The Glorious Dead

By Tim Atkinson

A story of love, war and betrayal among the ruins of Ypres - a WW1 tale with a twist

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Back to school

For the first time in some years, I find myself on a Sunday evening anticipating school again on Monday morning. Yes, I'm back - for a bit. But not for long. Just a couple of days a week until May, but it's enough to bring that slight sense of foreboding as the sun sets on the weekend, as the Countryfile theme begins and as the kids get ready for bed. 

Sunday nights in September always bring that strange sense of melancholy, too - summer gone, things - so many things - not done and other things no more than distant memories. No-one captured the mood better, in my view, than Edward Thomas.

Thomas was killed in action in April 1917 during the Battle of Arras. His poetry - which he had only begun to write five years earlier - was for many years regarded as typical of the English pastoral style. There's no doubt Thomas held a deep affection for the English landscape. When asked why he'd volunteered (he was almost forty when killed) and why he was fighting, he picked up a handful of soil and said 'for this'. 

Gone, gone again,
May, June, July,
And August gone,
Again gone by,
Not memorable
Save that I saw them go,
As past the empty quays
The rivers flow.
And now again,
In the harvest rain,
The Blenheim oranges
Fall grubby from the trees,
As when I was young—
And when the lost one was here—
And when the war began
To turn young men to dung.
Look at the old house,
Outmoded, dignified,
Dark and untenanted,
With grass growing instead
Of the footsteps of life,
The friendliness, the strife;
In its beds have lain
Youth, love, age, and pain:
I am something like that;
Only I am not dead,
Still breathing and interested
In the house that is not dark:—
I am something like that:
Not one pane to reflect the sun,
For the schoolboys to throw at—
They have broken every one.

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