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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Help recalling a poem

ian turner

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I once read a poem at the Imperial War Museum - it was in a special display marking the launch of the CWGC online search facility.

I do not know its title - something like The Ploughman or Ploughboy - and its theme was comparing his secret hideaway on the farm (a bush or somesuch) with his unknown final resting place on the battlefield.

Anyone know the poem and can tell me about it?



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Hi Ian,

The poem you are looking for is called "A Private", by Edward Thomas, (1878 - April 9th 1917, at Arras)

A Private

This ploughman dead in battle slept out of doors

Many's a frozen night, and merrily

Answered staid drinkers, good bedmen, and all bores:

'At Mrs Greenland's Hawthorn Bush,' said he,

'I slept.' None knew which bush. Above the town,

Beyond 'The Drover', a hundred spot the down

In Wiltshire. And where now at last he sleeps

More sound in France – that, too, he secret keeps.



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I've never been able to work out what these lines mean, though I vaguely recall an explanation in a book of poetry, or perhaps one on Thomas. What are "bedmen"? Is "Mrs Greenland's Hawthorn Bush" a pub? Is "The Drover" also a pub? A hundred of what "spot the down" (sarsen stones that are common on the Wiltshire Downs?)


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I think we are to assume that "Mrs Greenland's Hawthorn Bush" is his joking reference to sleeping out of doors - he makes it sound like an inn, but "Mrs Greenland" is the Downs personified. It's a hundred hawthorns that "spot the down" above The Drover, which is the pub he's in.

I'm not sure about "bedmen", but I take it to mean people who like to sleep in a comfortable bed.

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