Tommy's War

WWI Poetry

Adelstrop

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.

*

ADLESTROP is most famous for the poem of the same name, written by Edward Thomas. It is probably his best-known and best-loved poem.

It is based on a journey by train made by Edward Thomas. On 24 June, 1914, Thomas was travelling on the 10:20am from Paddington to Malvern. Soon after mid-day, the train made an unscheduled halt at Adlestrop, and this gave Thomas the material for his poem.

He was en route to visit a group of friends, who would later be known as The Dymock Poets. The name derives from the village in Gloucestershire near 'The Gallows', two cottages used as the group's base. At the time, Thomas was not a poet, but a writer of commercial prose.

On 8 January, 1915, when Thomas had been writing poetry for only a month and before he enlisted for military service, this poem was suggested by his notes from that journey.

 

On Easter Monday, 1917, he was killed near Arras by a shell that passed close enough to him for the blast of air to stop his heart. The poem was published by the New Statesman three weeks later.

More than any other piece of writing, Adlestrop symbolises the innocence that would be lost in 1914-1918.

Adlestrop is a rural village under the brow of a Cotswold hill. It has a population of about eighty people and can be found just off the road from Chipping Norton to Stow-on-the-Wold on the border between Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. It is also believed to be the setting for Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.