Edward Thomas

Unlike many of the British war poets, Thomas was nearly 40 years of age when he enlisted in 1915. A struggling writer, Thomas supported his family by writing book reviews and travel articles. In 1914, he became close friends with the newly arrived American writer to England, Robert Frost. It was Frost that encouraged Thomas to begin writing poetry. It was a form in which he excelled though initially he didn’t believe strongly in his abilities and wrote under the pseudonym, Edward Eastway. 

Thomas felt an intense social pressure to join the military. He received a commission in 1916, and was killed by a shell blast at Arras in 1917. Thomas’ recognition as a poet has continued to grow through the decades. While he is recognized as one of the Britain’s war poets, he is also seen as one of the country’s best writers in portraying the beauty of nature in the English countryside. This same feeling of the love of nature extends into many of Thomas’ war poems.
 
“The Cherry Trees”

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.
  
 “In Memoriam”

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.
 

Reflective Questions: “The Cherry Trees” and “In Memoriam”
 
  1. How is it that the fate of the leaves of the cherry tree is similar to those of soldiers? How are they different? Or, should be different?
  2. What is the feel expressed in the poem “The Cherry Trees” for the future?
  3. “In Memoriam” what is the significance of the flowers?
  4. What emotion is sparked by Thomas’ poem “In Memoriam?”