February Afternoon

Men heard this roar of parleying starlings, saw,
A thousand years ago even as now,
Black rooks with white gulls following the plough
So that the first are last until a caw
Commands that last are first again, – a law
Which was of old when one, like me, dreamed how
A thousand years might dust lie on his brow
Yet thus would birds do between hedge and shaw.
Time swims before me, making as a day
A thousand years, while the broad ploughland oak
Roars mill-like and men strike and bear the stroke
Of war as ever, audacious or resigned,
And God still sits aloft in the array
That we have wrought him, stone-deaf and stone-blind.

Edward Thomas wrote this in 1916, and was killed a year later, at Arras.  Thomas came to the village in 1913 during his bicycle ride from London to the Quantocks.  He wrote …

“Under elms near Semington the threshing-machine boomed; its unchanging note mingled with a hiss at the addition of each sheaf.  Otherwise the earth was the rooks’, heaven was the larks’, and I rode easily on along the good level road somewhere between the two”.

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