Sunday, April 18, 2010

For Edward Thomas: "Ransoms"

This poem is by Leslie Norris (1921-2006).

      (for Edward Thomas)

What the white ransoms did was to wipe away
The dry irritation of a journey half across
England.  In the warm tiredness of dusk they lay
Like moonlight fallen clean onto the grass,

And I could not pass them.  I wound
Down the window for them and for the still
Falling dark to come in as they would,
And then remembered that this was your hill,

Your precipitous beeches, your wild garlic.
I thought of you walking up from your house
And your heartbreaking garden, melancholy
Anger sending you into this kinder darkness,

And the shining ransoms bathing the path
With pure moonlight.  I have my small despair
And would not want your sadness; your truth,
Your tragic honesty, are what I know you for.

I think of a low house upon a hill,
Its door closed now even to the hushing wind
The tall grass bends to, and all the while
The far-off salmon river without sound

Runs on below; but if this vision should
Be yours or mine I do not know.  Pungent
And clean the smell of ransoms from the wood,
And I am refreshed.  It was not my intent

To stop on a solitary road, the night colder,
Talking to a dead man, fifty years dead,
But as I flick the key, hear the engine purr,
Drive slowly down the hill, I'm comforted.

Norris appends this note to the poem:  "The white, star-shaped flowers of the Wood Garlic, Allium ursinum Liliaceae, are usually known as 'Ramsons'; but W. Keble Martin, in The Concise British Flora in Colour, (Ebury Press and Michael Joseph, 1965), calls them Ransoms.  They grow profusely from April to June in the beech hangers above Edward Thomas's house outside Petersfield.  Obviously, in the context of the poem, Ransoms means much more than the usual name."  Norris wrote a second poem about Thomas: "A Glass Window, In Memory of Edward Thomas, At Eastbury Church."

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