Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas is buried with 400 others, where he fell in 1917 in the so-called Great War, near Arras (Flanders). The word 'POET' is engraved on his stone. In his introduction to 'The Poems of Edward Thomas' (Handsel Books) Peter Sacks speaks of the sensation of 'utter waste' that he experienced on visiting the spot.
Thomas was a champion of the work of Robert Frost which 'avoids...old fashioned pomp and sweetness...poetical words and forms that are the chief material of secondary poets'.
Sacks provides insight into the mind of Thomas through brief diary notes such as the following -
February 25, 1917: ...morning turns sunny and warm...chaffinches and partridges, moles working on surface...
March 21, 1917: ...road between shell holes full of blood-stained water and beer bottles...larks singing...


The last light has gone out of the world, except
This moonlight lying on the grass like frost
Beyond the brink of the tall elm's shadow.
It is as if everything else had slept
Many an age, unforgotten and lost
The men that were, the things done, long ago,
All I have thought; and but the moon and I
Live yet and here stand idle over the grave
Where all is buried. Both have liberty
To dream what we could do if we were free
To do some thing we had desired long,
The moon and I. There's none less free than who
Does nothing and has nothing else to do,
Being free only for what is not to his mind,
And nothing is to his mind. If every hour
Like this one passing that I have spent among
The wiser others when I have forgot
To wonder whether I was free or not,
Were piled before me, and not lost behind,
And I could take and carry them away
I should be rich; or if I had the power
To wipe out every one and not again
Regret, I should be rich to be so poor.
And yet I still am half in love with pain,
With what is imperfect, with both tears and mirth,
With things that have an end, with life and earth,
And this moon that leaves me dark within the door.

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