AS THE TEAMS HEAD BRASS- EDWARD THOMASPage 180Katia Scarpignato
EDWARD THOMAS Phillip Edward Thomas was an Anglo-Welsh writer of prose and poetry. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. Already an accomplished writer, Thomas turned to poetry only in 1914. He enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France. In three years, he had written a lifetimes poetry. The unusual shape of Thomass poetic career - at once belated and tragically up-to- date - has made it difficult for critics to place him. Thomas wrote „As the team‟s head brass‟ when he was on the cusp of deciding to finish his working with maps and to enlist in the army to fight in France. 1878- 1917
CONTEXT AND INITIAL IMPRESSION What the poem is about: As a couple walk together into the woods beyond, a walker rests at the edge of a field. There, a farmer is methodically ploughing his fields with a team of horses, and the narrator and farmer fall into conversation about the war. As the Team‟s Head Brass: The „team‟ are a pair of horses led by the farmer, pulling a plough. The farmer is preparing his land for the sowing of crops; in some ways, this seems to be a timeless agricultural scene. The “head brass” are the metal bridles around the horses‟ heads that allow the horses to be led. Initial Impression The readers first impression was that Thomas was recalling this event. The poem tells story, the realism is depicted by adding intricate details such as the „lovers disappeared into the woods‟. The first person narrative used here enriches the poets recollection, it also adds realism to the event. As the teams head Brass boarders the questions of human existence, survival, memory, and home - which accounts for its continuing influence today.
THEMES The use of Nature Indifference of War Futility of War Love Memory Human existence
ANALYSIS- STRUCTURE This is a narrative poem— it tells a short story. It is written in Iambic Pentameter, and has a Shakespearian feel to it: everyday events and dialogue are elevated to high poetry by Thomas‟ feel for the significance of small things. “As the team‟s head brass flashed out on the turn”: Time is important in this poem. The poem throws us into events immediately occurring.. “I sat… and watched”: the peaceful watching of the narrator as time passes by gives this poem a thoughtful, ponderous(without liveliness) tone. The use of enjambment (running lines) is used as though Thomas is unravelling his story, each line is a continuation. The use of narrative is cathartic as though Thomas is revealing a story that he feels is an important story to tell. The blizzard felled the elm…”: Thomas preserves the iambic pentameter here as he moves forward in his narrative, beginning a new line below. There is a sense of time having passed, but also of continuity.
ANALYSIS- IMAGERY “Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square of charlock”: charlock, or wild mustard, is a weed that must be cleared on land for farming. Thomas‟ description of the “yellow square” of weed is precise and vivid. Thomas suggests at first the peace of the country as opposed to the cataclysm of World War One but only does so to subvert(undermine) those conventions through a realistic depiction of the effects of the war. English agriculture had been in a long, steep decline since the mid- Victorian age. The countryside was a difficult place to live in 1916: This fact the reader feels, is rather than an idealisation of the country life which comes through in Thomas‟ poem. “The lovers disappeared into the wood.”: Lovers appear again as key figures in a Thomas poem. We only see them at the beginning and the end of the poem, but they are important symbols of love, life and importantly rebirth.
ANALYSIS- LANGUAGE Now if he had stayed here we should have moved the tree.” (referring the friend the famer lost)The irony is really at the heart of the poem‟s narrative. The tragedy of the farmer‟s friend‟s death is dominant in the poem, but is overcast by the tragedy of the War. “Then the lovers came out of the wood again‟‟. The repetition of the „lovers‟ seems to reinforce a sense of hope at the end of the poem. „The blizzard‟ This is significant because the use of pathetic fallacy demonstrates that catastrophe that is the War surrounding them. The blizzard becomes symbolic and linked to the devastating to the effects of the fighting on the front. „I watched the clods crumble and topple over‟ . The narrator in the action of the plough now seems linked to change of the war. The crumbling clods of earth and their toppling as they fall from the plough suggest the change in the world by humans; perhaps also suggesting the falling of men to earth in fields abroad.
ANALYSIS One minute and an interval of ten…”: The rhythm of the encounter is slow. The repetition emphasises this. “Only two teams work on the farm this year…”: The significance of the single farmer working this large field made it clear the shortage caused by the war. This practical aspect is made immediately personal by the farmer‟s dead friend. “…the stumbling team.”: The last line of the poem is significant because the “stumbling” of the team suggest the difficulty the farmer continues to face, and the loose footing of life itself. „„One of my mates is dead. The second day In France they killed him‟‟. The use of clipped syntax stops the flow of the poem which suggests the farmer is remembering the tragic death of his friend.
A PHASE THAT STANDS OUT TO THEREADER:‘‘Then the lovers came out of the woods again’’. Therepetition of the ‘lovers’ seems to reinforce a sense ofhope at the end of the poem.However it could also suggest how the youth wereblissfully unaware of the destruction that wasoccurring around them. In times of havoc, the ‘lovers’are continuing with their normal rituals and the readerfeels as though how did people continue in such anormal fashion when a War is surrounding them. ?Perhaps this is the heart of the message that Thomasconveys, life goes on and whatever happens we musttry to move on and continue with our lives as best wecan.