Edward Thomas: “6.IV.15”

Here’s the manuscript of a poem Edward Thomas titled simply “6.IV.15:”

20130418-141634.jpg

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.

20130418-150937.jpg

(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.

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    • t h i n g s + f l e s h
    • April 18th, 2013

    masterful. words are ostensibly silent, but this handwritten poem speaks volumes … thank you for sharing this today. tony

  1. Hi Andy et Al,

    You may already know this. I’m not sure if your in the UK or, if you’re not, whether you can access the BBC iPlayer, but BBC Radio 4 is running a series on Edward Thomas called “In Pursuit of Spring”. Episode 1 is available here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rgm2t

    The rest follows on – it’s available for a year.

    God bless the BBC and the licence fee:

    Bernard Lang

    • I’m in the US, I had no idea.

      Thanks for the info

      • Hi Andy,

        >>Thanks for the info

        Nae bother.

        Please let me know whether you can actually access that link. I’m not sure if the Beeb (as we in the UK affectionately call the BBC) discriminates against foreign URLs. I certainly hope not.

        Since you’re in the USA you may not know that in the UK we pay a “Licence fee” to watch TV, (which I don’t watch), which also funds half a dozen world class channels of national Radio which are totally free (i.e. PBS with a big budget).

        Many Americans are shocked by this “socialist” concept, but I willingly pay this fee, roughly £150 GBP, partly because I believe in Soft Power.

        So if you can’t hear:
        ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rgm2t

        Let me know so I can write a snotty letter to my MP (Member of Parliament).

        Bernard Lang

      • I can indeed access it. Sounds fantastic

        thanks to my watching “The Young Ones” on MTV as a wee lad, I know about TV licenses in the UK =)

        (there’s an episode they get busted for not having one)

      • >> I can indeed access it. Sounds fantastic

        Excellent. I’m glad about that.

        “The Young Ones”

        Ha! I was Neil 😉

        Bernard Lang

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