Edward Thomas: “6.IV.15”
Here’s the manuscript of a poem Edward Thomas titled simply “6.IV.15:”
The poem, of course, is better known as “In Memoriam (Easter 1915):”
The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.
The title in the manuscript (“6.IV.15”) is most likely the date Thomas wrote the poem: 6 April, 1915. We know that during the 2nd and 3rd of April of that year, Thomas worked on the much longer poem “Lob” (an exploration of English folklore and mythology). He wrote “In Memoriam” a few days later, his thoughts now turned to the war.
In 1915, Easter fell on April 4th, so if Thomas wrote this piece on the 6th, the poem would have been written on the Tuesday following Easter Sunday.
Thomas felt torn between his duty to his wife and children and his duty to serve his country, a conflict his good friend Robert Frost was aware of through Thomas’s letters. In June, 1915, Frost mailed “The Road Not Taken” (one of the most misunderstood poems in English) to Thomas — the poem was likely written in the Fall of 1914, a time during which Frost and Thomas often walked together in the woods around Dymock, England, before Frost’s return to America.
On July 19, 1915, Thomas joined the English Army even though at 37 and married with children, he would have been exempted.
(Thomas, left, and Frost, likely in late 1914)
Thomas did not deploy to France until early 1917. He was killed a little over two months later, on the first day of the battle of Arras, on April 9, 1917, one day after Easter Sunday.
I’ve previously written about Now All Roads Lead to France, an excellent biography of Thomas that covers the formative years of 20th Century poetry.