Tag Archives: World War One

Guest post: Observations on Edward Thomas’ manuscript poems

This guest post comes from Rachel Carney, writer and blogger at http://www.createdtoread.com.


What I love about archives is the fact that they provide an opportunity to discover things you’d never see for yourself in the printed copies of a writers’ work. As we celebrate the centenary of the poet Edward Thomas, who lived and fought during the First World War, it is an incredible privilege to be able to see his personal handwritten letters and notebooks – to read the poems written in his own hand, and to see the very pages on which he wrote.

You can see some of these in a new online exhibition, featuring highlights from the world’s largest collection of Edward Thomas papers. Special Collections and Archives will also host an onsite exhibition, launching tomorrow on 19th April, the first day of the Edward Thomas 100 conference.

The following manuscripts of Thomas’ poems were all written in 1916, the last year of his life.

The Trumpet, by Edward Thomas.

The Trumpet, by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in pencil, sent to Eleanor Farjeon.

On first glance, ‘The Trumpet’, written by Thomas in September 1916, seems to be a rousing call to arms, but on closer examination, there is much more to this simple poem than you might think. To begin with, as his biographer Matthew Hollis explains, “he did his best to conceal that it was a poem at all”. It was written whilst Thomas was based at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Trowbridge, and he was afraid, it seems, to let on to his fellow soldiers that he was actually a poet.

We wouldn’t necessarily know this unless we had the original manuscript, which he sent in a letter addressed to his friend Eleanor Farjeon, in which he admitted what he’d done: “You see I have written it with only capitals to mark the lines” because “people are all around me and I don’t want them to know”.

The poem itself is full of ambiguity and irony. Hollis describes it thus: “the form, strident, galloping, heroic… but the content suggesting other tones – the dark stars that failed to illuminate the earth below, the hounding of dreams…” Edward Thomas had always been against the war and the fervent nationalism that it inspired, and it had taken him a long time to make the momentous decision to enlist, and fight for his country. Of all his poems, just a handful refer directly to the war itself, and they are different in style to those of his contemporaries, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke.

Earlier that same month Edward Thomas wrote ‘Gone, gone again’, later titled ‘Blenheim Oranges‘. This is a bleak, depressing verse which focuses on the relentless march of time, as apples continue to “fall grubby from the trees” and the war continues to “turn young men to dung”.

Blenheim Oranges by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink.

Blenheim Oranges by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink.

 

We also hold the original manuscript of ‘As the team’s head brass’, a poem written earlier in 1916, which refers obliquely to the war. In Hollis’s biography, he describes how the poem was deeply significant for Thomas, mirroring his own decision to seek a commission on the Western Front. It pivots around the central phrase: ‘…Everything / Would have been different. For it would have been / Another world.’ These lines, and the fallen elm tree on which the speaker sits, highlight the fact that war changes everything, however remotely removed one might feel from the situation.

As the teams head brass by Edward Thomas.

As the teams head brass by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink, sent to Eleanor Farjeon.

It is fascinating to compare these manuscripts, and see that Thomas’s handwriting varied widely. We can also see his corrections, and observe the editing process in action.

If you visit the exhibition you’ll be able to see some of them for yourself, or come along to our poetry performance event on Friday, where items from the archive will be on display.

 

Edward Thomas 100: Exhibition launch

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

A frustrated writer, suffocated by family life, and crippled by depression and self-doubt, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) found his personal and literary salvation as a soldier in the First World War.

​In 2017, Cardiff University, holder of the world’s largest archive of Edward Thomas’ letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings, will host a major centenary conference and exhibition celebrating his life and work.

Our online exhibition is now live. An onsite, public exhibition, based in Special Collections and Archives, will launch on 19th April, the first day of the Edward Thomas 100 conference, and will be in place over the summer.

The exhibition features many highlights from the archives: intimate letters to Helen Thomas and Gordon Bottomley, poetry drafts, nature diaries, family photographs, as well as previously unheard archive recordings of family and friends, interviewed by Cardiff University’s Professor R. George Thomas in 1967. Find out more about both the archive and the exhibition in this Wales Arts Review podcast with Prof. Katie Gramich and archivist Alison Harvey.

Other Edward Thomas events taking place in Cardiff this month include a creative writing workshop and open mic poetry night. This year’s Frome Festival will feature Edward Thomas themed talks, walks, and even a cricket match! BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting In Pursuit of Edward Thomas, a programme by biographer Mathew Hollis, and a radio adaptation of Nick Dear’s play, The Dark Earth and the Light Sky.

Edward Thomas 100: celebrating a poetic legacy in April 2017

Photos from the archive.

Photos from the archive.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

One of our most fascinating collections relates to the life and work of a poet – Edward Thomas, who was killed in action during the First World War, exactly one hundred years ago, in April 1917.

Edward Thomas made a living writing travel books and critical reviews. It was a combination of his friendship with the American poet, Robert Frost, and the outbreak of the First World War, which led to him beginning to write poetry in 1914, until his tragic death just a short time later, on the Western Front.

In 2017, Cardiff University, holder of the world’s largest archive of Edward Thomas’ letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings, will host a major centenary conference and exhibition celebrating his life and work, as well as a series of poetry events, supported by Literature Wales. A creative writing workshop on 8th April will be followed by a unique poetry performance evening on 21st April. We’ll also be taking part in #NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) by providing daily poetry prompts, to encourage as many people as possible to be inspired by his writing, and to write their own poems in response.

Letters to Edward from Robert Frost.

Letters to Edward from Robert Frost.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Edward Thomas 100: A Creative Writing Workshop

Saturday 8th April

3-5pm

Venue: Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Road, Cardiff, CF10 3EU.

Free entry, but places are limited so please book by emailing Rachel at CarneyR2@cardiff.ac.uk

Edward Thomas' pocket watch

Edward Thomas’ pocket watch.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

The Edward Thomas archive is an incredible collection of material and objects relating to his life and work, including original manuscripts of some of his poems, as well as letters, notebooks, articles and objects, such as the watch which he was wearing when he died (it is thought that the force of the blast actually stopped the mechanism at the time of his death).

You will have a unique opportunity to view items from the collection and be inspired to write your own work in response. There will also be a chance to read work produced during the workshop at our performance event on 21st April, and we will publish some of the best pieces written by workshop participants on our blog.

Read more about the workshop tutor:

Bryan Marshall is a Cardiff based poet and fiction writer. He has won first prize and publication in The Word Hut and Darker Times. He’s also had work published in Thief magazine, Postcard Poems, Prose Magazine, and The Ghastling. He regularly performs at spoken word events in Cardiff.

This workshop is free to attend, but places are limited so please book by emailing Rachel at CarneyR2@cardiff.ac.uk


Yes. I Remember Adlestrop: Celebrating the Influence of Edward Thomas on Contemporary Poetry

Friday 21st April

7.30pm (doors open from 7pm)

Venue: Little Man Coffee Company, Ivor House, Bridge Street, Cardiff, CF10 2EE.

Free entry

Edward Thomas has influenced the work of numerous writers, from Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy and W.H. Auden, to Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. This event will celebrate the influence of his work on contemporary poetry.

Edward with his son Merfyn, 1900.

Edward with his son Merfyn, 1900.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Lucy Newlyn (from Oxford), Jonathan Edwards (from South Wales) and Glyn Edwards (from North Wales), will read their own poems and talk about the influence of Edward Thomas on their work. Local writers will also share poems written specially for the occasion, and there will be an open mic on the same theme.

The event will also include a pop-up exhibition, featuring highlights from the Edward Thomas archive.

More about the poets:

Professor Lucy Newlyn is both an academic and a poet, having lectured at Oxford University since 1984, where she is now an Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall. Her first poetry collection Ginnel was published by Oxford Poets/Carcanet in 2005, and a second collection, Earth’s Almanac, was published by Enitharmon Press in 2015. She has been literary editor of the Oxford Magazine since 2011. She has a longstanding interest in the work of Edward Thomas, and has co-edited Branch-lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry and published other work related to his prose and poetry.

Edward and Helen Thomas.

Edward and Helen Thomas.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Jonathan Edwards’ first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014) received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. He works as a teacher and the poems of Edward Thomas, rich in their treatment of people, nature and time, are among his favourite to teach.

Glyn Edwards has been Writer in Residence at a number of literature festivals including the ‘Poem for October’ project at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse.  He has had work published in the Wales Arts Review, The Lonely Crowd, The Lampeter Review and a variety of other publications. His debut poetry collection, ‘Conversations’, will be published in 2018, and will include poems written in response to Edward Thomas and Robert Frost.

Please share our events on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @CUSpecialColls for regular poetry prompts throughout April.

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Exhibition: Cymru ac Iwerddon / Wales and Ireland 1914-1918

 

Cymru ac Iwerddon 1914-18:  Delweddau o Ddau Ryfel

Wales and Ireland 1914-18:  Images from Two Wars

Arddangosfa gan / An exhibition by Katherine Wilkins

 

Ymreolaeth i Iwerddon / Home Rule for Ireland

Conradh na Ghaeilge oedd y mudiad a sefydlwyd i ymgyrchu dros iaith a diwylliant Iwerddon, o fewn y mudiad ymreolaeth. Roedd gan y mudiad gylchgrawn dwyieithog wythnosol, An Claidheamh Soluis, hynny yw ‘Gleddyf Goleuni’. Golygydd cynnar y papur oedd Padraig Pearse, arweinydd dylanwadol yng ngwrthryfel Iwerddon. Dosbarthwyd pamffledi’n hybu gwaith Conradh na Ghaeilge yn Nulyn, Llundain, ac ar draws Prydain.  Cytunwyd ar fesur ymreolaeth i Iwerddon gan San Steffan yn 1914, ond cafodd ei ohirio pan aeth Prydain i mewn i’r Rhyfel Mawr.

The Gaelic League was the cultural strand of the Irish Home Rule movement focusing on a revival of Irish culture and language. Its journal was An Claidheamh Soluis, or The Sword of Light, a weekly, bilingual newspaper. An early editor and contributor was Patrick Pearse who later became an influential leader of the Irish rebellion. Pamphlets promoting the study and advancement of Irish and the work of the Gaelic League were distributed in London, Dublin, and throughout Great Britain. At the beginning of 1914, the Irish Home Rule Bill appeared to pass through Parliament, but was later suspended as Great Britain entered the First World War.

An Claidheamh Soluis. Samain, 29, 1913

An Claidheamh Soluis. Samain, 29, 1913

Punch. 11 Feb 1914.

An Claidheamh Soluis. Samain, 29, 1913.

Gaelic League. Dhá adhbhar déag: Seo dhá adhbhar déag fá’r cóir do gach Éireannach an Ghaedhilg do bheith fá mhear aige. [Twelve Reasons Why Irishmen Should Know, Prize, and Cherish the Irish Language.] ca. 1900.

Ryan, W. P. The Work of the Gaelic League: Points for Irish People in Great Britain; How to Start and Conduct Branches. 1902.

 

Ymreolaeth i Gymru / Home Rule for Wales

Prif fudiad tu ôl i’r galwadau am ymreolaeth i Gymru oedd Cymru Fydd. Roedd yn fudiad diwylliannol i ddechrau, ond â chysylltiadau â’r Blaid Ryddfrydol, ac ymgyrchodd dros ymreolaeth i Gymru yng nghylchgrawn y mudiad, Young Wales (yn ddiweddarach Wales: a National Magazine). Er yn gefnogol yn y dechrau i Gymry Fydd, yn ddiweddarach symudodd David Lloyd George i ffwrdd o’r mudiad, a diflannodd y corff wedyn. Serch hyn, roedd digon o gefnogaeth yn 1914 i hybu Deddf Ddatgysylltu’r Eglwys, ond gohiriwyd hon ar ôl i Brydain ymuno yn y Rhyfel Mawr ym Mis Awst.

The driving force behind the Wales Home Rule movement was Cymru Fydd, or Young Wales. As a cultural organisation it was linked with the Liberal party in Wales, and campaigned for Welsh home rule via the journal for the organisation, Young Wales (later Wales: a National Magazine). Although an early advocate for Cymru Fydd, David Lloyd George later distanced himself, and the movement collapsed subsequently. Momentum appeared promising for Parliament’s approval of the Welsh Disestablishment Act of 1914, but by August it was suspended as Britain entered in the First World War.

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Wales: A National Magazine. July 1913

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Wales: A National Magazine. July 1913

Celt, A. Cymru Fydd Cymru Rydd: Or the National Movement in Wales. 1895.

Griffith, Gwilym O. The New Wales: Some Aspects of National Idealism: With a Plea for Welsh Home Rule. 1913

Fowell, R. W. and Dibdin, L. George. The Welsh Disestablishment Bill, 1909 with Explanation Notes and Compared with the Bill of 1895 and the Irish Disestablishment Act of 1869. 1909.

Downing, S. E. Disestablishment and Disendowment under the Welsh Church Act, 1914. 1915.

John, Edward T. Ymreolaeth Gyfunol: Safle A Hawliau Cymru: Manteision Senedd Gymreig. 1910.

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Wales: A National Magazine. July 1913.

John, Edward T. National Self-Government: How Wales Stands to Gain By It: Advantages of A Welsh Senate. 1910.

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Young Wales. March 1901.

 

Dau Ryfel / Two Wars

Gwirfoddolodd nifer yn y fyddin dan anogaeth David Lloyd George, a chonsgriptwyd nifer hefyd, i greu bataliwn ‘Cymreig’ (y 38ain), a alwyd yn fataliwn Lloyd George. Ym Mis Gorffennaf 1916 lladdwyd neu anafwyd tua 4,000 o Gymru ym Mrwydr Goed Mametz ger y Somme. Yn yr un cyfnod yn Iwerddon fe gododd Gwrthryfel y Pasg pan gipiwyd canol Dulyn, dim ond i filwyr Prydeinig eu gorchfygu dyddiau’n ddiweddarach. Cyhoeddwyd ffotograffau o ddigwyddiadau gydol y rhyfel gan y ‘War Illustrated’, yn cynnwys yma rhai o filwyr Cymru ac Iwerddon nid nepell o flaen y gad.

Whether conscripted or spurred by David Lloyd George’s rhetoric, a large number of Welshmen joined the 38th (Welsh) Division, also known as Lloyd George’s Division. In early July 1916 nearly 4,000 Welshmen were killed or wounded at the Battle of Mametz Wood on the Somme. Meanwhile, Ireland was recovering from the repercussions of the Easter Rising, when in April 1916, rebels seized Dublin, only to be quelled by British forces a few days later. The War Illustrated published photographs throughout the war, included here are some Welsh and Irish soldiers on the Western Front.

The War Illustrated: A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations. 29 July 1916

The War Illustrated: A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations. 29 July 1916

Muirhead Bone (the official war artist). The Western Front. 1917.

The Great War: The Standard History of the All-Europe Conflict. Vol. 7.

The War Illustrated: A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations. 29 July 1916.

 

Gwrthwynebwyr Cydwybodol / Conscientious Objectors

Er gwaethaf galwadau gan Kitchener i ddynion godi arfau, a’r ddeddf gonsgriptio hefyd, gwrthododd rhai ymuno â’r fyddin. Yng Nghymru cyhoeddwyd cryn nifer o bamffledi a chylchgronau heddychol, gan y rhai â daliadau crefyddol neu wleidyddol cryf. Gweithiodd Thomas Rees, pennaeth Coleg Bala-Bangor fel golygydd y cylchgrawn heddychol ‘Y Deyrnas’. Cafodd T.E.Nicholas ei garcharu am wrthod ymladd, ar sail heddychol a sosialaidd. Yn Iwerddon doedd fawr o awydd gan lawer i ymladd ar ran Prydain yn ei rhyfel tramor. Beirniadaeth hallt oedd ymateb y wasg Brydeinig i’r ‘shirkers’ honedig hyn.

Despite Kitchener’s call to arms and the newly passed Conscription Bill, some British refused to join the forces. In Wales, spurred by religious and political beliefs, a growing number wrote passionately for pacifism publishing pamphlets, books, and newspapers. Thomas Rees, principal at Bala-Bangor College and an objector on Christian principals, served as editor of Y Deyrnas. T. E. Nicholas, an out-spoken, Socialist pacifist was incarcerated for his objection to fighting. In Ireland, with rebellion surfacing, there was little interest in fighting Britain’s war overseas. The British press offered harsh criticism of so-called “shirkers”.

Punch. 12 June 1918

Punch. 12 June 1918

Nicholas, Thomas Evan. Dros Eich Gwlad. 1920.

Rees, Thomas. (ed.) Y Deyrnas. Chwefror 1917.

Punch. 16 June 1915.

Punch. 12 June 1918.

 

Llenyddiaeth / Literature

Mae Cymru ac Iwerddon ill dau yn dathlu eu traddodiadau llenyddol gan wobrwyo awduron a beirdd yn eu gwyliau diwylliannol cenedlaethol, yr Eisteddfod a’r Oireachtas. Yn yr Eisteddfod yn 1917 cafodd Hedd Wyn ei gadeirio, wythnosau ar ôl ei farwolaeth ar flaen y gad. Awdur poblogaidd ar y pryd oedd Arthur Machen, a nes ymlaen David Jones a oedd yn arlunydd hefyd, ac Edward Thomas o deulu Cymry Llundain (mae Prifysgol Caerdydd yn dal ei archif llenyddol enfawr). Yn Iwerddon adlewyrchiad o hyder cenedlaethol oedd gweithiau Padraig Pearse. Er yn pellhau ei hun oddi wrth Wrthryfel y Pasg, roedd W.B. Yeats yn dal yn wladgarwr wrth reddf; un o weithiau Yeats sydd yma, o gasgliad gweisg preifat Prifysgol Caerdydd, un o’r ddau gasgliad pwysicaf o’i fath ym Mhrydain.

Wales and Ireland both celebrate their individual literary traditions prizing authors and poets at their respective cultural festivals, the Eisteddfod and Oireachtas. At the 1917 Eisteddfod, ‘Hedd Wyn’ (Ellis Humphrey Evans) was awarded the highest honour posthumously, the Bardic Chair, having been killed on the Front only weeks earlier. Other popular Anglo-Welsh wartime authors included Arthur Machen, David Jones who was an equally accomplished artist, and Edward Thomas from a London-Welsh family (Cardiff holds an extensive archive of Edward Thomas materials.) In Ireland, the prolific writings of Patrick Pearse boosted a surge in Irish pride. An Irish Nationalist at heart, William Butler Yeats distanced himself from the events of the Easter Rising in 1916. One of Yeats’ works is shown from the Cardiff Private Presses collection, one of the two largest such collections in Britain.

Bettws-y-Coed, from Edward Thomas, Beautiful Wales. 1905.

Bettws-y-Coed, from Edward Thomas, Beautiful Wales. 1905.

Rhaglen Swyddogol Eisteddfod Frenhinol Genedlaethol Cymru. 1917.

Cofnodion a Chyfansoddiadau Eisteddfod Genedlaethol. 1917.

Wyn, Hedd. Cerddi’r Bugail: Cyfrol Goffa Hedd Wyn. 1918.

Thomas, Edward. Beautiful Wales. 1905.

Oireachtas. 1917.

Hyne, Anthony. David Jones: A Fusilier at the Front. 1995.

Pearse, Desmond Ryan (ed.). Collected Works of Padraic H. Pearse: Plays, Stories, Poems. 1917.

Yeats, William Butler. Responsibilities: Poems and a Play. The Cuala Press, 1914.

Machen, Arthur. Angel of Mons: The Bowman and Other Legends of the War. 1915.

 

Wedi’r Rhyfel / Post-War

Llwybrau gwahanol oedd etifeddiaeth y rhyfel i Gymru ac Iwerddon, er yn cwrdd weithiau, fel yn Fron-goch, lle’r oedd gwersyll i 2,000 o garcharorion Gwyddelig. Yn 1920 gwireddwyd Deddf Ymreolaeth Iwerddon nifer o amcanion y mudiad ymreolaeth, ond heb chwe sir y gogledd, ac felly yn tanio gwreichion yr IRA nes ymlaen. Yng Nghymru gwelodd ffrwyth yr ymgyrch i ddatgysylltu’r Eglwys, eto’n rhan o weledigaeth y mudiad ymreolaeth cynharach. Gwelwyd cefnogaeth eang i sefydlu Cynghrair y Cenhedloedd yng Nghymru. Dangosodd ôl y rhyfel mewn amryw o ffyrdd, dynion yn ceisio dychwelwyd i’w gwaith, a menywod dros 30 yn ennill y bleidlais.

The legacies of Wales and Ireland remained entwined as nearly 2,000 Irish rebels were held prisoner at Fron-Goch in North Wales. However, by 1920, the two nations embarked on separate paths. In 1920, The Government of Ireland Act, following the Home Rule demands, established a self governing Ireland, minus the six counties in the north, fanning the sparks that would ignite the IRA. While in Wales, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill was enacted, motivated in part by the Home Rule demands. Enthusiasm in Wales for organising future peace through the League of Nations increased. Post-war society reflected changing pressures as returning soldiers sought a return to normalcy and women aged 30 and older won the vote.

Ysbysty Tywysog Cymru i Forwyr a Milwyr Cymru a Sir Fynwy Wedi Colli Aelodau yn y Rhyfel. 1918.

Ebenezer, Lyn. Fron-Goch Camp 1916 and the Birth of the IRA. 2012.

O Mahony, Sean. Fron-Goch: University of Revolution. 1987.

The Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic, 1916. 1960.

Garnett, Maxwell. Organising Peace: Being an Account of the League of Nations. 1928.

Ysbysty Tywysog Cymru i Forwyr a Milwyr Cymru a Sir Fynwy Wedi Colli Aelodau yn y Rhyfel. 1918.

League of Nations. How you Can Join the League of Nations Union and Help Forward the Most Practical Means of Securing World Peace.

Punch. 27 June 1918.

Edward Thomas biography wins literary award

Matthew Hollis, author of Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas, has won the Costa (formerly Whitbread) prize for best biography. The judges called it “dramatic and engrossing. A brilliant biography that moved us all.”

The biography gives an account of the last five years of Thomas’ life, in particular his friendship with poet Robert Frost, his struggles with depression, the late discovery and rapid blossoming of his talent for poetry, cut short by his decision to voluntarily fight in WWI, which culminated in his death at Arras on Easter Monday, 1917.

It was a surprise win for the debut biographer, as Claire Tomalin’s biography of Dickens had been a strong favourite. Matthew Hollis is now 2-1 favourite to win the overall award, Costa’s Book of the Year, announced on 24 January.

During his research for the biography, Hollis drew heavily on Edward Thomas’ letters, photographs and poetry manuscripts, held at Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University. We hope this award will raise the profile of Edward Thomas’ poetry, and his substantial archives at Cardiff.

The Edward Thomas collection is fully catalogued and will shortly be available to search online. It contains around 4000 letters to and from friends and family, 2000 reviews, 500 photographs and 300 poetry manuscripts, as well as notebooks, diaries and other personal effects. It is available for consultation on appointment. Please contact the Archivist, Alison Harvey, for more information: HarveyAE@cardiff.ac.uk.