THOMAS, EDWARD (1878-1917, Anglo-Welsh poet)
AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS FAMOUS POEM 'COCK CROW', untitled herein, 8 lines, with a three-line unpublished autograph note at head 'The image used to appear to me every morning in the Spring when the cocks crow, just like a coat of arms', four substantive revisions in lines four and six and a word in the first line, preserving (including the prose head note) reconsidered and unrecorded readings, half page octavo, torn away at the top with evidence of some probably unrelated text above [London, 23 July 1915]
Out of the wood of thoughts that grow by night
To be cut down by the sharp axe of light, -
Out of the night, two cocks together crow;
Cleaving the darkness with a silver blow:
And bright before my eyes twin trumpeters stand
Heralds of splendour, one on either hand,
Each facing each as in a coat-of-arms:
The milkers lace their boots up at the farms.
ONE OF THOMAS'S MOST ANTHOLOGISED POEMS, appearing for instance in The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (1982). The poem was written in London on 23 July 1915 according to R.G. Thomas, The Collected Poems. Coombes has a commentary on the poem quoting Leavis.
POETICAL MANUSCRIPTS BY EDWARD THOMAS ARE RARE; only two others have appeared at auction. This manuscript was unknown to R.G. Thomas and other editors. Andrew Motion sees 'Cock-Crow' as the first of four poems describing Thomas's reaction to 'the trumpet [which] blows for everything' [and that this poem was] only the fourth poem he wrote after enlisting, his enthusiasm for military life is 'tightly reined.' 'The crowing cocks are transformed by his pun on "blow" into "twin trumpeters" which, although wilfully stylised, strengthens his resolve by cutting down the shadows of uncertainty. Nevertheless, he refuses to be come intoxicated by their summons, and it is a beautifully evocative, pacific, pastoral action to which he turns in the end' "The milkers lace their boots up at the farms."'
Auden and Day-Lewis said that Thomas was a poet they had 'little hope of ever equalling'; Ted Hughes that 'He is the father of us all.'
The most important groups of Thomas's poetical manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, The British Library, Cardiff University, The National Library of Wales and Austin, the Berg, the Lockwood Memorial Library and Austin, Texas.
REFERENCES: R.G. Thomas, The Collected Poems, 1978; H. Coombes, Edward Thomas: A Critical Study, 1973; Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead To France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas, 2011; The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, 1997; Andrew Motion, The Poetry of Edward Thomas, 1980; Location Register of Twentieth-Century Literary Manuscripts and Letters, 2 volumes, 1988.