November

Edward Thomas - 1878-1917

November’s days are thirty:
November’s earth is dirty,
Those thirty days, from first to last;
And the prettiest thing on ground are the paths
With morning and evening hobnails dinted,
With foot and wing-tip overprinted
Or separately charactered,
Of little beast and little bird.
The fields are mashed by sheep, the roads
Make the worst going, the best the woods
Where dead leaves upward and downward scatter.
Few care for the mixture of earth and water,
Twig, leaf, flint, thorn,
Straw, feather, all that men scorn,
Pounded up and sodden by flood,
Condemned as mud.

But of all the months when earth is greener
Not one has clean skies that are cleaner.
Clean and clear and sweet and cold,
They shine above the earth so old,
While the after-tempest cloud
Sails over in silence though winds are loud,
Till the full moon in the east
Looks at the planet in the west
And earth is silent as it is black,
Yet not unhappy for its lack.
Up from the dirty earth men stare:
One imagines a refuge there
Above the mud, in the pure bright
Of the cloudless heavenly light:
Another loves earth and November more dearly
Because without them, he sees clearly,
The sky would be nothing more to his eye
Than he, in any case, is to the sky;
He loves even the mud whose dyes
Renounce all brightness to the skies.

More by Edward Thomas

Lights Out

I have come to the borders of sleep, 
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight, 
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose. 

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn's first crack,
Up to the forest brink, 
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink. 

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter, 
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter 
Than tasks most noble. 

There is not any book 
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now 
To go into the unknown
I must enter, and leave, alone, 
I know not how. 

The tall forest towers; 
Its cloudy foliage lowers 
Ahead, shelf above shelf; 
Its silence I hear and obey 
That I may lose my way 
And myself.

Adlestrop

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.

I Never Saw That Land Before

I never saw that land before, 
And now can never see it again; 
Yet, as if by acquaintance hoar 
Endeared, by gladness and by pain, 
Great was the affection that I bore 

To the valley and the river small, 
The cattle, the grass, the bare ash trees, 
The chickens from the farmsteads, all 
Elm-hidden, and the tributaries
Descending at equal interval; 

The blackthorns down along the brook 
With wounds yellow as crocuses 
Where yesterday the labourer's hook 
Had sliced them cleanly; and the breeze 
That hinted all and nothing spoke. 

I neither expected anything
Nor yet remembered: but some goal 
I touched then; and if I could sing 
What would not even whisper my soul 
As I went on my journeying, 

I should use, as the trees and birds did, 
A language not to be betrayed;
And what was hid should still be hid 
Excepting from those like me made 
Who answer when such whispers bid.