Posts Tagged ‘First World War’

Easter Magazine Article

Monday, March 19th, 2012

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.
Edward Thomas In Memorium (Easter 1915)

The last of the Great War combatants has now passed on; diplomatic tensions mark 30 years since the end of the Falklands War; and the conflict in Afghanistan still rages after more than a decade. Where can we glimpse the new life of Easter? Edward Thomas sees Easter in nature’s abundance of “flowers left thick at nightfall” but also sees the Easter life extinguished as so many First World War soldiers will never again gather flowers with their sweethearts. The men are absent because of both the physical and psychological violence of conflict.

Thomas, a First War poet, battled depression and struggled, “plagued with work, burning my candle at 3 ends”. His depression made him cruel to his family and left him contemplating suicide. Rather like a Christian hermit he found solace in the countryside. The rhythm of walking around Hampshire, observing and recording with an ever present notebook, inspired him. That inspiration was unlocked by a deep friendship with the American poet Robert Frost which resulting in an explosion of poetic writing for two years before he was posted to France.

Thomas does not write about faith but was inspired by the rhythm of Christian life, “The church and yew / And farmhouse slept in a Sunday silentness.” I also remember his Prayer Book in an Imperial War Museum exhibition and wondered how the seasons of the church’s year inspired the insights of his pastoral poetry. For me he does epitomise something of the hope of faith. Out of the darkness of war and mental illness he records profound insights. “Beauty is there”, he proclaims despite or even because of his struggles. In another poem he is frustrated by his inability to describe the, “The glory of the beauty of the morning”, just as so many theologians have struggled to describe the glory of God.

Thomas was killed by a close passing shell just after Easter 1917. He fell with no mark on his body and his clay pipe was unbroken. His local understated poetry would have resonated with the empty tomb of Mark’s first gospel and the inability to describe the resurrection on that first Easter morn.

Wishing you a beautiful Easter Paul