Saturday, April 3, 2010

Edward Thomas: A Beginning

It is difficult for me to decide where to begin when it comes to Edward Thomas.  So I shall begin where I began: with "Adlestrop."


Yes, I remember Adlestrop --
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express train drew up there
Unwontedly.  It was late June.

The steam hissed.  Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform.  What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

No doubt many of us first encountered Edward Thomas by discovering "Adlestrop" in an anthology.  And many of us recognized upon reading it that something had changed for us.  How so?  This is the best that I can come up with:  "At last.  This is the real thing."  Inadequate, I know.  But consider this: how many times have you had that thought and then, later, come to be disappointed? 

Perhaps I am merely repeating what Kingsley Amis has already said: 

"How a poet convinces you he will not tell you anything he does not think or feel, since you have only his word for it, is hard to discover, but Edward Thomas is one of those who do it."

The Amis Anthology (1988), page 339.

Of course, this sounds like a silly (and unsophisticated) truism:  don't all poets speak honestly?  Well, yes.  And I shall not attempt to convince you that what Amis says about Edward Thomas is precisely correct and -- in the end -- all one needs to say.  But it is. 


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