Poetry Analysis: Aspens by Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas was a British poet who began writing poetry during the First World War. He was also among a number of important poets who perished in that war, alongside fellow poets Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, and Isaac Rosenberg.
Thomas was born in London on March 3rd, 1878 of a Welsh family, and he was fatally injured at the Battle of Arras, dying on April 9th, 1917. Incredibly, Thomas was only a poet in the final three years of his life, and had earlier been a novelist and a literary critic for the London-based newspaper, 'The Daily Chronicle'. He was survived by a wife, a son and two daughters, and is remembered in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey in London.
How Nature Will Not Be Subdued
In his poem, 'Aspens', Edward Thomas brings to life a smithy in the first two verses, by describing in detail the sounds emanating from there. But even more memorable is the beautiful third line of the first verse, as Thomas humanizes the aspen trees. The rhyme scheme in the poem is simple, beginning with abab in the first verse.
Thomas cleverly compares the terrific noise made by the blacksmith with the gentle, whispering of the aspens. But he also makes it clear at the start of the third verse that the aspens can still be heard, insisting strongly that man cannot subdue the power of nature.
A Metaphor for the Great War
At the end of the third verse, Thomas is giving the aspen trees a spirituality, and provokes us to reflect on what exactly he means. This could be a metaphor, as he is describing dead trees, but he may well be acknowledging the fallen of the Great War. This idea is given further credence, when imagining the noise coming from the smithy as a metaphor for the heavy shelling that occurred during World War One.
By the beginning of the fourth verse, the smithy has become quiet, and the poem takes on a very profound air. Edward Thomas is thinking of how nature carries on regardless of man noticing his surroundings or not. Intriguingly, the poet takes on the form of the aspen tree in the final verse. He suggests that we are born, we live, we die, but we are ultimately what we are born to be. A man will always be a man. The final two lines again seem to carry a reference to mourning over the War dead.
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