Behind Their Lines: Gone, gone again – Poet Edward Thomas

British poet Edward Thomas, born 3 March 1878.

Edward Thomas is not a forgotten poet of the First World War; he is commemorated in Westminster Abbey’s Poet Corner, and his poems “Rain” and “As the team’s head-brass” are frequently included in collections of war poetry.

However, others of Thomas’s poems may be less familiar, and one of these is the beautiful, neglected poem “Gone, Gone Again,” written in the early autumn of 1916 as the battle of the Somme was entering its third month. It has been set to music by Toby Darling and can be listened to here.

Gone, Gone Again

Gone, gone again,
May, June, July,
And August gone,
Again gone by,
Not memorable
Save that I saw them go,
As past the empty quays
The rivers flow.
And now again,
In the harvest rain,
The Blenheim oranges
Fall grubby from the trees,
As when I was young—
And when the lost one was here—
And when the war began
To turn young men to dung.
Look at the old house,
Outmoded, dignified,
Dark and untenanted,
With grass growing instead
Of the footsteps of life,
The friendliness, the strife;
In its beds have lain
Youth, love, age, and pain:
I am something like that;
Only I am not dead,
Still breathing and interested
In the house that is not dark:—
I am something like that:
Not one pane to reflect the sun,
For the schoolboys to throw at—
They have broken every one.
–Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas

The poem echoes with melancholy: the passing of summer, the death of so many young men, the loneliness of life and of aging. And while other poets have written of desolate homes destroyed by the war (Margaret Widdemer in “Homes” and May Sinclair in “After the Retreat”), Thomas compares himself to an abandoned house, “Dark and untenanted,/With grass growing instead/Of the footsteps of life.”

Image by Dr. Neil Clifton
Image by Dr. Neil Clifton

At nearly forty, Thomas was older than the typical volunteer soldier; his poem “Gone, Gone Again,” resonates with undertones that are deeply conscious of mortality and powerlessness.

Read more via Behind Their Lines: Gone, gone again

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