‘The Glory’ by Edward Thomas is a thirty-four line poem that is contained within one block of text. The lines do not follow one specific pattern of rhyme, instead, the rhyme varies throughout the text. Some rhymes appearing in couplets, others at a distance apart. This choice allows the poem to have some degree of unity and rhythm without overdoing it. There is nothing over-stylized about the text, this way the reader’s focus is fixed on the poignant images Thomas creates.
The poem begins with the speaker devoting a number of lines to the natural beauty around him. It is limitless. There are birds, drops of still wet dew, and other sights and sounds that take him out of his body and make him wish he had a greater part of nature’s glory inside him.
Over the next lines, he discusses his desire to take in nature and learn to embody some of its wisdom and or strength. Through this process, it is likely the speaker was hoping to understand the world better. As Thomas was obviously a poet, many assume this was to be done through writing.
In the final lines, he succumbs to the realization that he is never going to be able to reach nature’s truth, or “bite the day to the core.” It is impossible for him to reach.
Theme and Imagery
The main themes of this piece, those of inherent inadequacy, the sublime, and the beauty of nature, are intimately connected with the images. Thomas paints a beautiful, overwhelming landscape of imagery in the first lines. These are scenes that a reader should be able to visualize and therefore also be able to empathize with Thomas over. The sounds and sights trigger one’s senses, as do moments in which Thomas uses metaphor or simile to compare something to “new-mown hay” or an apple.
The apple is one of the last images presented in the text, but is never described by name. Rather, it is referred to through the line “I cannot bite the day to the core.” It is impossible to ignore the connections between eating an apple and an impossibly beautiful natural scene. It is likely that Thomas was thinking of Eden, or a place like it, when crafting ‘The Glory.’
Analysis of The Glory
The glory of the beauty of the morning, –
The cuckoo crying over the untouched dew;
The blackbird that has found it, and the dove
That tempts me on to something sweeter than love;
White clouds ranged even and fair as new-mown hay;
The heat, the stir, the sublime vacancy
Of sky and meadow and forest and my own heart: –
In the first lines of this piece, the speaker begins by describing the simple, beautiful elements of the morning. These are a “glory” to behold and include the morning itself, as well as the sounds of the “cuckoo crying over the untouched dew.” There is already a pristine feeling to the day. As yet, it is untouched. The dew is still wet, and in the same places where it formed the night before.
He goes on to mention the “blackbirds” and “the dove.” These different birds symbolize an important part of nature, one that the speaker later worries over not being able to meet. Nature has an inherent freedom that humanity, in all its civilized knots, does not.
The speaker also describes the “clouds” that “ranged even and fair as new-mown hay.” Again, the speaker sees the world as a perfect reflection of what nature should be. There is nothing out of place, and when things are empty, they are “sublime” in their “vacancy.” In line seven the speaker connects nature to his own being. His heart is tempted by all these natural wonders. In fact, as the next lines state, it “invites him.”
The glory invites me, yet it leaves me scorning
All I can ever do, all I can be,
Beside the lovely of motion, shape, and hue,
The happiness I fancy fit to dwell
In beauty’s presence. Shall I now this day
Begin to seek as far as heaven, as hell,
The nature around the speaker “invites” him in but at the same time, “leaves [him] scorning.” When he compares himself to what he sees outside and the glory it contains, he feels as if he isn’t good enough. What he has is an exterior relationship to the natural world. He has the “motion, shape, and hue.” The speaker feels as though he could or should be a part of “beauty’s presence” and decides to strive for that.
Wisdom or strength to match this beauty, start E
And tread the pale dust pitted with small dark drops,
In hope to find whatever it is I seek,
Hearkening to short-lived happy-seeming things
That we know naught of, in the hazel copse?
Or must I be content with discontent
As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings?
In the next lines of ‘The Glory’ he describes his new task of seeking out the internal “Wisdom or strength to match this beauty.” If he can find these things then maybe he will come close to matching nature’s all-encompassing glory. Even while he is deciding to try to embody and represent the best parts of nature, he knows that it’s going to be difficult. The fact that it comes as a question is a big hint.
At on point in line twenty-three, he speaks of the deeper parts of nature as being things that “we know naught of.” It is these things he knows he can’t understand that are going to be integral to an accurate depiction of nature, presumably, through writing.
He asks another question, wondering if he is going to have to accept his “discontent.” He compares this unhappiness to “larks and swallows.” Perhaps, he thinks, they are as “discontent” with wings as he is with his ability to describe them substantially.
And shall I ask at the day’s end once more
What beauty is, and what I can have meant
By happiness? And shall I let all go,
Glad, weary, or both? Or shall I perhaps know
That I was happy oft and oft before,
Awhile forgetting how I am fast pent,
How dreary-swift, with naught to travel to,
Is Time? I cannot bite the day to the core.
In the next lines, he asks a few more questions. The first shows the exhaustion that is going to take over if the speaker pursues this way of living and working. He is going to have to ask again and again “the day’s end…what beauty is.” He cannot describe it for himself, he can only see it in nature.
Alternatively, he could “let all go” and therefore be “Glad, weary, or both.” This possibility is another he has to contend with. The poem ends with the speaker stating that he “cannot bite the day to the core.” This is a great summary of the problem he contends with throughout ‘The Glory.’ As a human being and a part of the natural world, he can see it, feel it, and appreciate it for its “glory” but he does not have the ability to put it down on paper. The words he needs to escape him and he knows there isn’t much hope he will find them. In the end, he spends his time trying to determine how he’s going to face this inadequacy, will he fight back? Or accept that he isn’t good enough?