A Recommendation and Poem #44: Adlestrop by Edward Thomas

I’m delighted to have found the poetry blog First Known When Lost.  I’ve been enjoying the posts and discussions that Stephen Pentz puts up on his site.  The name of his blog is the title of a poem by Anglo-Welsh poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917).  Thomas started writing poetry rather late in his life.  It turns out, according to Pentz, that Thomas was urged on to write poetry by Robert Frost.  The two men developed quite a friendship while Frost was in England.  Thomas died while serving in World War One.

So first, do visit First Known When Lost if you love poetry.  Even if you don’t , do pop by the site; the blogger is passionate about his subject matter.

Now to today’s poem. In my late teens, my mother brought home a recording of the actor Richard Burton reading selected short pieces and poems by poets and writers such as Shakespeare, Donne, Auden and Dowson.  I think I’ve mentioned this recording before. I will do a post devoted to this recording one of these days.  Anyway, there was a poem by Edward Thomas on the tape.  The poem was “Adlestrop”.  It is simple, clear and striking.  And yet all it aims to do is to describe the scene, peace and tranquility at the train stop.  It’s divine, really.  From First Known When Lost:

On June 24 of 1914, Edward Thomas made the following entry in one of his notebooks:

“Then we stopped at Adlestrop, through the willows could be heard a chain of blackbirds songs at 12.45 and one thrush and no man seen, only a hiss of engine letting off steam.

Stopping outside Campden by banks of long grass willowherb and meadowsweet, extraordinary silence between the two periods of travel — looking out on grey dry stones between metals and the shining metals and over it all the elms willows and long grass — one man clears his throat — a greater than rustic silence. No house in view. Stop only for a minute till signal is up.”

This entry, of course, marks the genesis of “Adlestrop”…

Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

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4 comments

  1. Thank you for pointing out the new blog to us Kinna. Lovely poem as well, it describes the scene well. Really interesting to read the journal entry next to it.

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    • It is, isn’t it. The poem closely approximates his first impression of train stop. I guess journaling is a valuable tool for the creative process.

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  2. English poems drew me into poetry. I first imitated them: their rhymes, acrostic, anagrams etc. My first set of poems is a poor imitation of these. I also love the way they easily form new words to meet their needs and yet one is able to understand these words. Thanks for sharing this though this is the first time I am hearing of him. And the blog too.

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