EDWARD THOMAS (1878-1917) walked English pathways, felt blades of grass, transcribed birdcalls, and noted the color of insects in Wiltshire meadows. A working writer, he produced criticism, travel journals, novels, literary biographies — everything except poetry, until December 1914, when he took it up and found he could channel his love of raw country straight into figurative language.
The Great War was on. Though he didn’t have to go, he went. The damned grandiose imperative gripped him. He was not a warrior but a poet who, in the strange way of other poets, saw combat as his destiny. Made an officer and shipped to France, he survived the Battle of Arras. Then he stood to take a smoke and was plowed under by a shell to feed the grass that had fed him. Destiny.
In Thomas, Nature is eerily alive, a conspiracy of omens:
Dark hangs the sycamore,
Shadowing kennel and bones
And the black dog that shakes his chain and moans.
In Thomas’s Nature, people can disappear. In “The Other,” a man on a walking tour of country inns finds his double preceding him at each stop:
I wait and hear the starlings wheeze
And nibble like ducks: I wait his flight.
He goes: I follow: no release
Until he ceases. Then I also shall cease.
Thomas’s Nature sings, echoes, beckons. His lashing landscape makes the chaos of our constructed world seem tame.
I dream on windy nights of being in tall grass, in the clamor of owls and thrushes, of creeping like a ghost, looking for the other.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Robyn Hitchcock.
READ MORE about members of the Psychonauts Generation (1874-83).