Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

March Magazine – Edward Thomas

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Dreading his frown and worse his laughter

Edward Thomas The OtherĀ  1914


Our book group is exploring the life of the First World War poet Edward Thomas by reading Matthew Hollis’ Now All Roads Lead to France. It’s turned my view of Thomas upside down. Previously, I associated him with the beauty and melancholy of the Hampshire landscape as a pastoral age was overshadowed by war and mechanisation. However, Thomas also writes on the beauty and melancholy of his own internal landscape which, like many people, was wracked with depression and self doubt.


In his internal exploration Thomas encounters the philosopher cycling the Icknield Way from East Anglian to the West Country. Thomas opens with the purpose of his account, “Much has been written of travel, far less of the road.” This is not a guide book but an account of physically navigating an ancient route with its ruts and fatigue. A journey interrupted by a stranger, “Half his life lay behind him like a corpse, so he said, and the other half was before him like a ghost”. This stranger was really Thomas at time of crises and in search of the poet’s pen.


Later he cycles from London to the Somerset coast In Pursuit of Spring and encounters the Other Man. This man, who annoys him and can’t be shaken off, is again Thomas. But it’s the poem, The Other, which takes this further. Thomas is walking but where ever he goes he is mistaken for another man who has just passed that way. He tries to “outrun that other”. Thus “the Other” is unable to rest and the “I” is unable to give up the chase. It’s a harrowing account of what Tomas calls the “joint tenancy” in his head. He feels continually plagued by a critical, mocking interior judge.


The Christian call to holiness is associated with wholeness and an integrated personality. This is achieved when we accept and embrace the damaged parts of our ego. Personal healing often comes at a cost as we first have to recognise and confront our own damaged nature. This is often the part of us which we wish to remain hidden. Thomas does this courageously on the printed page, although it was a work in progress when he was cut down at the battle of Arras in 1917. Our own journeying to wholeness is also a lifetime’s work.


With love and prayers Paul