Poetry Centre

Edward Thomas, Sedge-Warblers

  • Read by Dr Andrew Lack, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Biology, Oxford Brookes University

    Sedge-Warblers

    This beauty made me dream there was a time
    Long past and irrecoverable, a clime
    Where any brook so radiant racing clear
    Through buttercup and kingcup bright as brass
    But gentle, nourishing the meadow grass
    That leans and scurries in the wind, would bear
    Another beauty, divine and feminine,
    Child to the sun, a nymph whose soul unstained
    Could love all day, and never hate or tire,
    A lover of mortal or immortal kin.

    And yet, rid of this dream, ere I had drained
    Its poison, quieted was my desire
    So that I only looked into the water,
    Clearer than any goddess or man’s daughter,
    And hearkened while it combed the dark green hair
    And shook the millions of the blossoms white
    Of water-crowfoot, and curdled to one sheet
    The flowers fallen from the chestnuts in the park
    Far off. And sedge-warblers, clinging so light
    To willow twigs, sang longer than the lark,
    Quick, shrill, or grating, a song to match the heat
    Of the strong sun, nor less the water’s cool,
    Gushing through narrows, swirling in the pool.
    Their song that lacks all words, all melody,
    All sweetness almost, was dearer then to me
    Than sweetest voice that sings in tune sweet words.
    This was the best of May—the small brown birds
    Wisely reiterating endlessly
    What no man learnt yet, in or out of school.

    Edward Thomas

    This poem (1915) is in the public domain.