The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.
Edward Thomas, 1915
This poem shouldn’t need too much commentary. It is the saddest of war poems, by one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century, Edward Thomas, a great nature poet, and a poet of the Great War – and one of those who died fighting in it. It is – I don’t know – quietly devastating. The sense of loss is given an added bitterness because Easter is a commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, sacrificed for man’s sins, while Spring and the appearance of flowers in the woods herald the rebirth of the year after the deathly cold and barrenness of winter; but the flowers here only remind us of the terrible, permanent absence of men fallen in battle.