First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Other

THE OTHER by EDWARD THOMAS

The forest ended. Glad I was To feel the light, and hear the hum Of bees, and smell the drying grass And the sweet mint, because I had come To an end of forest, and because Here was both road and inn, the sum Of what's not forest. But 'twas here They asked me if I did not pass Yesterday this way. 'Not you? Queer.' 'Who then? and slept here?' I felt fear.

I leant his road and, ere they were Sure I was I, left the dark wood Behind, kestrel and woodpecker, The inn in the sun, the happy mood When first I tasted sunlight there. I travelled fast, in hopes I should Outrun that other. What to do When caught, I planned not. I pursued To prove the likeness, and, if true, To watch until myself I knew.

I tried the inns that evening Of a long gabled high-street grey, Of courts and outskirts, travelling And eager but a weary way, In vain. He was not there. Nothing Told me that ever till that day Had one like me entered those doors, Save once. That time I dared: 'You may Recall'---but never-foamless shores Make better friends than those dull boors.

Many and many a day like this Aimed at the unseen moving goal And nothing found but remedies For all desire. These made not whole; They sowed a new desire, a kiss Desire's self beyond control, Desire of desire. And yet Life stayed on within my soul. One night in sheltering from the wet I quite forgot I could forget.

A customer, then the landlady Stared at me. With a kind of smile They hesitated awkwardly: Their silence gave me time for guile. Had anyone called there like me, I asked. It was quite plain the wile Succeeded. For they poured out all. And that was naught. Less than a mile Beyond the inn, I could recall He was like me in general.

He had pleased them, but I less. I was more eager than before To find him out and to confess, To bore him and to let him bore. I could not wait: children might guess I had a purpose, something more That made an answer indiscreet. One girl's caution made me sore, Too indignant even to greet That other than we chanced to meet.

I sought then in solitude. The wind had fallen with the night; as still The roads lay as the ploughland rude, Dark and naked, on the hill. Had there been ever any feud 'Twixt earth and sky, a mighty will Closed it: the crocketed dark trees, A dark house, dark impossible Cloud-towers, one star, one lamp, one peace Held on an everlasting lease:

And all was earth's, or all was sky's; No difference endured between The two. A dog barked on a hidden rise; A marshbird whistled high unseen; The latest waking blackbird's cries Perished upon the silence keen. The last light filled a narrow firth Among the clouds. I stood serene, And with a solemn quiet mirth, An old inhabitant of earth.

Once the name I gave to hours Like this was melancholy, when It was not happiness and powers Coming like exiles home again, And weaknesses quitting their bowers, Smiled and enjoyed, far off from men, Moments of everlastingness. And fortunate my search was then While what I sought, nevertheless, That I was seeking, I did not guess.

That time was brief: once more at inn And upon road I sought my man Till once amid a tap-room's din Loudly he asked for me, began To speak, as if it had been a sin, Of how I thought and dreamed and ran After him thus, day after day: He lived as one under a ban For this: what had I got to say? I said nothing. I slipped away.

And now I dare not follow after Too close. I try to keep in sight, Dreading his frown and worse his laughter. I steal out of the wood to light; I see the swift shoot from the rafter By the inn door: ere I alight I wait and hear the starlings wheeze And nibble like ducks: I wait his flight. He goes: I follow: no release Until he ceases. Then I also shall cease.

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