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Companionship

 


I've always found this a touching story.

A man actively considering suicide – even to the point of carrying a loaded revolver in his pocket – meets another writer for the first time, who never knew what was being considered.  The latter's friendly professional advice turns out to be momentous, for not only does he unwittingly dissuade – indeed save – the depressed writer, but sets him off onto the path of poetry, which was in time to make him famous.  A deep friendship resulted, alongside a body of important poems from the one who had possibly been about to kill himself.

True, our unhappy newly-made poet was soon enough to find an early end – if not exactly suicide, then arguably a deliberate taking the road towards almost certain death.  But before that, the two poets had walked together happily in a productive companionship, which helped generate many of those much-loved poems.

So here is the indecisive Edward Thomas, the author who Robert Frost told he should recast his prose as poetry, reflecting on that companionship.

 

Companionship

 

I went to meet him, heaviness about me

weighing me down.  I remember

that weight.

 

And his persuasion – take the story

now make it different, make it into

poetry.

 

The weight remained – I was reminded

while we walked, as I could feel

the pull

 

of hard wood, iron and steel bound up

in previous resolution, awaiting

my decision.

 

He never knew what I was carrying

on that occasion, of what had been

determined

 

and I was not to know this first time

how far we two would walk

together

 

nor the power that poetry holds

for those who write it – no, not yet, writer

as I was.

 

Ahead of us lay many choices,

ways to follow, which road to take,

and now

 

I knew that we had more to say

the weight felt less, I had decided

not this time,

 

not this time, at this first meeting.

We would have more.  I put that

weight aside,

 

took up his friendship, lightening me

while we walked together, until

I had to leave.

 

Ironically, Frost later gently mocked Thomas' indecisiveness in one of his own best-known poems, which happened to be about roads.  Thomas took it differently, making his difficult decision which stressed to breaking point the bond of friendship; he followed his chosen road that led to the trenches of France. He was dead within months.

But friendship had bought him time, and the rest of us some wonderful poetry.





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