Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winter Into Spring, Part Three: "Thaw"

Edward Thomas wrote four four-line poems:  "In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)," "The Cherry Trees," "When he should laugh," and "Thaw."  "Thaw," as one might expect, fits well with my recent theme of Winter Into Spring.

                                              John Nash, "Winter Scene"


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.

Edna Longley (editor), Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2008).

In her comment to the poem, Edna Longley notes that the phrase "delicate as flower of grass" was also used by Thomas in a prose piece titled "Flowers of Frost":  "The beeches that were yesterday a brood of giantesses are now insubstantial and as delicate as flowers of grass."  Ibid, page 285.

                     John Nash, "Winter Scene, Buckinghamshire" (1920)

As I have noted before, Michael Longley is an admirer of Edward Thomas's poetry.  Thus, it may not be merely a coincidence that he has also written a four-line poem titled "Thaw."


Snow curls into the coalhouse, flecks the coal.
We burn the snow as well in bad weather
As though to spring-clean that darkening hole.
The thaw's a blackbird with one white feather.

Michael Longley, The Echo Gate (1979).

Longley's poem is an excellent companion piece to Thomas's poem:  his poem looks inward; Thomas's poem looks outward.  And "freckled" becomes "flecks."  And the "rooks" turn into "a blackbird."  But the same territory -- be it inward or be it outward -- is explored by both poets.

                       John Nash, "Melting Snow at Wormingford" (1962)


B.R. said...

What a lovely pairing of poems. And the snow hunkered down in the furrows in the Nash paintings - exquisite. Made my day.

Stephen Pentz said...

B.R.: I'm pleased that you like the poems. Yes, Nash was a master of partially snowy landscapes (along with much else!) -- as you say, his furrows, snow, and green fields are wonderful.

Thanks for visiting again, and for your thoughts.

Bovey Belle said...

Ah, what I have missed whilst my phone line has been down for 2 months (2 falling trees . . .) I see I have missed this lovely post of yours, but as I looked out on a landscape robbed of colour by winter, I was reading some Edward Thomas works myself.

Michael Longley is new to me (is he any relation to Edna?) but I liked his take on the theme of the Thaw . . .

Stephen Pentz said...

Bovey Belle: I saw on Codlins & Cream that you are finally "back on the grid" (as they say). Congratulations! I was hoping I might hear from you.

Yes, the Longleys are related: husband and wife. Michael has quite an interest in Edward Thomas as well: he makes an appearance in half a dozen or so of Longley's poems.

Again, it's good to have you back.