Posteado por: ignaciopeman | enero 3, 2012

All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis

All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis.Faber and Faber, 2011.

Review: Julian Chancellor

Edward Thomas did not start writing poetry until the end of 1914 when he was 36 years old. This is not too late an age to start writing poetry, unless of course you happen to die less than three years later. Edward Thomas was killed by a German shell at Arras, France on Easter Monday, 1917. His decision to enlist in the army and fight in France is discussed at length in this biography, written with great sensitivity by the poet Matthew Hollis.

Unlike Rupert Brooke, Thomas was at first doubtful about going to fight and his decision to do so was the result of months of tortuous and conflicting emotions. And unlike that of Owen and Sassoon, Thomas’s poetry is not replete with pain-filled descriptions of gas, shells and useless generals sending hordes of youths to their unnecessary deaths. It provides altogether more subtle depictions of quiet moments and peaceful scenes, precarious under the looming shadows of war and death.

It is really as a poet of the landscape that Thomas used to be known. Indeed, when I learned his deceptively simple poem “Adlestrop” at school, I had no idea Thomas was a “war poet”. His decision to write poetry, after years of publishing a surprising number of unprofitable prose books, was very much influenced by his friendship with the American poet Robert Frost. This crucial relationship in his artistic development is one of the highlights of this fascinating biography.

Any qualities of heroism and sacrifice that may be attributed to Thomas are somewhat undermined by his selfish treatment of his wife and three children whom he frequently abandoned in order to work, write and think, but there are dangers here of applying 21st century values to the realities of the early 20th century.

This graceful book catches the melancholia in Thomas’s character, reflected perhaps in the decline of the rural civilisation that Thomas loved so much. As the curtains closed on Victorian poetry, new directions emerged: the tame rustic“Georgians” and the innovative poetry of Eliot and Pound. The new artistic tendencies and the unsettling changes in English society at the outbreak of the war are nicely evoked in this book. Most important of all, the book analyses the creation and the language of Thomas’s poetry in a way that actually makes you want to read it.

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  1. Que interesante, lo buscaré!


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