Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas Poems

Edward Thomas, born in Lambeth, Surrey, in 1878, stands as a paramount poet of the World Wars, alongside figures like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, and Rupert Brooke. He crafted over 150 poems, including notable pieces like The Owl‘, ‘The Dark Forest,’ ‘Haymaking,’ and ‘The Sign-Post.’ These works, still revered in schools, deeply reflect the sentiments of the First World War era.

Volunteering for WWI, Thomas’s dedication was profound, but he tragically fell in Arras, France, in 1917. Renowned for capturing the emotions of wartime, his legacy is immortalized in Westminster Abbey’s Poets Corner in London. Read more about Edward Thomas.


by Edward Thomas

‘Adlestrop’ captures a fleeting moment of tranquility during an unexpected train stop. Through vivid imagery, Thomas paints a serene countryside scene, emphasizing the harmonious sounds of nature.

'Adlestrop' begins with a train's sudden stop at a small station, where the speaker observes the peaceful countryside and nature's harmony. The poem's beauty lies in its simplicity, capturing a fleeting moment that emphasizes the connection between man and nature. The chorus of birdsong symbolizes timeless beauty, making "Adlestrop" a standout and often considered Edward Thomas's best poem for its ability to evoke profound emotions through ordinary occurrences.

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

Lights Out

by Edward Thomas

‘Lights Out’ is a haunting poem that uses an extended metaphor to compare the world of sleep to that of death.

Thomas paints a vivid picture of a dark forest, representing the inevitable realm of sleep, which mirrors the finality of death. As the journey progresses, one realizes the inescapability of this forest. Despite countless attempts by many over the ages, evading this destination is impossible.

I have come to the borders of sleep,

The unfathomable deep

Forest where all must lose

Their way, however straight,

The Sign-Post

by Edward Thomas

‘The Sign-Post’ by Edward Thomas contains a discussion within a speaker’s mind about the progression of time and the nature of Heaven. 

The poem starts with a description of an image-rich scene on top of a hill beside a signpost. The speaker spends time thinking about what’s ahead of him and where he should go/what he should do next. The poem then transitions into a scene with the narrator, who discusses the inescapable process of aging and one’s eventual entry into Heaven.

The dim sea glints chill. The white sun is shy,

And the skeleton weeds and the never-dry,

Rough, long grasses keep white with frost

At the hilltop by the finger-post;


by Edward Thomas

In ‘Rain’ Thomas focuses on death. His speaker contemplates the future within the trenches of World War I.

The speaker describes the pounding rain on the roof of a “bleak hut” that he’s sheltering in. He’s alone in a trench somewhere during the First World War. There, he has nothing to do but think about his own mortality and what’s coming for him any minute. The rain, in the end, is something pleasant. It washes the speaker clean, cleaner than he’s been in a long time. In the end, he takes comfort in the fact that he can depend on the rain as something imperfect and constant.
Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me Remembering again that I shall die And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks

May the Twenty-third

by Edward Thomas

‘May the Twenty-third,’ one of Thomas’ best-known poems describes a perfect day, a naturally beautiful day that is beyond compare. This particular “may” is the best he’s ever had.

Thomas uses a thunderstorm as an image of perseverance and strength and then introduces Jack. This man walks into the scene, wandering seemingly pointlessly. He’s carrying cowslip flowers and cresses, which he gives to the speaker. Jack speaks briefly with the narrator and then goes on his way.

There never was a finer day,

And never will be while May is May,

The third, and not the last of its kind;

But though fair and clear the two behind

The Chalk Pit

by Edward Thomas

In this mysterious and evocative poem, the speaker gives a memorable depiction of an abandoned chalk pit.

The speaker describes the “fullness” of life that he senses in the chalk pit, but when he looks around, there’s nothing really to be seen. It’s clear that the place has been abandoned for a century. But nevertheless, it still seems as though there is something there, something that “just” ended. The speaker and his companion try to fill in details, imagined and real, and the poem ends with an emphasis on the two speakers as the only living things there.

Is this the road that climbs above and bends

Round what was once a chalk-pit: now it is

By accident an amphitheatre.

Some ash trees standing ankle-deep in briar

As the Team’s Head Brass

by Edward Thomas

‘As the Team’s Head Brass’ is a narrative poem written in 1916.

The poem focuses on the theme of war through a discussion between a plowman and the speaker. The two spend time thinking and talking about war and explore how deeply the war (WWI) has penetrated into everyone’s lives. This poem is well-loved and often assigned to students of English literature.

As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn

The lovers disappeared into the wood.

I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm

That strewed an angle of the fallow, and


by Edward Thomas

‘Haymaking’ is a beautiful pastoral poem and another of Thomas’ best-known works. It describes a landscape and its laborers who are impacted in different ways by the passage of time. The imagery is tranquil and pristine, as if it was just created by God.

The speaker spends time discussing the water mill and the birds that he hears singing all throughout the woods. Thomas’ speaker notes how eternal the scene feels, as though the haymakers have been there forever, along with the natural imagery around them.

After night’s thunder far away had rolled

The fiery day had a kernel sweet of cold,

And in the perfect blue the clouds uncurled,

Like the first gods before they made the world


by Edward Thomas

In ‘Beauty’ Thomas’ speaker asserts his definition of what beauty is and how he experiences it.

The speaker sees his life as a delicate balance, and he knows that beauty plays an important part in it. When things are without beauty, they’re meaningless to him. It’s in the natural world that he’s able to completely rid himself of annoyances and feel at peace. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always get to spend his time there. He is often Tired, angry, and ill at ease” with himself and his life.

What does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,

No man, woman, or child alive could please

Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh

Because I sit and frame an epitaph-

The New Year

by Edward Thomas

In this poem, Thomas’ speaker describes a strange encounter between two men in a forest on a morning at the beginning of the year.

There was one man, a “tripod man” who was leaning over a rake and working on the newly fallen leaves. The poem is filled with unanswered questions that make the entire scene even stranger. Thomas concludes the poem without his speaker coming to any conclusions about what he just experienced.

He was the one man I met up in the woods

That stormy New Year’s morning; and at first sight,

Fifty yards off, I could not tell how much

Of the strange tripod was a man. His body,

Explore more poems from Edward Thomas


by Edward Thomas

In ‘Aspens’ Thomas focuses on the theme of grief and what role poetry has to play in the preservation of memory.

The speaker describes the sounds of the aspen trees in the first lines; they talk amongst themselves just as the poets do. They share stories that live at a crossroads. It is due to their central position that they’re able to bring forward the ghosts of the past and express the emotions of an age. Thomas concludes the poem by recognizing the fact that, as a poet, he will not always be listened to.

All day and night, save winter, every weather,

Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop,

The aspens at the cross-roads talk together

Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.

Up in the Wind

by Edward Thomas

‘Up in the Wind’ captures a public house history with the nature surrounding it, and how it impacts others.

This poem is a dramatic monologue by Edward Thomas. The poem is excellently written and follows a simple story with complex themes hiding behind it. It is regarded as one of Thomas' best-known and most commonly read poems for the way it incorporates elements of a narrative with a Romantic depiction of experience and the natural world. Readers are likely to enjoy Thomas' use of perspective and characterization as well.

I could wring the old thing's neck that put it there!

A public-house! it may be public for birds,

Squirrels and suchlike, ghosts of charcoal-burners

Old Man

by Edward Thomas

‘Old Man’ by Edward Thomas is a thoughtful piece about the loss of memory and a disconnect to one’s past. 

Tall Nettles

by Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas’s ‘Tall Nettles’ asks readers to see as much beauty in the world as possible, even where one doesn’t expect to find it. 

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?