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A Return To Nature

From ‘A Return to Nature’, a short story in The South Country (1909). Here, Edward Thomas describes a small and rather pathetic demonstration by famished unemployed men in London; the attitudes of various onlookers are particularly telling. This passage reveals his acute conscience regarding social injustice.

The multitude on the pavement continued to press straight onward, or to flit in and out of coloured shops. None looked at the standard, the dark man and his cloudy followers, except a few of the smallest newspaper boys who had a few spare minutes and rushed over to march with them in the hope of music or a speech or a conflict.Continue Reading

From The Heart of England

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.Continue Reading

From Beautiful Wales

From Beautiful Wales (1905). A description of a Welsh clergyman which exemplifies Edward Thomas’s skill at observing traits of character as well as his gentle humour.

He makes a fine figure of Charity in his old age, with his preoccupied blue eyes under a brow that is marked only by three lines like three beams thrown upward by a sun. He has a large, joyous, curving mouth, side-whiskers, careless beard, large feet.

He has but one touch of sentiment. Nearly half a century ago he fell in love with a pretty woman, and unsuccessfully; yet, though she is known to be married and still alive, he has come to have for her memory a grandfatherly tenderness, regarding her as a white and careless girl, in spite of time.… Continue Reading

From the Woodland

From The Woodland Life (1897), Edward Thomas’s first book, published when he was just 19 years old. A description of the English countryside in winter.

At length the road emerges from its groove on to the hill-top, and once more it is level and bounded by narrow woods of spruce, whence comes the startling challenge of the pheasant-cocks. Meanwhile the twilight air has become keener and the wind rises — humming through the green firs. The smaller birds are nearly all in cover, and only a belated pipit or a steady flapping rook moves aloft in the rude air. 

Sometimes, in the hedges that line the way, robins rustle gently and fly a yard or two, or a blackbird blusters out; otherwise the life so lately stirring is silent, and the tomtits are rocked asleep amid the swaying larch-boughs.Continue Reading

The Diary of Edward Thomas

From The Diary of Edward Thomas 1 January – 8 April 1917 (1977). Edward Thomas made this diary entry about six weeks before his death in action on the Western Front.

23 [February 1917]
Chaffinch sang once. Another dull cold day. Inspected stables, checked inventory of new billet for men in Rue Jeanne d’Arc, went with Colonel round 244, 141 and 234 positions and O.P. in Achicourt. Afternoon maps. Partridges twanging in fields. Flooded fields by stream between the 2 sides of Achicourt. ruined churches, churchyard and railway. Sordid ruin of Estaminet with carpenter’s shop over it in Rue Jeanne d’Arc — wet, mortar, litter, almanacs, bottles, broken glass, damp beds, dirty paper, knife, crucifix, statuette, old chairs.Continue Reading