Settings:A Soldier-Poet: Edward Thomas enlists and trains.
Artists' Rifles HQ, 17 Duke Street, Euston: The recruiting office was in Albemarle Street.
He had agonised for months about whether he should follow Robert Frost to America or enlist or at least 'do something' for his country threatened and injured by war.
His journey through the cities of the Midlands and the North, collecting the thoughts expressed by ordinary people during the early months of war, led to him speculating about why a man volunteered:
So many reasons why Edward Thomas took that first step toward his death at the Battle of Arras. Some would add an episode of cowardice/ common-sense witnessed by Robert Frost in confrontation with a game-keeper.
After initial training on Hampstead Heath where his map-reading skills were recognised he was sent first to High Beech, Epping Forest, training camp. No doubt he spent some leisure time here in the King's Oak.
Then he was sent to Hare Hall Camp, near Romford , Essex, where he was to stay for a year and a half.
'His first impression of a great house and park soon faded as he was drawn into the changed life of Hare Hall. Exercises, parades, routines, the new way of passing time. Much of his life was spent in lecture huts, the canteen, the reading room and the mess. Hut Number 3, a sound wooden hut sleeping twenty-five men, was home. The park became a site for compass exercises, and the great Georgian house was the remote home of the most senior officers, of whom he was in awe.' (A.C.E)
The Poem: For These
Edna Longley sees irony in the poem. I wouldn't want to quarrel with Edna Longley, goodness knows, but I think I'd call it realism.