Saturday 9 April 2022

'Like dove wings on a figure on a tomb...'

 Edward Thomas died on this day in 1917, killed by a shell on Vimy ridge. It was a sad loss to English poetry, an unbearable loss to his family, and a particular loss to his fellow poet Robert Frost, who enjoyed an intense friendship with Thomas and inspired him – previously a prose writer only – to write poetry, with wonderful results. 
Three years after Thomas's death, Frost wrote this poem, To E.T.

I slumbered with your poems on my breast 
Spread open as I dropped them half-read through 
Like dove wings on a figure on a tomb 
To see, if in a dream they brought of you, 

I might not have the chance I missed in life 
Through some delay, and call you to your face 
First soldier, and then poet, and then both, 
Who died a soldier-poet of your race. 

I meant, you meant, that nothing should remain 
Unsaid between us, brother, and this remained— 
And one thing more that was not then to say: 
The Victory for what it lost and gained. 

You went to meet the shell's embrace of fire 
On Vimy Ridge; and when you fell that day 
The war seemed over more for you than me, 
But now for me than you—the other way. 

How over, though, for even me who knew 
The foe thrust back unsafe beyond the Rhine, 
If I was not to speak of it to you 
And see you pleased once more with words of mine? 

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