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Rain, washing me cleaner than I have been since I was born

Three poems by Edward Thomas

“The Road Not Taken” was inspired by one of the walks that Robert Frost and Edward Thomas took in the woods.
“The Road Not Taken” was inspired by one of the walks that Robert Frost and Edward Thomas took in the woods.

April

  • The sweetest thing, I thought
  • At one time, between earth and heaven
  • Was the first smile
  • When mist has been forgiven
  • And the sun has stolen out,
  • Peered, and resolved to shine at seven
  • On dabbled lengthening grasses,
  • Thick primroses and early leaves uneven,
  • When earth’s breath, warm and humid, far surpasses
  • The richest oven’s, and loudly rings ‘cuckoo’
  • And sharply the nightingale’s ‘tsoo, tsoo, tsoo, tsoo’:
  • To say ‘God bless it’ was all that I could do.
  • But now I know one sweeter
  • By far since the day Emily
  • Turned weeping back
  • To me, still happy me,
  • To ask forgiveness, —
  • Yet smiled with half a certainty
  • To be forgiven, — for what
  • She had never done; I knew not what it might be,
  • Nor could she tell me, having now forgot,
  • By rapture carried with me past all care
  • As to an isle in April lovelier
  • Than April’s self. ‘God bless you’ I said to her.

Rain

  • Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
  • On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
  • Remembering again that I shall die
  • And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
  • For washing me cleaner than I have been
  • Since I was born into this solitude.
  • Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
  • But here I pray that none whom once I loved
  • Is dying to-night or lying still awake
  • Solitary, listening to the rain,
  • Either in pain or thus in sympathy
  • Helpless among the living and the dead,
  • Like a cold water among broken reeds,
  • Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
  • Like me who have no love which this wild rain
  • Has not dissolved except the love of death,
  • If love it be towards what is perfect and
  • Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

The Cherry Tree

  • 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.

Edward Thomas (1878–1917) was a British poet, essayist, and novelist. Although considered one of the war poets of World War I, Thomas wrote mostly about subjects unrelated to war, as the above poems illustrate. Having formed a close friendship with Robert Frost during the latter’s time in England, he was encouraged to write poetry at the American’s advice. One of Frost’s most famous poems, “The Road Not Taken,” was inspired by one of the walks that he and Thomas took in the woods — and eventually led Thomas, who was indecisive about whether he should serve his country for the war — to enlist. He signed up for service in 1915 and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917. His influence was great and wide; fellow English poet Ted Hughes referred to him as “the father of us all.”

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“The Road Not Taken” was inspired by one of the walks that Robert Frost and Edward Thomas took in the woods.
“The Road Not Taken” was inspired by one of the walks that Robert Frost and Edward Thomas took in the woods.

April

  • The sweetest thing, I thought
  • At one time, between earth and heaven
  • Was the first smile
  • When mist has been forgiven
  • And the sun has stolen out,
  • Peered, and resolved to shine at seven
  • On dabbled lengthening grasses,
  • Thick primroses and early leaves uneven,
  • When earth’s breath, warm and humid, far surpasses
  • The richest oven’s, and loudly rings ‘cuckoo’
  • And sharply the nightingale’s ‘tsoo, tsoo, tsoo, tsoo’:
  • To say ‘God bless it’ was all that I could do.
  • But now I know one sweeter
  • By far since the day Emily
  • Turned weeping back
  • To me, still happy me,
  • To ask forgiveness, —
  • Yet smiled with half a certainty
  • To be forgiven, — for what
  • She had never done; I knew not what it might be,
  • Nor could she tell me, having now forgot,
  • By rapture carried with me past all care
  • As to an isle in April lovelier
  • Than April’s self. ‘God bless you’ I said to her.

Rain

  • Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
  • On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
  • Remembering again that I shall die
  • And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
  • For washing me cleaner than I have been
  • Since I was born into this solitude.
  • Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
  • But here I pray that none whom once I loved
  • Is dying to-night or lying still awake
  • Solitary, listening to the rain,
  • Either in pain or thus in sympathy
  • Helpless among the living and the dead,
  • Like a cold water among broken reeds,
  • Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
  • Like me who have no love which this wild rain
  • Has not dissolved except the love of death,
  • If love it be towards what is perfect and
  • Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

The Cherry Tree

  • 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.

Edward Thomas (1878–1917) was a British poet, essayist, and novelist. Although considered one of the war poets of World War I, Thomas wrote mostly about subjects unrelated to war, as the above poems illustrate. Having formed a close friendship with Robert Frost during the latter’s time in England, he was encouraged to write poetry at the American’s advice. One of Frost’s most famous poems, “The Road Not Taken,” was inspired by one of the walks that he and Thomas took in the woods — and eventually led Thomas, who was indecisive about whether he should serve his country for the war — to enlist. He signed up for service in 1915 and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917. His influence was great and wide; fellow English poet Ted Hughes referred to him as “the father of us all.”

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