Mike Canoy

Recent CS Grad from WWU

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CSCI 491: Dulce et Decorum est

A blog for Senior Project 1 about sonnets and trenches

Enlist Now Rupert Brooke Charles Sorley Edward Thomas Isaac Rosenberg Wilfred Owen Pro Patria Mori

Edward Thomas: The Sun Used to Shine

Friday, April 29, 2016

Thomas circa 1905. Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Our previous poets were both young and early in their literary careers, lost before their prime. Conversely, our next poet did have an accomplished literary career, rather as a critic and novelist than as a poet. Before the war, he was married with three children, an unlikely candidate to enlist into the British Army. Peculiar that he would end up as a war poet, but let's look at what drove him to the Western Front.

Edward Thomas was born March 3, 1878 in Lambeth, Surrey to a Welsh family. [1] Thomas' father was a railway clerk who Thomas had an adversarial relationship with. [2] While in St. Paul's School in London, Thomas met James Noble, a literary journalist, who encouraged Thomas' literary interests and would help Thomas' publish his first novel. Thomas attended Lincoln College, Oxford where as an undergraduate he married Noble's daughter, Helen Noble. After college, Thomas steadily produced an incredible amount writing, including: book reviews, biographies, criticism, and fiction. Over the course of Thomas' career, Thomas befriended American writer Robert Frost, who by 1912 relocated his family to Britain. [3] Thomas and Frost were close friends who frequently took walks together and even planned to live near each other in America. Thomas started writing poems on Frost's insistence, but initially published them under a pseudonym.

A path in Dymock Woods, where Thomas and Frost would have taken their walks together. Philip Halling / CC BY-SA 2.0

After Frost returned to New England, Frost sent Thomas an early copy of The Road Not Taken in 1915. [4] Frost intended to poke fun at the indecision Thomas showed on their walks. Frost mentioned that Thomas was "a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other." But the poem is often read more seriously as a traveler who takes responsibility and forges their own path. The poem was personal to Thomas, and did not take it lightly. To Thomas, the poem was a stab at his confidence from someone who keenly knew his flaws, leaving him feeling like a fraud as a writer and a coward in his indecision. [5] By July, Thomas enlisted in the British Army, even though he was 37 years old, a husband, a father, and an establish writer. Thomas did not volunteer solely over the poem, but was significant in informing Thomas' decision down a path of irreversible events. At the time, Thomas was conflicted about the war, but felt pressed to take action after reading the poem.

In Thomas' Rain, the rain is "washing me cleaner than I have been / Since I was born into solitude." Not "Washed by the rivers" like we read in Rupert Brooke's The Soldier, but that the rain has "dissolved" everything except Thomas' will to die. When we read Charles Sorley's Such, Such is Death, death is an "empty pail" and the notion that 'death in battle was meaningful' was a "bright Promise, withered long and sped." Thomas writes that "Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon," but from Thomas' tone, this is not honor in Brooke's sense. But seems more of a release from pain, and certainly not empty in Sorley's sense. There is a sense of helplessness in Thomas similar to Sorley, but is more explicitly experienced more before death rather than after. We see this change in writing from Brooke, to Sorley, to Thomas. Brooke romanticize war and nationalism. Sorley has lost idealism and is acute to German soldiers. Thomas is in despair and solitude. How these writers are changing in style and expression is a touchstone to the dread of the war and a precursor to art's evolution into modernism. Themes of melancholy and detachment will continue through past the war, and will prompt artists to reject establishment and forge modern art.


Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me Remembering again that I shall die And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks For washing me cleaner than I have been Since I was born into solitude. Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon: But here I pray that none whom once I loved Is dying tonight or lying still awake Solitary, listening to the rain, Either in pain or thus in sympathy Helpless among the living and the dead, Like a cold water among broken reeds, Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff, Like me who have no love which this wild rain Has not dissolved except the love of death, If love it be towards what is perfect and Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

Thomas was killed in action on April 9, 1917 at the Battle of Arras from a shot through the chest. [6] To soften the blow, his widow Helen was told he died from a concussive shell blast stopping his heart. Thomas was buried at the Agny Military Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

The Sun Used to Shine

The sun used to shine while we two walked Slowly together, paused and started Again, and sometimes mused, sometimes talked As either pleased, and cheerfully parted Each night. We never disagreed Which gate to rest on. The to be And the late past we gave small heed. We turned from men or poetry To rumours of the war remote Only till both stood disinclined For aught but the yellow flavorous coat Of an apple wasps had undermined; Or a sentry of dark betonies, The stateliest of small flowers on earth, At the forest verge; or crocuses Pale purple as if they had their birth In sunless Hades fields. The war Came back to mind with the moonrise Which soldiers in the east afar Beheld then. Nevertheless, our eyes Could as well imagine the Crusades Or Caesar's battles. Everything To faintness like those rumours fade— Like the brook's water glittering Under the moonlight—like those walks Now—like us two that took them, and The fallen apples, all the talks And silence—like memory's sand When the tide covers it late or soon, And other men through other flowers In those fields under the same moon Go talking and have easy hours.