Monday, May 10, 2010

R.S. Thomas

Although not as famous as another Welsh poet with the same last name, R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) is “the pre-eminent, Welsh poet writing in English in the second half of the twentieth century” and perhaps Wales best-loved 20th century poet. An Anglican priest who spent his career working with the back-country farmers who could never have appreciated his alternate role as a poet, Thomas is renowned for his depiction of the people he served, and for his strong, spiritual poems.

One fictional farmer Thomas writes of, named Iago Prytherch, is representational of the men who worked the unsympathetic land, and sat in the pews of the churches where he served. In one poem (“The Hill Farmer Speaks”), such a farmer pleads, “Listen, listen, I am a man like you.”

Since I believe it is our duty as writers, and readers of the finest in literature, to pass on the legacy that has inspired us, I would like to share here a couple of my favourite R.S. Thomas poems, so that you too may seek out his work, and in turn feel inspired to share it with others.

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Country Clergy

I see them working in old rectories
By the sun's light, by candlelight,
Venerable men, their black cloth
A little dusty, a little green
With holy mildew. And yet their skulls,
Ripening over so many prayers,
Toppled into the same grave
With oafs and yokels. They left no books,
Memorial to their lonely thought
In grey parishes; rather they wrote
On men's hearts and in the minds
Of young children sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.

This is the first of two Kingdom Poets posts about R.S. Thomas: second post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca