Thursday, 7 August 2014

Another Edward Thomas

From one of the many documentaries marking the centenary of the Kaiser War, I picked up the arresting fact that the man who fired the first British shot of that war shared his name with one of its greatest poets - Edward Thomas. Drummer (later Corporal) Edward Thomas of the 4th Dragoon Guards was on reconnaissance near the village of Casteau in Belgium, on August 22nd, 1914, when his troop came across four German cavalrymen. They chased them down and, in the ensuing confrontation, Thomas shot and wounded one of them. And that was it.
 Thomas himself - the other Edward Thomas, that is - put his feelings about the war and his particular form of patriotism into an angry but wise poem written after a blazing row with his more conventionally patriotic father, on Boxing Day, 1915:

This is no case of petty right or wrong  
That politicians or philosophers  
Can judge.  I hate not Germans, nor grow hot  
With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers.  
Beside my hate for one fat patriot  
My hatred of the Kaiser is love true: –  
A kind of god he is, banging a gong.  
But I have not to choose between the two,  
Or between justice and injustice. Dinned  
With war and argument I read no more  
Than in the storm smoking along the wind 
Athwart the wood. Two witches' cauldrons roar.  
From one the weather shall rise clear and gay;  
Out of the other an England beautiful  
And like her mother that died yesterday.
  
Little I know or care if, being dull,  
I shall miss something that historians  
Can rake out of the ashes when perchance 
The phoenix broods serene above their ken.  
But with the best and meanest Englishmen  
I am one in crying, God save England, lest 
We lose what never slaves and cattle blessed.  
The ages made her that made us from dust:  
She is all we know and live by, and we trust  
She is good and must endure, loving her so:  
And as we love ourselves we hate her foe.

2 comments:

  1. I am very much into Edward Thomas at the moment, thanks for sharing Nige

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