The Lofty Sky

Today I want the sky,
The tops of the high hills,
Above the last man's house ,
His hedges, and his cows,
Where, if I will, I look
Down even on sheep and rook,
And of all things that move
See buzzards only above:
Past all trees, past furze
And thorn, where naught deters
The desire of the eye
For sky, nothing but sky.
I sicken of the woods
And all the multitudes
Of hedge-trees.
They are no more
Than weeds upon this floor
Of the river of air
Leagues deep, leagues wide,
Where I am like a fish that lives
In weeds and mud and gives
What's above him no thought.
I might be a tench for aught
That I can do to-day
Down on the wealden clay.
Even the tench has days
When he floats up and plays
Among the lily leaves
And sees the sky, or grieves
Not if he nothing sees:
While I, I know that trees
Under that lofty sky
Are weeds, fields mud, and I
Would arise and go far
To where the lilies are.

[Edward Thomas is a much overlooked poet: often marginalized from collections of war poetry and not fully “pastoral” enough to fit into the georgic revival mould, he is difficult to categorise. His poems seems pastoral and simple on a first reading, but are often imbued with a strangely melancholic tone- something stemming from his own battles with depression. He also wrote about "otherness" and was fascinated by the symbolism of doppelgangers, particularly how they could represent a duality in human nature. He died in Flanders in 1917. I often think of the works of Thomas around Armistice Day – more so than I think of Sassoon or Owen - he seems to capture the sense of loss far more precisely than many other poets, I find. Needless to say, when I studied Thomas at school, I couldn’t stand his work: far too “gentle” - I preferred the pretentious rantings of Eliot or the out and out miserableness of Sylvia Plath. What can I say? I was a teenager… Ho hum.
This particular poem is a fair prĂ©cis of my mood. Not literally, of course- although I feel that the sky is growing heavier and lower by the day, that the buildings are bleeding greyness into the streets, that this damp greyness is being absorbed into my very bones, that I am rotting like leaves heaped by the roadside, that I am darkly slipping into winter with only the vague memory of spring and the hope of spring to come keeping me from being washed away, that I am drowning in gulps of grizzled air, that I need to see something beautiful, something open wide and clear before I lose all hope and myself – but it does capture at least something of the mood that I feel. And then there are Thomas’s symbolic woods… You can read a lot into those, I assure you.
There seem to be a lot of people weighed down by “something” - right now, chipper blogging seems to be the exception rather than the rule- and I am part of that fashion. I know that like all seasons, all moods, all fashions, it will pass - but when? I am forcing myself to wear pink and grin like an automaton in a vague hope that it will trigger the real “happy” outlook. Failing that, I may have to be an early adoptee of the fashion for tinsel. Actually, I may just stay miserable: far less irritating.]