Friday, February 15, 2013

 Leaving High Beech; Edward Thomas and Robert Frost on Snow.

copyright Keith Talbot

                                                            Out in The Dark.

I am citing from 'First Known When Lost', the  remarkable blog of Stephen Peltz,  a retired attorney in the States, quite the most erudite, encyclopaedic  man you could imagine. His illustrations, too, are marvels of imaginative thinking and seeking.

"Out In The Dark Over The Snow": Edward Thomas And Robert Frost

Robert Frost's "Desert Places" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" put me in mind of a poem by Edward Thomas. Thomas's poem in turn reminds me of the affinity between Thomas and Frost. For both of them, the darkness (of a forest or of night or of interstellar space) is frightening as well as alluring: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep" (Frost); "Dark is the forest and deep, and overhead/Hang stars like seeds of light/In vain" (Thomas); "They cannot scare me with their empty spaces/Between stars" (Frost). (And consider also Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" and "An Old Man's Winter Night".)"

Thomas wrote the first draft of the following poem on Christmas Eve of 1916 while he was on leave with his family at High Beech in Essex.

Out in the Dark

Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.

Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when a lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned;

And star and I and wind and deer
Are in the dark together, -- near,
Yet far, -- and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.

How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.

I can't print out Frost's 'Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening', but much better than that, you can hear him read it - just put the title, his name +Youtube and there it will be.

A Conscious Englishman
Here are two extracts from 'Helen's' voice in the novel:

'Still Edward liked the little house, the deer, the starlight, lamplight on the trees by the window. He liked the way darkness rushed in when the lamp was turned out. He would walk into the deepest, darkest part of the forest and come home very late. No white pebbles for him. This was habitual with him. It seemed as though he chose to lose himself whenever he found a forest that would serve. But I was afraid of what he was thinking while he walked alone so long.'
'The day passed happily. As soon as tea was over I went out and lit the coloured candles on the Christmas tree, then Edward carried it in from where Merfyn had hidden it in the woodshed. Myfanwy was entranced. She’d never seen a Christmas tree before.
After tea we sat near the fire, eating nuts and talking or reading our new books. Then Edward took Baba on his knee and sang Welsh songs and some rousing army ones.
It was just before her bedtime that I watched the two of them, Baba on a chair by the window, looking out at the snow and Edward behind her looking out too. They were hoping to see deer.
‘Shall we see any? Are they out there?’ she asked. I remember that she wondered if they were cold and frightened, out in the dark, not like her, safe in the cosy sitting room, with the lamp lit and her father’s hand on her shoulder. That was when I wept.'
I wrote the last because Edward, sending the poem to Eleanor Farjeon, commented, 'It is really Baba who speaks, not I. Something she felt put me on to it.' Myfanwy had been nervous of going into the sitting room to watch for deer because it was dark but was able to when her father stood with her. It was almost the last time she would have his protection.
(For a very weird experience, you may or may not like this: 'poetry reincarnations' on Youtube, animated 'readings by' Edward Thomas, Eleanor Farjeon and no doubt countless others - Shakespeare, Wordsworth perhaps? No, but there is Machiavelli, Jane Austen, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson. Some do have the real soundtrack of the author's voice.
 I quite like the Eleanor one though I know the voice is wrong, too low. But 'Edward' reading Adlestrop and The Gallows - just too bizarre, though I suspect the voice is probably close. Comments?)
Publishing matters
Frank has been contacting librairies and bookshops. He has put the Sunday broadcast on his Streetbooks site - only a  couple of minutes relate to the book specifically.
We were both pleased to see the review in the Oxford Times - it's  attached to the previous blog.I grumbled a bit about the word 'recycled' which suggests 'cut and paste' and it most certainly was not. And I was sorry not to see the cover ...but it's no use quibbling, and I'm very pleased to see it especially as the last full-scale review was of 'The Real Jane Austen' by Paula Byrne. She was awarded 4 stars so I'm happy with my 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment