Over the Hills
Often and often it came back again
To mind, the day I passed the horizon ridge
To a new country, the path I had to find
By half-gaps that were stiles once in the hedge,
The pack of scarlet clouds running across
The harvest evening that seemed endless then
And after, and the inn where all were kind,
All were strangers. I did not know my loss
Till one day twelve months later suddenly
I leaned upon my spade and saw it all,
Though far beyond the sky-line. It became
Almost a habit through the year for me
To lean and see it and think to do the same
Again for two days and a night. Recall
Was vain: no more could the restless brook
Ever turn back and climb the waterfall
To the lake that rests and stirs not in its nook,
As in the hollow of the collar-bone
Under the mountain’s head of rush and stone.
This seems to be one of Edward Thomas’s less anthologised poems, but is one of my personal favourites. I love the harvest evening with its pack of scarlet clouds, and that wonderful image in the closing lines, even though I would be hard put to explain the exact depth of its resonance.
One thing that puzzles me is why Graves never ‘got’ Edward Thomas. Perhaps they were too much alike, in some weird way, in that they were both ‘Georgian modernists’ so to speak, rather than just Georgians on the one hand or Eliot-Pound-style modernistic modernists on the other?Something like that, though I’m not expressing it very well.
I did my best to convert him! But he told me in conversation that he found Edward Thomas ‘too deeply rooted in a countryside that was too lush for me’. I can see that Graves did indeed prefer for himself a starker landscape, as he makes clear in his fine early poem ‘Rocky Acres’, but I never quite saw why that should preclude appreciation of other kinds and anyway Thomas is as much about inner landscapes as outer.