefferies and working my way through Edward Thomas's work. I am transformed to a totally different world when I read their beautiful work :)

  3. Rowan - it is so beautiful isn't it? I had not heard of Alun Lewis either, and only came across him after looking something up prompted by a post on "First Known When Lost" (check out my side bar on Codlins).

    Ragged Robin - glad you are enjoying it too. I have several books on Richard Jefferies or by him, to read, including the Edward Thomas one, which is beside me on the sofa at the moment. I shall start to read the latter when I have finished Silas Marner in bed (or possibly sooner. . .) They write of a world of which fragments still survived when I was a child. Those fragments are even rarer now.

  4. Lovely start, I have blog marked you, actually think you are quite brave starting a new blog/study. Now did Thomas write the poem 'Lob'? shall go and check...