I was reading my New York Review of Books magazine the other day and read an interesting review written by Helen Vendler on a biography of Edward Thomas (unless you are a NRYB subscriber I don’t think you will be able to read the whole article online). Thomas, born in 1878, was widely known as a prose writer until he met Robert Frost in 1913 and, under Frost’s encouragement, began writing poetry. Thomas eventually enlisted in the war and was killed at the front in France in 1917.
As I was reading this article, admiring Vendler’s writing and criticism and becoming excited both by the biography and Thomas’s poetry, I had this niggling feeling that something about Thomas was really familiar. I was sure I had never heard of him before and yet… And then Vendler mentioned Thomas loved to walk and was a well known nature writer. A light came on. I searched through the formidable pile of books on the table next to my reading chair, and there it was.
Of course I had to start reading the book. It is such a small book, only about 100 pages, that adding it to my in progress books surely wouldn’t make a difference. I’ve read about 25 pages so far and what a lovely little book this is. It is composed of essays, a few long ones but most only a few pages. The first essay is a long one, “Spring on the Pilgrim’s Way.” The Pilgrim’s Way is a trail that pilgrims in Winchester took Canterbury. Apparently it still exists and can still be walked.
Thomas describes what he sees along the way in spring. I will give you a small taste. He is near the North Downs and late sunshine streams across a meadow and into a beech wood:
For a moment the trees lose their anchor in the solid earth. They are floating, wavering, shimmering, more aerial and pure and wild than birds or any visible things, than aught except music and the fantasies of the brain. The mind takes flight and hovers among the leaves with whatsoever powers it has akin to dew and trembling lark’s song and rippling water; it is throbbed away not only above the ponderous earth but below the firmament in the middle world of footless fancies and half thoughts that drift hither and thither and know neither a heaven nor a home. It is a loss of a name and not of a belief that forbids us to say to-day that sprites flutter and tempt there among the new leaves of the beeches in the late May light.
Isn’t that lovely? I am not surprised he had success later as a poet.
Since I am not done with the book you just get that little teaser with the promise of more.
And here is another teaser of sorts. Tomorrow, March 14th is Pi Day (3.14). Mine will be pumpkin.