Sunday 23 November 2014

Sunday War Poet ~ Author's Choice ~ Elisabeth Gifford

Continuing my Sunday theme on the poets of the Great War

I am delighted to welcome


Sharing her choice of WW1 poem

Adlestrop ~ Edward Thomas 

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

This poem does not mention the war, but rather sums up all that is precious to those who went to fight. Edward Thomas loved the English countryside and this moment is taken from a rare stop during a train journey to stay in a cottage with his family for the summer, a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful and passing. Soon the great steam engine will grind into motion and propel them away into a future they cannot prevent. It’s a moment that is even the more precious as it is now being seen as a distant memory. The day is now gone, the place only a name, and yet it remains as something precious and enduring in the poet’s mind. It feels as though this might be part of a conversation held by soldiers waiting in their bell tents somewhere in France and reminiscing about England.

Thomas joined up late in the war and, as his wife feared, he did not survive. In this poem, he seems to both understand what will be lost to him if he dies, and also why he was willing to fight and to defend a way of life he held so dear.

One of the impulses in writing my recent novel, Return to Fourwinds, was to show the continuing damage that many returning soldiers endured as they began their lives after the Great War. Using family anecdotes, I attempted to recreate the life of a Manchester soldier who has been gassed in World War One and so is unfit for physical work, the result being that his family struggle to make ends meet. You can read the extract here.

18149907 17934610
UK and US edition



My thanks to Elisabeth for sharing her thoughts about Adlestrop and for her insightful explanation into why Adlestrop is important to her.



  1. I already knew, and loved that poem. I never connected it with war, just always thought that it was mysterious; but Elisabeth has, I think, found the key. Thank you both.

    1. Thanks Susan, Glad you liked Elisabeth's choice of poem.

  2. another beautiful poem Jo. I am so glad i found your blog
    Gill x

    1. Thanks Gill - Jaffa and I are glad that you found us too :)


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