Friday, May 15, 2009

Edward Thomas - The Collected Poems

Reading at the moment: Edward Thomas : The Annotated Collected Poems edited by Edna Longley published by Bloodaxe.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917) was 37 when he enlisted in 1915; unlike some of the younger war poets he had a wife and two children when he decided he could no longer sit out the war and enlisted.

Thomas had been a professional reviewer and editor but it was not until his friend Robert Frost encouraged him that he began writing poetry. He wrote all of the 139 poems contained in this collection in just two years. Most of his poetry is based on his feeling for the English countryside and for an England which was far removed from the jingoistic image of England being portrayed at the time. In This is no case of petty right or wrong he began:

This is no case of petty right or wrong
That politicians or philosophers
Can judge. I hate not Germans, nor grow hot
With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers.

Edna Longley's revised edition of his poems, has nearly 200 pages of notes to just over 100 pages of poetry. She uses chunks of quotations from Thomas's voluminous prose works and from his letters to give the backgrounds and sometimes the sources of the poem.

One of Thomas' most famous poems is Adlestrop - it's the one about the express train stopping unexpectedly at a railway station. Read it here. He was killed the day after Easter in 1917.

Guardian review of the collection here, the London Times review here.

The Edward Thomas collection homepage of the First World War Poetry Digital Archive.
Interesting comparison between Thomas and Hopkins on this page which contains a link to Robert Pinsky reading a Thomas poem.

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