These chapters show Thomas at his most relaxed, enjoying his cycling or walking and his close observations. They are fairly random in nature - inscriptions on graves, always a source of irony for him, pub names and then overall, of course, signs of Spring.
I find in these chapters a great deal about Edward Thomas and his process of observing and of writing. He prefers walking to cycling when there is mist - walking lets you 'see every small thing one by one',
'the pale green larch plantation where another chiff-chaff was singing, and the tall elm tipped by a linnet pausing and musing a few notes..every primrose and celandine and dandelion on the banks, every silvered gren leaf of honeysuckle up in the hedge, every patch of brightest moss, every luminous drop on a thorn tip.'
Elms - I chose this Wiltshire picture because I think I'm forgetting and some just don't know, how huge elms were and what a loss was suffered when they went.
When he arrived at Trowbridge on a fine Easter Monday he met a crowd leaving the town to walk in the country nearby. The passage gives us insight into his relation to people: he does not mind groups from a country town like this, or a gathering at a village event but he is uneasy and troubled by the crowds that emerge from trains at Clapham junction:
'perhaps I ought to call my feeling fear: alarm comes first, followed rapidly by dislike. .....it is a disintegrated crowd, rather suspicious and shy perhaps, where few know, or could guess much about, the others. When I find myself among them, I am more confused and uneasy than in any other crowd. I cannot settle down in it to notice the three or four or half dozen types, as I should do at Swindon, or Swansea, or Coventry; nor yet please myself as with the general look of a village mob of forty or fifty, and a few of the most remarkable individuals.
There are several poems that are observations of 'remarkable individuals':
The Gypsy, The Huxter, Man and Dog, Up in the Wind of course, The New Year, A Gentleman and the marvellous Jack Noman in
And never will be while May is May,--
The third, and not the last of its kind;
But though fair and clear the two behind
Seemed pursued by tempests overpast;
And the morrow with fear that it could not last
Was spoiled. To-day ere the stones were warm
Five minutes of thunderstorm
Dashed it with rain, as if to secure,
By one tear, its beauty the luck to endure.
Old Jack Noman appeared again,
Jaunty and old, crooked and tall,
And stopped and grinned at me over the wall,
With a cowslip bunch in his button-hole
And one in his cap. Who could say if his roll
Came from flints in the road, the weather, or ale?
He was welcome as the nightingale.
Not an hour of the sun had been wasted on Jack
"I've got my Indian complexion back"
Said he. He was tanned like a harvester,
Like his short clay pipe, like the leaf and bur
That clung to his coat from last night's bed,
Like the ploughland crumbling red.
Fairer flowers were none on the earth
Than his cowslips wet with the dew of their birth,
Or fresher leaves than the cress in his basket.
"Where did they come from, Jack?" "Don't ask it,
And you'll be told no lies." "Very well:
Then I can't buy." "I don't want to sell.
Take them and these flowers, too, free.
Perhaps you have something to give me?
Wait till next time. The better the day . . .
The Lord couldn't make a better, I say;
If he could, he never has done."
So off went Jack with his roll-walk-run,
Leaving his cresses from Oakshott rill
And his cowslips from Wheatham hill.
But though they bit me, I was glad of it:
Of the dust in my face, too, I was glad.
Spring could do nothing to make me sad.
Bluebells hid all the ruts in the copse.
The elm seeds lay in the road like hops,
That fine day, May the twenty-third,
The day Jack Noman disappeared.
To buy A Conscious Englishman direct from the publisher,