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This review is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

NATURE AND NUANCES Michael Kirkham, The Imagination of Edward Thomas (Cambridge University Press) £25.00

It is an uncovenanted gift of this admirable study of Edward Thomas's poetry that it shows the strong roots, back at the beginning of this century, of our concerns for the environment; these concerns, crudely articulated in 'the Green Movement' and more subtly in the poetry (and the polemic voice) of R.S. Thomas, are at the heart of Edward Thomas's poetry and prose. Professor Kirkham summarizes this underlying concern: 'Thomas's theory of social and psychological change in England leads, as does Eliot's suggestion that a dissociation of sensibility set in during the seventeenth century, to the notion of a lost order of life.' Professor Kirkham is not afraid to establish his critical stance at the opening of the work before proceeding to the critical analysis of the poems. In the opening pages he is prepared to express the judgement that 'Thomas's sensibility was composed of scepticism, agnosticism, and aspirations to a certainty beyond both in about the same proportions as was E.M. Forster's', and proceeds further to define the central problem of Thomas's creed: 'The problem for the religious man deprived of a deity is to find the infinite in the finite and the eternal in the temporal.' That this search for a spiritual validity takes place within a landscape that is being eroded of its 'moral landmark', is the oppressive burden bearing upon Thomas's poetry. He can at certain times - and the poems spring into renewed life at these moments - feel himself to be one with ...


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