Edward Thomas's 'Oxford', printed in 1903, saved the family from the 'gutter and bankruptcy.'
Words or pictures first? My copy, a rather expensive birthday present, privileged the John Fulleylove paintings above the text., and Edward Thomas was commissioned to accompany them.
Oxford' is a strange book, peopled with semi-fictitious characters, half amalgamations of people he knew, half imaginary, and many reflecting himself as a visitor or undergraduate. It is not everyone's cup of tea, although there is a good deal of humour in it.
The poem: March -
Edna Longley links this with Robert Frost's urging Edward Thomas to turn the prose of In Pursuit of Spring into poetry. 'March blends several March days and Thomas's perennial pursuit of spring into a quintessential symbol' Longley, The Annotated Collected Poems.
Now I know that Spring will come again,
Perhaps to-morrow: however late I've patience
After this night following on such a day.
While still my temples ached from the cold burning
Of hail and wind, and still the primroses
Torn by the hail were covered up in it,
The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light
And a tenderness, almost warmth, where the hail dripped,
As if the mighty sun wept tears of joy.
But 'twas too late for warmth. The sunset piled
Mountains on mountains of snow and ice in the west:
Somewhere among their folds the wind was lost,
And yet 'twas cold, and though I knew that Spring
Would come again, I knew it had not come,
That it was lost too in those mountains chill.
What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail,
Had kept them quiet as the primroses.
They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang,
On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches
And while they fought, if they remembered to fight:
So earnest were they to pack into that hour
Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon
Grew brighter than the clouds. Then 'twas no time
For singing merely. So they could keep off silence
And night, they cared not what they sang or screamed;
Whether 'twas hoarse or sweet or fierce or soft;
And to me all was sweet: they could do no wrong.
Something they knew--I also, while they sang
And after. Not till night had half its stars
And never a cloud, was I aware of silence
Stained with all that hour's songs, a silence
Saying that Spring returns, perhaps to-morrow.