herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Edward Thomas the poet was killed in action in World War I at the Battle of Arras in 1917. WH Davies, the Welsh poet and his close friend was devastated by his death and immortalised him in a poem, Killed in Action (Edward Thomas).

Edward Thomas the poet was killed in action in World War I at the Battle of Arras in 1917. WH Davies, the Welsh poet and his close friend was devastated by his death and immortalised him in a poem, Killed in Action (Edward Thomas).

Although Thomas is remembered among England's dazzling array of war poets, the extraordinary thing is that he had not begun to write poetry until three years before his death at the age of 39. Until 1914, Thomas had made his living as a biographer and writer of book reviews. However, encouraged by Robert Frost, the American poet, he began to write poetry which was to have a real influence on the course of English verse. With a poet's natural ear Thomas was able to take everyday words and make them glow as he fitted them into rhythms that were running through his mind. So subtle was his craft that sometimes you have to read his verse a number of times before you hear the inner music.

Thomas is best known for his poem, Adlestrop, written about the now-abandoned Cotswolds railway station of that name after his train made a stop there on June 24, 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.

He wrote under the pseudonym Edward Eastaway to disguise his identity due to his fame as a critic. But after his death the Poems by Edward Thomas (Edward Eastaway) were published.

The writer who was most influenced by Thomas' innovations was Philip Larkin, the finest English poet of the second half of the 20th Century.

The poem here, Like The Touch of Rain, takes the reader through various stages of love, loss and des-pair. It should be spoken out loud, and about the third or fourth time you should get the tune. The poem was set to music by Gary Bachlund in 2012.

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