What it's all about
Britain's greatest poets have always been inspired by the outdoors. But for anyone who has ever walked down a country lane, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) is possibly the most haunting poet, says Jerome Monahan.
He considered that all such paths told tales and absorbed the emotions of the generations of walkers who preceded him. One of the lesser-known soldier-poets of the First World War, he found solace from his depression - and created some of his most memorable works - by treading the lanes and byways of southern England.
He wrote a number of works celebrating southern England's famous pathways, including The Icknield Way, 1913, which includes uncanny descriptions of a kind of doppelganger pursuing him on the road.
It was such passages that caused the US poet Robert Frost, on meeting Thomas in 1913, to encourage him to mine his prose for poetry. In 1915, Frost sent Thomas a draft of his poem The Road Not Taken. In it, a narrator describes the melancholy he feels at a dividing point in a path, hesitating before making a choice about which way to go. It was symbolic of the choices that Thomas faced in 1915, vacillating between travelling to America or volunteering to fight.
In the end he volunteered, taking the steps that would take him to France and the bomb that killed him. His war diary was one of the few possessions returned to his wife, Helen, after his death.
See Edward Thomas's diary at bit.ly104E49z
Listen to a recording of Margaret Atwood's poem The Moment and hear nature whispering to voyagers throughout the ages. This resource from TES English includes audio commentary and readings with sound effects. bit.lyTheMomentAudio.