"With Their Light Footsteps Press": Edward Thomas, W.B. Yeats, and the Symbolism of Loss

  • Christopher Horne


Equally indebted to a pastoral tradition that
projected the poet’s emotional interiority onto the natural
world, W.B. Yeats’s and Edward Thomas’s nature poems rely
on an affective symbolism. For Thomas, however, whose poetic landscapes are never wholly removed from his participation in WWI, there arises a contradiction between the Romantics’ transcendent mode and the psychological realities
of war. Focusing on how two of his pastoral poems, “Roads”
and “February Afternoon,” address symbolic and formal oppositions, this paper posits that Thomas reconfigures his
symbolism to accommodate both spiritual absence and human loss, resolving the antinomy of transcendent vision and
traumatic experience.