I am sitting in Adlestrop on an afternoon of heat in June - 2016,102 years after the poem was written. (102 years less 8 days.)
There is a beautiful bright blue sky with still white cloudlets, lonely and fair, and remarkably, a blackbird has just started singing only yards away, from the slate roof of a cottage, with a chorus of birds in the distance behind him.
Of the station, not even a bare platform is visible, just the name, the railway sign, ADLESTROP, now set rather nicely with an old bench into an enclosed wooden bus shelter. The railway line was a casualty of the cuts inflicted by the infamous Dr Beeching in 1966.
The creamy stone cottages of the village, its history known back to around 750AD, are glowing in the afternoon sun. The cottage gardens are full of traditional flowers, and climbing roses twine around doorways. In the hedgerows there are willow-herb, grass and meadowsweet, though it's far too early for haycocks (that always struck me as incongruous for June) .
I miss the hiss of steam. But elsewhere, little has changed.
Anyone who's ever been here, even for an unwonted minute, could easily dream of it for ever after.
I knew this poem from school and later as a serving officer in the first gulf war it hit me with all its embedded meaning, a home far away, untouchable peace and the pain of it not being mine anymore. When and where Thomas wrote this almost narcotic dream of innocence says to me it is unsentimental and more a war poem than i first understood it to be.
From the emptiness of Adlestrop to the song of the solitary blackbird and then to the avian cacophony of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire - a beautiful poem like the mist in that afternoon.
Did just the same ad Marlene. I wanted absolutely to read the whole poem after its evoked in Sweet Tooth p.178. I've know some of the other War Poets and love everything by Wilfred Owen. Thanks to Ian McEwan, I'll discover Edward Thomas.
The unwonted stop by Thomas's train at Addlestrop took place in June 1914, before the start of the war. He wrote the poem much later, shortly before being killed at the Battle of Arras in 1917. Prosaically, the platform was empty because no train was due. Poetically, by the time Thomas wrote Adlestrop, he may indeed have been invoking England emptied by the war as well as encapsulating a moment now gone. The scene he conjures must have starkly contrasted with the experience of war.
but why was the fair: still and lonely
why was the platform bare and the haycocks dry?
when I first saw this poem at school, may years ago, our teacher said there was more meaning to this poem than just the obvious appreciation of the countryside and that it is indeed an anti war poem.
The village was empty because the men had gone off to fight.
I am never sure now as no-one ever mentions this.
Andrew Hoellering (10/20/2009 1: 37: 00 AM)
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Yes, a great poet thanks in part to his friendship with Robert Frost, who turned him from prose to poetry and was devastated by his premature death in the first world war.
Each time I read the poem I am struck by something new -this time 'for the minute', meaning both at that time and for the joy of the moment.
The receding horizons of landscape and bird song in the last verse are, quite simply, unforgettable.
A delightful poem which exudes peace and quiet even while the poet sits in the express train ready to be whisked off t God-knows -where.I have studied this poem with many classes down through the years and have never failed to enjoy it (not so sure about the classes!)
With this re-reading of a verse learnt so many years ago, I was transported back to the same classroom and enthusiastic teacher who first introduced me to Edward Thomas - so yes, thanks to Mr. T. I do remember Adlestrop and still delight in this brilliant unforced picture of early century countryside.....
This is such a fresh, alive reality of the rhythms and proportions of nature providing an unexpected respite for all of us on the hissing express; a totally unforced radiance of words. We need Edward Thomas more than ever for our sesquiquattuordecimcentennial. What a thrill to discover a great poet!