Tears By Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas’s poem Tears dwells on two situations that prompted tears to pour. The first was the sight of twenty hounds being chased by foxes and a ceremonial occasion in which British soldiers were well decked as part of their loyalty to their country. The poem depicts Thomas expressing intense emotions as tears fall, which could be tears of joy or tears of grief. The feelings in this poem tend to depict an emotional need for aesthetic appreciation, as well as emotions about deception (that nothing is ever as it appears) and emotions involving love for one’s country.

The poem is presented in blank verse with no formal rhyme scheme and perhaps provides Thomas with the poetic freedom needed to explore these similar emotions in two different circumstances. The poem consists of 18 lines and caesurae may be identified throughout the poem as Thomas states “They should have fallen – their ghosts”. The punctuation makes the reader aware of what is to come next. The free-flowing nature of the poem has a less compulsive flow which also makes it easier to read aloud.

Personification, pathetic fallacy and metaphors are deployed through the poem. “They should have fallen,” – Thomas here mentions beyond the obvious military reference that his tears should have fallen: the use of the word “fallen” can be identified in his poem Gone, Gone Again where Thomas talks of falling Blenheim oranges with no one to pick them. Perhaps he personified the tears in the first line of this poem. Thomas relates the tears as though they have died as he mentions “their ghosts”. This could also be used as personification as he continues with saying, “if tears have ghosts”.  As ghosts represent life after death, one may wonder if these tears represent death or mourning. Thomas personifies the scent of the hounds as “a great dragon”. This literary device could also be looked upon as a simile or as metaphorical. “The music piercing that solitude” also reflects the ability of the music to cause something to cease, to “pierce”. This may reflect the metaphoric ability of the music.

Thomas first mentions that hounds streamed by him being chased by the foxes although the imagery suggests a pleasing sight. Also, “the scent like a great dragon” evokes the high emotions that must have occurred within Thomas, as he then relates that, beneath the aesthetic pleasure of the hounds being chased, the hounds were in great danger, and the violence and destruction that may have occurred when the hounds were finally caught may have caused a tear to fall from his eye. A similar emotion pervades his second thought as he observes young English compatriots, fair-haired and ruddy in their exquisite white tunics. He claimed that it was a magnificent ceremony to witness since the soldiers’ order, young and agile, sparkling in their white tunics, must have been attractive to the eye. Nonetheless, beyond the celebrations and exterior ornamentation, the soldiers were in other places killing men and implementing their economic restrictions and constraints on the local populace. Perhaps Thomas was also saddened by the fact that, despite the lovely ritual, there was underlying and tremendous destruction. When Thomas cites the “rage of gladness” in line 4, the metaphor paradoxically depicts the wrath and violence while bringing gladness to the senses – from the aroma to the harmonic melodies and elegant sights. The speaker is nearly overwhelmed by the vast range of sensory impressions.

The poem through language and imagery reflects the differences in “rage” in the countryside and the cities. The survey of British soldiers could also be related to the situation in India where a regal ceremony was held in honour of the Royal Coronation in 1911 while a few years before that hundreds of Indians had been killed due to the partition of Bengal. These strong emotions portrayed by Thomas in his poem can also be found in his other poem, But these things also and No one so much as you reflect that nothing is ever as it seems Thomas talks of differences with his wife, even though they appear to be happily married, and the signs of Winter that these people mistake for Spring. Feelings that include recollecting memories and sensitive emotions may arise, as in Old Man’s discussion of his memory of the plant. Gone, Gone Again depicts the emotions associated with wartime, as well as the disparities that exist between the city and the countryside, as well as the terrible impacts they tend to have. This isn’t a little matter of right and wrong like in The Team’s Head Brass.

In this version, Thomas skillfully represents our human predisposition to be easily misled by our senses (hearing, smell, and seeing), frequently ignoring the huge dangers that may lurk beneath. These recollections and thoughts drive Thomas to shed a tear, even though he appears to have none left after repeatedly mourning the impacts of war on the city, the people, and the villages.

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