Edward Thomas

Traffic stop
I get them mixed up, Thomases,
Their names. Although one afternoon
Of jams a coach from Edward’s firm
Drew up beside me. It was June.

The sun broiled. Drivers loosened ties,
Foresaw no progress, and none came
On the hot tarmac. What I saw
Was “Edward Thomas” – just the name,

And passengers – schoolchildren, folk
With briefcases, or out to shop,
No whit less still and lovely fair
Than if they’d stopped at Adlestrop.

Then for a moment one horn blared
Close by, then others, on and on,
Farther and farther, all the horns
Of Cobham and Stoke d’Abernon.

The life story of Edward Thomas (1878-1917) is one of the most remarkable of any major poet. He wrote no poetry at all until he was almost thirty-seven, and died when he was barely thirty-nine. He was inspired by the work of Robert Frost, and Frost encouraged him to write poetry himself. He began to do so in December 1914. In January 1917, after writing his Last Poem in his diary, he embarked from Southampton for the Western Front. On 4th April he read a review of some of his poetry in the Times Literary Supplement. Five days later, he was killed at his observation post at Arras by a stray shell, having survived only 69 days of combat. His best-known poem, Adlestrop, dates from the early part of his poetic career - 1915.

His poems are so quiet and unaggressive - and good - that I feel a bit guilty about writing a parody at all. But no more than a mile from me, in West Ewell, stands the HQ of a coach operator called Edward Thomas and Son, and I keep seeing their vehicles on the local roads. Eventually, I was bound to succumb to the temptation. Cobham and Stoke d'Abernon are two of the Surrey villages to which this company operates regular services.

I confess I do sometimes get Edward Thomas confused with R S Thomas, for which I have no excuse. I have now written a parody of R S too. Time will tell whether that has cured me.

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© Bob Newman 2007. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 16/02/2007