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From The Heart of England

Last updated on 14th February 2021

From The Heart of England (1906). Edward Thomas appears to recount walking with his wife Helen across the fields to the farmhouse where they would live. This precise description of Else’s Farm, near the village of Weald in Kent, which was the Thomases’ home from 1904-1906, remains accurate. This passage also provides an example of Edward Thomas’s lyrical idealism in his prose.

Almost at the end of a long walk, and as a small silver sun was leaving a pale and frosty sky, we began to ascend a broad, heaving meadow which was bordered on our right, on its eastern side, by a long, narrow copse of ash trees. At the top of the meadow, hardly a quarter of a mile away, was a little red farmhouse — yet not so little but that it rose with a maternal dignity among and above the sheds and stables, its children, and, like it, of antique red. The home and dependencies gave out a sense of solidity, independence and seclusion. Our hearts acknowledged at once that it was desirable, saluted it, and were calmly glad at the sight. 

At that moment the tumult of a windy day was entirely gone. The north wind now lay dead upon the long white clouds in the east. The smoke from the farmhouse chimneys flowed southward along the top of the ash trees in a narrow, motionless rivulet in the calm air. Far off the hoofs of the returning hunt clattered decently, and combined with the dim memory of the wind in the trees and sedge to give to the great meadow an emphasised tranquillity like that which fills an invalid’s room when others are just audibly busy about and below. We walked more and more slowly up the meadow. The red house was clear and hard in the grey air, yet with a richness and implicated shadow as of things submerged. Something which it gave out abundantly filled our minds that had for hours played with casual and untraceable thoughts and images — descended like an enthusiasm among criticisms. In a minute the house was beautiful; it seemed to flower with the happiness of men and women and little children living melodiously; there, we thought, must be minds and bodies which, without carelessness and without stupidity, found in life what some expect from the future and some feign to remember in the past; there was character and beauty and strength, which time flowed over in vain. Hither, it seemed, had drifted upon Lethe’s stream all the hopes and wishes and recollections and unaccomplished dreams of unhappy men, and had formed at last a blossoming island in the waste.

And some were enjoying that island now. The very smoke from the chimneys had goodness in it. Even as we walked we turned the moment past into a Golden Age, except that, whenever we looked up towards the house, we knew that all was not yet lost, and that a Golden Age might still succeed the last.

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