Philip Edward Thomas was a British poet, essayist, and novelist. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences, and his career in poetry only came after he had already been a successful writer and literary critic.
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Famous Edward Thomas poems
The skylarks are far behind that sang over the down;
I can hear no more those suburb nightingales;
Thrushes and blackbirds sing in the gardens of the town
In vain: the noise of man, beast, and machine prevails.
But the call of children in the unfamiliar streets
That echo with a familiar twilight echoing,
Sweet as the voice of nightingale or lark, completes
A magic of strange welcome, so that I seem a king
Among men, beast, machine, bird, child, and the ghost
That in the echo lives and with the echo dies.
The friendless town is friendly; homeless, I am not lost;
Though I know none of these doors, and meet but strangers’ eyes.
Never again, perhaps, after to-morrow, shall
I see these homely streets, these church windows alight,
Not a man or woman or child among them all:
But it is All Friends’ Night, a traveller’s good-night.
The two men in the road were taken aback.
The lovers came out shading their eyes from the sun,
And never was white so white, or black so black,
As her cheeks and hair. There are more things than one A man might turn into a wood for, Jack,’ Said George; Jack whispered:He has not got a gun. It’s a bit too much of a good thing, I say.
They are going the other road, look. And see her run.’
She ran. – ‘What a thing it is, this picking may!’
Out of us all
That make rhymes
Will you choose
As the winds use
A crack in a wall
Or a drain,
Their joy or their pain
To whistle through –
You English words?
I know you:
You are light as dreams,
Tough as oak,
Precious as gold,
As poppies and corn,
Or an old cloak:
Sweet as our birds
To the ear,
As the burnet rose
In the heat
Strange as the races
Of dead and unborn:
Strange and sweet
To the eye,
As the dearest faces
That a man knows,
And as lost homes are:
But though older far
Than oldest yew, –
As our hills are, old, –
Again and again:
Young as our streams
And as dear
As the earth which you prove
That we love.
Make me content
With some sweetness
Have no wings, –
From Wiltshire and Kent
And Herefordshire, –
And the villages there, –
From the names, and the things
Let me sometimes dance
Or stand perchance
Fixed and free
In a rhyme,
As poets do.
When first I came here I had hope,
Hope for I knew not what. Fast beat
My heart at the sight of the tall slope
Or grass and yews, as if my feet
Only by scaling its steps of chalk
Would see something no other hill
Ever disclosed. And now I walk
Down it the last time. Never will
My heart beat so again at sight
Of any hill although as fair
And loftier. For infinite
The change, late unperceived, this year,
The twelfth, suddenly, shows me plain.
Hope now,—not health nor cheerfulness,
Since they can come and go again,
As often one brief hour witnesses,—
Just hope has gone forever. Perhaps
I may love other hills yet more
Than this: the future and the maps
Hide something I was waiting for.
One thing I know, that love with chance
And use and time and necessity
Will grow, and louder the heart’s dance
At parting than at meeting be.
He has robbed two clubs. The judge at Salisbury
Can’t give him more than he undoubtedly
Deserves. The scoundrel! Look at his photograph!
A lady-killer! Hanging’s too good by half
For such as he.’ So said the stranger, one
With crimes yet undiscovered or undone.
But at the inn the Gipsy dame began:
‘Now he was what I call a gentleman.
He went along with Carrie, and when she
Had a baby he paid up so readily
His half a crown. Just like him. A crown’d have been
More like him. For I never knew him mean.
Oh! but he was such a nice gentleman. Oh!
Last time we met he said if me and Joe
Was anywhere near we must be sure and call.
He put his arms around our Amos all
As if he were his own son. I pray God
Save him from justice! Nicer man never trod.’
First Known when Lost
I never had noticed it until
‘Twas gone, – the narrow copse
Where now the woodman lops
The last of the willows with his bill
It was not more than a hedge overgrown.
One meadow’s breadth away
I passed it day by day.
Now the soil is bare as bone,
And black betwixt two meadows green,
Though fresh-cut f*g got ends
Of hazel made some amends
With a gleam as if flowers they had been.
Strange it could have hidden so near!
And now I see as I look
That the small winding brook,
A tributary’s tributary, rises there.
The Cherry Trees
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.
No One So Much As You
No one so much as you
Loves this my clay,
Or would lament as you
Its dying day.
You know me through and through
Though I have not told,
And though with what you know
You are not bold.
None ever was so fair
As I thought you:
Not a word can I bear
Spoken against you.
All that I ever did
For you seemed coarse
Compared with what I hid
Nor put in force.
My eyes scarce dare meet you
Lest they should prove
I but respond to you
And do not love.
We look and understand,
We cannot speak
Except in trifles and
Words the most weak.
For I at most accept
Your love, regretting
That is all: I have kept
Only a fretting
That I could not return
All that you gave
And could not ever burn
With the love you have,
Till sometimes it did seem
Better it were
Never to see you more
Than linger here
With only gratitude
Instead of love –
A pine in solitude
Cradling a dove.
Women he liked, did shovel-bearded Bob,
Old Farmer Hayward of the Heath, but he
Loved horses. He himself was like a cob
And leather-coloured. Also he loved a tree.
For the life in them he loved most living things,
But a tree chiefly. All along the lane
He planted elms where now the stormcock sings
That travellers hear from the slow-climbing train.
Till then the track had never had a name
For all its thicket and the nightingales
That should have earned it. No one was to blame
To name a thing beloved man sometimes fails.
Many years since, Bob Hayward died, and now
None passes there because the mist and the rain
Out of the elms have turned the lane to slough
And gloom, the name alone survives, Bob’s Lane.
Unless it was that day I never knew
Ambition. 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 wide sky.
With loud long laughter then a woodpecker
Ridiculed the sadness of the owl’s last cry.
And through the valley where all the folk astir
Made only plumes of pearly smoke to tower
Over dark trees and white meadows happier
Than was Elysium in that happy hour,
A train that roared along raised after it
And carried with it a motionless white bower
Of purest cloud, from end to end close-knit,
So fair it touched the roar with silence. Time
Was powerless while that lasted. I could sit
And think I had made the loveliness of prime,
Breathed its life into it and were its lord,
And no mind lived save this ‘twixt clouds and rime.
Omnipotent was I, nor even deplored
That I did nothing. But the end fell like a bell:
The bower was scattered; far off the train roared.
But if this was ambition I cannot tell.
What ’twas ambition for I know not well.
Tall nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.
This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.
The Dark Forest
Dark is the forest and deep, and overhead
Hang stars like seeds of light
In vain, though not since they were sown was bred
Anything more bright.
And evermore mighty multitudes ride
About, nor enter in;
Of the other multitudes that dwell inside
Never yet was one seen.
The forest foxglove is purple, the marguerite
Outside is gold and white,
Nor can those that pluck either blossom greet
The others, day or night.
Like the Touch of Rain
Like the touch of rain she was
On a man’s flesh and hair and eyes
When the joy of walking thus
Has taken him by surprise:
With the love of the storm he burns,
He sings, he laughs, well I know how,
But forgets when he returns
As I shall not forget her ‘Go now’.
Those two words shut a door
Between me and the blessed rain
That was never shut before
And will not open again.
Thinking of her had saddened me at first,
Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie
Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame,
A living thing, not what before I nursed,
The shadow I was growing to love almost,
The phantom, not the creature with bright eye
That I had thought never to see, once lost.
She found the celandines of February
Always before us all. Her nature and name
Were like those flowers, and now immediately
For a short swift eternity back she came,
Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore
Her brightest bloom among the winter hues
Of all the world; and I was happy too,
Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who
Had seen them with me February’s before,
Bending to them as in and out she trod
And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.
But this was a dream; the flowers were not true,
Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there
One of five petals and I smelt the juice
Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more,
Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.
As the Clouds that are so Light
As the clouds that are so light,
Beautiful, swift, and bright,
Cast shadows on field and park
Of the earth that is so dark,
And even so now, light one!
Beautiful, swift and bright one!
You let fall on a heart that was dark,
Unillumined, a deeper mark.
But clouds would have, without earth
To shadow, far less worth:
Away from your shadow on me
Your beauty less would be,
And if it still be treasured
An age hence, it shall be measured
By this small dark spot
Without which it were not.
But These Things Also
But these things also are Spring’s –
On banks by the roadside the grass
Long-dead that is greyer now
Than all the Winter it was;
The shell of a little snail bleached
In the grass; chip of flint, and mite
Of chalk; and the small birds’ dung
In splashes of purest white:
All the white things a man mistakes
For earliest violets
Who seeks through Winter’s ruins
Something to pay Winter’s debts,
While the North blows, and starling flocks
By chattering on and on
Keep their spirits up in the mist,
And Spring’s here, Winter’s not gone.
The sweetest thing, I thought
At one time, between earth and heaven
Was the first smile
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, and loudly rings ‘cuckoo’
And sharply the nightingale’s ‘tsoo, tsoo, tsoo, tsoo’:
To say ‘God bless it’ was all that I could do.
But now I know one sweeter
By far since the day Emily
Turned weeping back
To me, still happy me,
To ask forgiveness, –
Yet smiled with half a certainty
To be forgiven, – for what
She had never done; I knew not what it might be,
Nor could she tell me, having now forgot,
By rapture carried with me past all care
As to an isle in April lovelier
Than April’s self. ‘God bless you’ I said to her.
There they stand, on their ends, the fifty f*g gots
That once were underwood of hazel and ash
In Jenny Pink’s copse. Now, by the hedge
Close packed, they make a thicket fancy alone
Can creep through with the mouse and wren. Next spring
A blackbird or robin will nest there,
Accustomed to them, thinking they will remain
Whatever is for ever to a bird:
This Spring it is too late; the swift has come.
‘Twas a hot day for carrying them up:
Better they will never warm me, though they must
Light several Winters’ fires. Before they are done
The war will have ended, many other things
Have ended, maybe, that I can no more
Foresee or more control than robin and wren.
After You Speak
After you speak
And what you meant
Meet yours that mean,
With your cheeks and hair,
Something more wise,
And far different.
Even so the lark
And nestles in it
Before he must
Soar in lone flight
Like a black star
He seems –
Of singing dust
And sheds no light.
I know your lust
What matter makes my spade for tears or mirth,
Letting down two clay pipes into the earth?
The one I smoked, the other a soldier
Of Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet
Perhaps. The dead man’s immortality
Lies represented lightly with my own,
A yard or two nearer the living air
Than bones of ancients who, amazed to see
Almighty God erect the mastodon,
Once laughed, or wept, in this same light of day.
The rain of a night and a day and a night
Stops at the light
Of this pale choked day. The peering sun
Sees what has been done.
The road under the trees has a border new
of purple hue
Inside the border of bright thin grass:
For all that has
Been left by November of leaves is torn
From hazel and thorn
And the greater trees. Throughout the copse
No dead leaf drops
On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern,
At the wind’s return:
The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed
Are thinly spread
In the road, like little black fish, inlaid,
As if they played.
What hangs from the myriad branches down there
So hard and bare
Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see
On one crab-tree.
And on each twig of every tree in the dell
Crystals both dark and bright of the the rain
That begins again.
All day and night, save winter, every weather,
Above the inn, the smithy and the shop,
The aspens at the cross-roads talk together
Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.
Out of the blacksmith’s cavern comes the ringing
Of hammer, shoe and anvil; out of the inn
The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing –
The sounds that for these fifty years have been.
The whisper of the aspens is not drowned,
And over lightless pane and footless road,
Empty as sky, with every other sound
No ceasing, calls their ghosts from their abode,
A silent smithy, a silent inn, nor fails
In the bare moonlight or the thick-furred gloom,
In the tempest or the night of nightingales,
To turn the cross-roads to a ghostly room.
And it would be the same were no house near.
Over all sorts of weather, men, and times,
Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear
But need not listen, more than to my rhymes.
Whatever wind blows, while they and I have leaves
We cannot other than an aspen be
That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves,
Or so men think who like a different tree.