Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter Monday and Memory

Eleanor Farjeon

Easter Monday (In Memoriam E.T.) 
by Eleanor Farjeon (1917)

In the last letter that I had from France
You thanked me for the silver Easter egg
Which I had hidden in the box of apples
You liked to munch beyond all other fruit.
You found the egg the Monday before Easter,
And said, ‘I will praise Easter Monday now -
It was such a lovely morning’. Then you spoke
Of the coming battle and said, ‘This is the eve.

Good-bye. And may I have a letter soon.’
That Easter Monday was a day for praise,
It was such a lovely morning. In our garden
We sowed our earliest seeds, and in the orchard
The apple-bud was ripe. It was the eve.

There are three letters that you will not get.

Edward Thomas, from the Edward Thomas Fellowship
With direct and simple language, this poem celebrates life's simple pleasures:  apples, hidden gifts, and spring mornings.  The poem speaks tenderly of the "earliest seeds" and ripe buds, signs of growth and life.  Twice repeated is the sentence "It was such a lovely morning" (lines 7 and 11), and the sender of the box of apples and the soldier who has received them both glory in the first day of Holy Week: "I will praise Easter Monday now," and "That Easter Monday was a day for praise."  

The poem, however, foreshadows a darkness that is set against Easter, resurrection, and lovely mornings, when it repeats "This is the eve," and "It was the eve," premonitions of an ending felt by the man in the trenches and the woman in her garden.

In language that tells all without speaking directly of either war or grief, the poem's final line is gentle and yet blunt, delivering the news foreshadowed in the first line "the last letter that I had from France." The man who loved to munch apples, the friend who so politely begged the favor of another letter, is dead, and so "There are three letters that you will not get."  The form of the poem itself is incomplete, a 14-line sonnet, written in iambic pentameter, but without the pattern and fulfilment of rhyme. 

In its last line, the poem offers a stark statement that expresses the reality of death in a seemingly mundane detail:  letters will not be delivered nor read.  Just that quickly, all is ended and a dear friend is gone from this world forever.    

Eleanor Farjeon wrote the poem in memory of her close friend and neighbor Edward Thomas, who was killed at Arras on April 9, 1917.   An imaginative and versatile author, Farjeon wrote not only poetry, but novels, plays, and stories, many composed for children.  She is perhaps best known for writing the lyrics to the song "Morning Has Broken."  In his poem "The Sun Used to Shine," one can imagine Edward Thomas sharing an evening walk with a friend like Farjeon:

"Under the moonlight—like those walks
Now—like us two that took them, and
The fallen apples, all the talks
And silence—like memory's sands…."


  1. Replies
    1. It gets me every time -- the understated bleakness of her grief. Thanks for reading, Carol.

  2. How complex simplicity can be. Lovely.

  3. Interesting family, the Farjeons. Her mother was New York born . Bizarrly, Eleanor wrote the song 'I've danced with a man who danced with a girl who's danced with the Prince of Wales'. One of her brothers was a conscientious objector.

    1. Fascinating family history -- thanks for sharing, Ian. And now I'm going to try to find the song you referenced....

  4. I loveeee this masterpiece