Monday, August 4, 2014

More Thomas Trees.
The soldier's poems, after enlistment. These have trees of significance and perhaps portent. The associations seem to have more of death in them.

Aspens:  The Cherry Trees:Cock Crow: October: The Ash Grove: The Wind's Song: The Team's Headbrass: The Gallows:  and later the Forest Poems - The Green Roads:   The Dark Forest: Light's Out.

Elderly ash trees.

The Ash Grove is a poem I don't remember having read before. The long lines are unfamiliar and perhaps rather uncomfortable at first. Then I remembered  the song and it read better.  Better still after listening to Laura Wright Songs, YouTube, The Ash Grove.

Edward Thomas loved these old English and Welsh songs and sung beautifully himself - at least Helen thought so. The  Ash Grove tune is a traditional Welsh harp melody to which English and Welsh words have been set. The ash was his favourite tree.

 The Ash Grove

Half of the grove stood dead, and those that yet lived made
Little more than the dead ones made of shade.
If they led to a house, long before they had seen its fall:
But they welcomed me; I was glad without cause and delayed.

Scarce a hundred paces under the trees was the interval -
Paces each sweeter than the sweetest miles - but nothing at all,
Not even the spirits of memory and fear with restless wing,
Could climb down in to molest me over the wall

That I passed through at either end without noticing.
And now an ash grove far from those hills can bring
The same tranquillity in which I wander a ghost
With a ghostly gladness, as if I heard a girl sing

The song of the Ash Grove soft as love uncrossed,
And then in a crowd or in distance it were lost,
But the moment unveiled something unwilling to die
And I had what I most desired, without search or desert or cost.
The intervals of a hundred paces  between the trees bring tranquillity, space and rhythm, and it is as Edna Longley points out 'tranquillity recollected in tranquillity' and made poetry.

Someone could set Thomas's  'Ash Grove' to music, perhaps.

By contrast, the short, one or two beat lines of  'Bright Clouds',  (The Pond) which Longley describes as a 'metrical sorbet' after three poems 'weighted with war.' But the 'Nothing to be done' she believes, suggests his impatience for action, and the scum of may-blossom has a darkness to it.

 Most people including the Oxford University digitalisation project call the poem The Pond. Longley being a scholar says there is no justification for that except for a letter to Eleanor Farjeon asking if she'd received his 'poem about the pond?' I think she's losing that particular argument.
 'The Pond' notecard
 Original wood engraving by Yvonne Skargon.
From the Edward Thomas Fellowship notecards . Do see the edwardthomasfellowship website to order these  and eleven more lovely notecards.


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