Sunday, May 10, 2009

Edward Thomas, part two--or Ulex europæus

Since last I posted about Edward Thomas, I took a walk--or an "urban hike." A walk (or similar kind of basic exercise) has to be one of the least expensive, most effective elixirs. The body and mind say, "Hey, thanks for the walk."

Thomas liked to walk, too; more specifically, as Peter Sachs writes in the intro to the collection I'm reading, Thomas liked roads, walking them. My sense is his average distances were much longer than mine, and his roads were "country," whereas mine (at the moment) are urban/suburban. Here's part of a poem by Thomas that seems to have sprung from a walk:

[from] The Lofty Sky

by Edward Thomas

Today I want the sky,
The tops of the high hills,
Above the last man's house,
His hedges, and his cows,
Where, if I will, I look
Down even on sheep and rook,
And of all things that move
See buzzards only above:--
Past all trees, past furze
And thorn, where naught deters
The desire of the the eye
For sky, nothing but sky.

Thomas seems to have wanted to get some height on this walk. The poem could be placed in tradition of "prospect" poems in which the speaker looks out over a "prospect" or a landscape. Lots of these got written in the late 18th/early 19th century, although it's hard to imagine any poetic era anywhere that didn't include such poems. You know, you take a walk, you reach a perch of some kind, you look, you see, and later you remember and write. Or maybe you write on the spot. That never worked for me.

By the way, according to the OED online, "furze" is a popular name for Ulex europæus, which is a thorny evergreen bush that has yellow flowers (according the OED) and is also called "gorse" by some. By gee, by gosh, by gorse, by golly, by gum.

Happy Mother's Day (which originated in an anti-war movement, incidentally--you knew that), and happy walking or otherwise basic-exercising, and no, you don't need find a big ol' hill. Huff, puff.
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