Settings, High Beech, Epping Forest and Loughton
The Thomases left Steep, but Steep has never forgotten the Thomases. Edward's name is on the war memorial there, not here.
The old nurseryman' s cottage at High Beech (now Beach) was Edward's home very briefly:from November 1916 to early January 1915. And for most of that he was away in Army Camp at Romford and later Trowbridge. Helen stayed on only a very short time after his death.
They moved for several reasons: to be nearer to London, for family and Merfyn's apprenticeship, and also because of some disappointment with Steep.
A third reason - being closer for Edward to come on leave - had no meaning given the decision he was about to make, of volunteering to go abroad. Possibly Edward thought it would be better for Helen to be nearer London, her sister and Eleanor, should the worst happen
The cottage where they lived is no longer there, but this is the area, on the western side of Epping Forest, Paul's Nursery Road, High Beech.
An extract from 'Helen's'
Pollarded trees grown old.
The Poem: The Dark Forest
Thomas was wary of using 'a too obvious metaphor' and 'entirely conscious symbolism' and had some anxiety about the poem. Edna Longley comments that 'one context may be the increasing 'multitudes' of war dead.
She prints a discarded last stanza from the second draft, which I have added after the asterisk. What do we make of it, I wonder - comments most welcome.
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.
Not even beloved and lover or child and mother,
One from within, one from
Without the forest could recognise each other,
Since they have changed their home.