Fans of Edward Thomas take the time to stop and remember 'Adlestrop'
One hundred years ago – 23 June 1914 – a famous poem about a railway halt was born when Edward Thomas’s train made an unscheduled stop at Adlestrop. The resulting poem is not very long - only 16 lines - but it has resounded down the years as summing up that “paradise lost” mood on the eve of the outbreak of the first world war, as well as making many railway enthusiasts misty-eyed at the thought of all the stations closed – including Adlestrop itself - since it was written.
In a journal entry Thomas recorded: ""Then we stopped at Adlestrop, through the willows could be heard a chain of blackbirds' songs at 12.45 and one thrush and no man seen, only a hiss of engine letting off steam."
The Poetry Society has been asking people to send in poems inspired by 'Adlestrop', which it has published on its website, and also requested its Twitter followers to tweet at 12.45pm on Monday, describing what they can hear at that exact moment. Car horns? Laughter? Babies crying? Blackbirds singing?
Thomas was killed on the western front in April 1917. Here is his poem about the Gloucestershire village station, which closed in 1966, in the Cotswolds. A local bus shelter contains a bench from the platform:
Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat, the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop - only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
The poetry band Little Machine's version of 'Adlestrop', to honour the poem's centenary, can be heard here