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Edward Thomas
1878 - 1917

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THE OWL
THE GALLOWS

 


The Word
 

The Word

There are so many things I have forgot,
That once were much to me, o that were not,
All lost, as is a childless womans child
And its childs children, in the undefiled
Abyss of what will never be again.
I have forgot, too, names of the mighty men
That fought and lost or won in the old wars,
Of kings and fiends and gods, and most of the stars.
Some things I have forgot that I forget.
But lesser things there are remembered yet.
Than all the others. One name that I have not -
Though tis an empty thingles name - forgot
Never can die because Spring after Spring
Some thrushes learn to say it as they sing.
There is always one at midday saying it clear
And tart - the name, only the name I hear.
While perhaps I am thinking of the elder scent
That is like food; or while I am content
With the wild rose scent that is like memory,
This name suddenly is cried out to me
From somewhere in the bushes by a bird
Over and over again, a pure thrush word.


THE OWL
Down hill I came hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seen the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl's cry, a most melancholy cry.

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor case of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as I went in.

And salted was my food, and my repose
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird's voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

THE GALLOWS
There was a weasel lived in the sun
With all his family Till a keeper shot him with his gun
And hung him up on a tree,
Where he swings in the wind and rain,
In the sun and in the snow
Without pleasure, without pain,
On the dead oak tree bough.

There was a crow who was no sleeper
But a thief and a murderer
Till a very late hour; and this keeper
Made him one of the things that were,
To hang and flap in rain and wind
In the sun and in the snow
There are no more sins to be sinned
On the dead oak tree bough.

There was a magpie, too
Had a long tongue and a long tail;
He could both talk and do -
But what did that avail?
He, too, flaps in the wind and rain
Alongside weasel and crow,
Without pleasure, without pain,
On the dead oak tree bough.

And many other beasts
And birds, skin, bone and feather,
Have been taken from their feasts
And hung up there together
To swing and have endless leisure
In the sun and in the snow
Without pain, without pleasure,
On the dead oak tree bough.


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