The Annotated Collected Poems

Mark Ford writes:

‘Prends l’éloquence et tords-lui son cou!’ Verlaine resonantly, and eloquently, declared in his ‘Art poétique’ of 1874. The line must have lodged in Edward Thomas’s mind: in May 1914, some six months before his late efflorescence into verse at the age of 36, he wrote to Robert Frost of his longing to ‘wring all the necks of my rhetoric – the geese’. He was referring to the over-elaborate style of some of his prose writings, but his first poem, ‘Up in the Wind’, composed on 3 December 1914, opens with a version of the same violent image: ‘I could wring the old thing’s neck that put it here!’

(LRB 1 January 2009)