Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Naught moves but clouds

Edward Thomas wrote all his poetry over a period of twenty-seven months, from November 1914 to January 1917.  Read in sequence they trace the progress of the seasons, often drawing on his memories of Kent, Hampshire, Somerset, Wales.  Sometimes they describe the landscape of the trenches, and sometimes they mingle past and present.  Here are extracts from different poems that refer to specific months, arranged as a kind of Edward Thomas calender:


The rock-like mud unfroze a little and rills / Ran and sparkled down each side of the road / Under the catkins wagging in the hedge

Black rocks with white gulls following the plough

... the sun on the celandines...


What did the thrushes know?  Rain, snow, sleet, hail, / had kept them quiet as the primroses.
 ad kept the
After a night of frost, before / The March sun brightened and the South-west blew, / Jackdaws began to shout and float and soar / Already, and one was racing straight and high / Alone, shouting like a black warrior / Challenges and menaces to the wider sky.


The April mist, the chill, the calm...

When mist has been forgiven / And the sun has stolen out, / Peered, and resolved to shine at seven / On dabbled lengthening grasses, / Thick primroses and early leaves uneven, / When earth’s breath, warm and humid, far surpasses / The richest oven’s...


Thrush, blackbird, all that sing in May...

The sedgewarblers that hung so light / On willow twigs, sang longer than any lark, / Quick, shrill or grating, a song to match the heat / Of the strong sun, nor less the water’s cool / Gushing through narrows, swirling in the pool.

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding / On the old road where all that passed are dead...


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.

The green roads that end in the forest / Are strewn with white goose feathers this June...

... in the little thickets where a sleeper / For ever might lie lost, the nettle-creeper / And garden warbler sang unceasingly; / While over them shrill shrieked in his fierce glee / The swift with wings and tail as sharp and narrow / As if the bow had flown off with the arrow.


Naught moves but clouds, and in the glassy lake / Their doubles and the shadow of my boat.


... September hides herself / In bracken and blackberry, harebell and dwarf gorse.


The green elm with one great bough of gold / Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one


November has begun / Yet never shone the sun as fair as now / While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough / With spangles of the morning’s storm drop down / Because the starling shakes it, whistling what / Once swallows sang.

... of all the months when earth is greener / Not one has clean skies that are cleaner.   Clean and clear and sweet and cold...

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