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Thursday, 24 October 2013


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Jenny @ Reading the End

A rather melancholy poem for autumn...


Do you know Elizabeth Jennings' poem 'Song at the Beginning of Autumn' which begins: "Now watch this autumn that arrives/In smells." If not, do find a copy. I think you'll love it.


It IS melancholy, Jenny, but don't you think - I don't know the right word, it's too early in the morning - but somehow celebratory too? All that richness and promis in the dying.

Alex, I've never read that poem but I do love Elizabeth Jennings' work, so I shall track it down. Thank you!

Christine Harding

Isn't that wonderful? And the picture is the perfect accompaniment. I don't know much of his work, but I keep meaning to read more.


I don't think it's melancholy, really - what I like about Thomas is his ability to celebrate (as Helen suggests) life in all its phases, see life as an eternal process of death and rebirth, the two processes often running parallel.

By way of contrast, I'm put in mind of Philip Larkin's poem "The Trees", which is about spring, but which IS melancholy because it approaches the seasons from the opposite perspective - seeing the seeds of death in the joy of birth. But it's wonderfully ambiguous, just like Thomas's poetry is.

Nice blog, by the way! I came across it after googling "Henry Green" the other week.


Thank you Christine! I don't know much about Edward Thomas or his work either, just a few poems. I need to read more too!

Hello Franky, thank you for your comment and welcome! I'm really interested in what you write, yes I think that's exactly right - the death and rebirth are there together. 'Sad songs of autumn mirth' holds the joy and melancholy (because I do think that is there) in balance. The poem's sensuousness perhaps tips it in favour of celebration...

I didn't know Larkin's poem (here: and I agree. It's much starker, somehow, than 'Digging'.

There was a Henry Green week last year hosted by Stu of Winston's Dad, and he has lots of links to posts about Henry Green if you're interested: Do you have a favourite Henry Green novel?


Edward Thomas was certainly an extremely melancholic man, but like a lot of melancholics, he found solace in appreciation of the world outside himself. I think the same is true of Larkin. (Actually, I'd forgotten how gloomy "The Trees" is until I followed your link! The idea that the regeneration of life is a triumph of hope over experience... but saying it beautifully.)

I haven't actually read any Henry Green, but came across his name in David Lodge's "The Practice of Writing" and thought he sounded an unusual writer. He seems to have been quite a strange man, too. Thanks for the link - looks interesting. It's always the more obscure Web searches that throw up the most interesting sites!


Well you have certainly encouraged me to read more of both Edward Thomas's and Philip Larkin's poetry, thank you! I agree with what you say about 'The Trees'. I believe he's also saying that we should learn from them, that last line 'Begin afresh, afresh, afresh' seems advice to the reader rather than a description of what the trees are doing. (And I like the repetition, always afresh.)

I hope you enjoy Henry Green, I think you're in for a treat.


Just to be completely superficial here, I grew up in Colchester and Mr Litlove grew up in Ipswich - and I never even knew we shared a museum! How about that for the ignorance of the local! :-)


Heh, I didn't know it either. I think the authorities have merged, but I am too lazy to actually find out.

For some reason I always had you down as a northerner, how funny that we were practically teenaged neighbours (I'm from Ipswich too). Maybe I even scowled at the youthful Mister Litlove!


Do you know if this poem was written during the time thomas served in the war?


Hello Flora!

That's a good question. In my edition, the poems aren't dated individually but in groups. This one was written in a 'gush' of poetry some time between January and May 1915, thus before he enlisted in July of that year.

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