Thursday, March 7, 2013

Edward Thomas on the Water

Taken from Eleanor Farjeon 'The Last Four Years' .1997 Sutton Edition

Edward and Merfyn went on a week's holiday in 1913 on the Norfolk Broads with Eleanor Farjeon and two friends of hers. He went fishing every day without catching a thing, and he and Eleanor walked together. The friends left a day early and Eleanor, Edward and Merfyn spent another night and day together. What must that have been like for Eleanor, I wonder. She says nothing about that.


Merfyn took the photo of the four adults - Edward and the other man holding plates behind their heads at Edward's suggestion - pretending to be saints with haloes. And here is Edward Thomas washing up.

'The River Isis

On the right is the gold-and-white barge of Magdalen College undergoing repair. The masts and barges of other Colleges line the side of the river, and Folly Bridge closes the prospect.'
'Oxford', 1903
(One barge remains, upstream from Donnington Bridge. It's someone's home but open during Artweeks, May 4th onwards this year.)

More Boats

Edward was a keen rower when he was at Oxford and would have rowed between the boat-houses near Folly Bridge and Iffley lock. He wrote in 'Oxford' about the races between colleges - it sounds just like today's except that now, of course,  there are women.

c.Sarah Lawrence
The Poem - quieter waters -this is quite the most contented poem of Edward Thomas I know.

Naught moves but clouds, and in the glassy lake
Their doubles and the shadow of my boat.
The boat itself stirs only when I break
This drowse of heat and solitude afloat
To prove if what I see be bird or mote,
Or learn if yet the shore woods be awake.

Long hours since dawn grew, - spread, - and passed on high
And deep below, - I have watched the cool reeds hung
Over images more cool in imaged sky:
Nothing there was worth thinking of for long;
All that the ring-doves say, far leaves among,
Brims my mind with content thus still to lie.
A local footnote.                                              

I walk from Donnington to Iffley most days even though sadly without our beloved Greg who died in January 2012. (We are still looking out for another dog - ideally a mongrel puppy- hard to find.)
Over the last few months the lock at Iffley has been very unsightly but interesting, as the lock gates are being replaced. I spoke to the carpenters today, asking what wood they were using. It's Ekki and Greenheart - tropical woods that are too dense to become saturated under water. They are Stewardship approved, he told me.
I was surprised that they use wood, not steel these days, and elsewhere they have used steel, but apparently these wooden gates should last sixty years. Steel lasts about forty.
One of the new gates visible.


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