Saturday, 16 May 2015

113 cowley road, edward thomas, helen thomas, richard emeny, edward thomas fellowship, margaret keeping, richard morley, in parenthesis, the word, dh lawrence, george orwell



















Very much enjoyed the plaque unveiling at 113 Cowley Road, which took place in glorious hot sun.

The plaque has been carved by stonemason Richard Morley, who as it happens himself lived in the house some years ago. It was one Oxfordshire Artweek that Margaret Keeping visited the house and saw Richard's work. Synchronicity.

After viewing the plaque, which faces onto the Cowley Road, we walked along the side of the house to the large garden, which is dominated by two yew trees, which, everyone speculated, might well have been growing there when Thomas lived at the property in 1897/98.

In his talk, chairman of the Edward Thomas Fellowship, Richard Emeny, thanked the housing association that currently owns 113 for its whole-hearted support of the project. He went on to reveal that Edward Thomas had not been especially happy at the property because while living there he hadn't yet been a collegiate member of the University, having to take various exams in order to supplement gaps in his education before he could live in college. Edward described his time at 113 as being 'in parenthesis', although he enjoyed the local pubs.

Margaret read a letter that Edward wrote at 113 to his future wife, Helen. Margaret told us that as well as the pubs, Thomas loved the proximity of the countryside and walked out to landmarks such as Boar's Hill. I should say that despite expanding hugely since Edward's day, the cruciform shape of the city means that the countryside is still very close to the urban environment, filling in the large areas in between the ribbon development along the arms of the cross.

Today's event concluded with a reading of Edward Thomas's poem The Word - see below.

Among the guests this afternoon, were Edward's great niece and great-great niece.

Although the event was invitation-only, the plaque is there for all to see. A wonderful testimony to Edward Thomas and to Margaret's determination to have it made.

While waiting for the event to start, it was a pleasure to meet Professor Stephen Gill, emeritus fellow of Edward's old college, Lincoln. We had a lovely talk about DH Lawrence, The White Peacock and George Orwell's essay Down the Mine, which I haven't read. (Stephen also recommended Lawrence's second novel, The Trespasser, which again I haven't read.)

Now, The Word:

THE WORD by EDWARD THOMAS

There are so many things I have forgot,
That once were much to me, or that were not,
All lost, as is a childless woman's child
And its child's 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 thingless 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 Word,” by Thomas, Edward (1878-1917). Copyright Edward Thomas, 1979, reproduced under licence from Faber and Faber Ltd. via First World War Poetry Digital Archive, accessed May 16, 2015, http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/2962.

1 comment:

  1. I've only just seen this, Frank - while trawling through looking in vain for something else. Lovely report. Thank you.

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