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 blosom greet
The others, day or night.
What matter makes my spade for tears or mirth,
Letting down two clay pipes into the earth?
The one I smoked, the other a soldier
Of Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet
Perhaps. The dead man’s immortality
Lies represented lightly with my own,
A yard or two nearer the living air
Than bones of ancients who, amazed to see
Almighty God erect the mastodon,
Once laughed, or wept, in this same light of day.
To-day I think
Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;
Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;
The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.
It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
Over known fields with an old friend in dream
I walked, but came sudden to a strange stream.
Its dark waters were bursting out most bright
From a great mountain’s heart into the light.
They ran a short course under the sun, then back
Into a pit they plunged, once more as black
As at their birth; and I stood thinking there
How white, had the day shone on them, they were,
Heaving and coiling. So by the roar and hiss
And by the mighty motion of the abyss
I was bemused, that I forgot my friend
And neither saw nor sought him till the end,
When I awoke from waters unto men
Saying: ‘I shall be here some day again.’
Early one morning in May I set out,
And nobody I knew was about.
I’m bound away for ever,
Away somewhere, away for ever.
There was no wind to trouble the weathercocks.
I had burnt my letters and darned my socks.
No one knew I was going away,
I thought myself I should come back some day.
I heard the brook through the town gardens run.
O sweet was the mud turned to dust by the sun.
A gate banged in a fence and banged in my head.
‘A fine morning, sir’, a shepherd said.
I could not return from my liberty,
To my youth and my love and my misery.
The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet,
The only sweet thing that is not also fleet.
I’m bound away for ever,
Away somehwere, away for ever.
There they stand, on their ends, the fifty faggots
That once were underwood of hazel and ash
In Jenny Pink’s copse. Now, by the hedge
Close packed, they make a thicket fancy alone
Can creep through with the mouse and wren. Next spring
A blackbird or robin will nest there,
Accustomed to them, thinking they will remain
Whatever is for ever to a bird:
This Spring it is too late; the swift has come.
‘Twas a hot day for carrying them up:
Better they will never warm me, though they must
Light several Winters’ fires. Before they are done
The war will have ended, many other things
Have ended, maybe, that I can no more
Foresee or more control than robin and wren.
I never had noticed it until
‘Twas gone, – the narrow copse
Where now the woodman lops
The last of the willows with his bill
It was not more than a hedge overgrown.
One meadow’s breadth away
I passed it day by day.
Now the soil is bare as bone,
And black betwixt two meadows green,
Though fresh-cut faggot ends
Of hazel made some amends
With a gleam as if flowers they had been.
Strange it could have hidden so near!
And now I see as I look
That the small winding brook,
A tributary’s tributary, rises there.
An acre of land between the shore and the hills,
Upon a ledge that shows my kingdoms three,
The lovely visible earth and sky and sea
Where what the curlew needs not, the farmer tills:
A house that shall love me as I love it,
Well-hedged, and honoured by a few ash trees
That linnets, greenfinches, and goldfinches
Shall often visit and make love in and flit:
A garden I need never go beyond,
Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one
Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun:
A spring, a brook’s bend, or at least a pond:
For these I ask not, but, neither too late
Nor yet too early, for what men call content,
And also that something may be sent
To be contented with, I ask of Fate.
To the best of our knowledge, Edward Thomas’s poetry is ex-copyright in the United Kingdom. In so far as any rights can be established in this on-line collection, they are reserved by The Richmond Review.
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