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Systemic Circulation Speech

Good morning/afternoon Miss Trainor and Class I’m here today to talk to you about the war poet Edward Thomas. Born March 3, 1878, in London, Edward Thomas had his education at St. Paul’s School and Lincoln College, Oxford University, from which he graduated in 1900 with a history degree. Having married Helen Noble in 1899 and with a baby son, Merfyn, to support, Thomas became a professional writer. In his brief 15-year career he produced over two dozen books and many dozens of reviews.

He focused on local history and literary figures. His books dealt with such authors as George Borrow, William Cobbett, John Dyer, George Herbert, Richard Jefferies, John Keats, Christopher Marlowe, Walter Pater, and Algernon Charles Swinburne. As his family grew with the birth of daughters Bronwen (1902) and Myfanwy (1910), so did his financial problems. He intermittently fell ill from 1903 onward.

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Thomas only began writing poems in late 1914 after a visit from Robert Frost. A pseudonym Edward Eastaway, used in Six Poems (1916), enabled him to isolate poetry from his professional writing. In 1915 his two years of war service began when he joined the Artists’ Rifles.

After spending some months as a map-reading instructor at Hare Hall Camp in Romford, he became an officer cadet and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, 244 Siege Battery, R. G. A., and volunteered for overseas duty in late 1916. Just before he left England he looked over the proofs of his contributions to An Annual of New Poetry. Thomas died from a shell explosion on April 9, 1917, at Ronville, just as the Arras offensive started.

Edward Thomas’s poetry had mainly a nature theme and showed though his poetry he had a great appreciation for the simple pleasures in life such as watching the snowfall down and watching the rain or a green elm in autumn. The reason behind this appreciation for the simple things in life came from his many years of not being able to afford anything but the bare essentials. This is strongly reflected in his poetry at the start of his war years as he focuses on the simple good things that happen rather than the atrocities of war.

This is shown in his poem “October” in which Edward Thomas writes about how although they are at war there is still living among all the death, Thomas writes about how if he cant is happy among all the beauty of nature he will never be happy though out the whole war. Throughout most of the years, Edward Thomas served this positive attitude was reflected in his poetry.

Towards the end of Edward Thomas’s life like most people at war, he started to harden and question why they were fighting and whether it was all worth it.

This dramatic change in attitude can be seen in his poems “Snow” and his poem “The word.”

The poem “Snow is about a little girl crying because they have shot a white bird in her nest and how although the girl is crying and is very upset that the bird has been shot all the sadness and crying is for nothing as it will not bring the white bird back. There is a very sombre tone to this poem and the general meaning is that no matter how sad you get no matter how much you cry if something is dead it will stay that way so there is no point in being sad for something that is dead. Which is a very cold hard way to view morning for someone dead.

Another example of this change in attitude is his poem “The word” in which Edward Thomas writes about how during the war he has forgotten everything. He has forgotten why he is fighting, what is he fighting for why are the people he kills his enemies, he writes about how the only thing he has not forgotten is how to forget.

As you can see although Edward Thomas started out trying to write about the experiences he had at war the simple good times he had, like most people the war corrupted him along with his writing and turned him bitter and hard.

Another detailed example of Edward Thomas’s dramatic change during the war is his poem “rain” was he carries his nature theme through but unlike his earlier poems, this one carries his very dark attitude to life at war.

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

This is a very deep poem where Edward Thomas tries to express how to be dead and rained upon is a blessing and how to be alive and rained upon is a blessing but to be in-between to be dieing or in pain not quite alive and not quite dead is when you are truly helpless.

Edward Thomas’s poetry is a good example of how war can dramatically change a person in such a short time. At the start of his service, Edward Thomas’s writings were all about the good thing that he had experienced, the places he had seen the friends he had made the general tone of a nice person, then towards the end of his service and life his poetry and outlook on life became very melancholy and dark and expresses how much he dislikes war and wishes he was not there.

Thank you for listening to my speech.

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Systemic Circulation Speech. (2021, Feb 08). Retrieved June 19, 2021, from