Edward Thomas’s pursuit of Spring: a million gorse petals, flames sown by the sun

101 years ago, Edward Thomas cycled furiously westward from Wandsworth in search of the onrushing Spring. Having outrun a vaguely menacing doppelganger, he made contact with the new season, just after Easter, in the Quantocks.

I found myself on a glorious sunlit road without hedge, bank, or fence on either side, proceeding through fern, gorse and ash trees scattered over mossy slopes. Down the slopes I looked across the flat valley to the Mendips and Brent Knoll, in_pursuit_bookand to the Steep and Flat Holms, resting like clouds on a pale, cloudy sea; what is more, through a low-arched rainbow I saw the blueness of the hills of South Wales. The sun had both dried the turf and warmed it. The million gorse petals seemed to be flames sown by the sun. By the side of the road were the first bluebells and cowslips. They were not growing there, but some child had gathered them below at Stowey Edward-Thomas-002or Durleigh, and then, getting tired of them, had dropped them. They were beginning to wilt, but they lay upon the grave of Winter. I was quite sure of that. Winter may rise up through mould alive with violets and primroses, but when cowslips and bluebells have grown over his grave he cannot rise again: he is dead and rotten, and from his ashes the blossoms are springing. Therefore, I was very glad to see them. Even to have seen them on a railway station seat in the rain, brought from far off on an Easter Monday, would have been something; here, in the sun, they were as if they had been fragments fallen out of that rainbow over against tilbury_farmWales. I had found Winter’s grave; I had found Spring, and was confident that I could ride home again and find Spring all along the road. Perhaps I should hear the cuckoo by the time I was again at cothelstone_hillthe Avon, and see cowslips tall on ditchsides and short on chalk slopes, bluebells in all hazel copses, orchises everywhere in the lengthening grass, and flowers of rosemary and crown-imperial in cottages gardens, and in the streets of London cowslips, bluebells, and the unflower-like yellow-green spurge… Thus I leapt over April and into May, as I sat in the sun on the north side of Cothelstone Hill on that 28th day of March, the last day of my journey westward to find the Spring.

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