Tuesday, 26 February 2008

R S Thomas, a poet to 'tell us' - part 1

R S Thomas was a Welsh poet writing in English. He was also a priest. His sermons were said to be unmemorable. But R S Thomas the poet was another kettle of fish as the old saying goes. The Welsh landscape affected him, its brooding hills, its rain, its sunshine, its calm and rough sea, its gorse and heather, its crouched trees, its inhabitants, its poor farmers and others barely scraping a living, its sheep, its stones, its age. All this and more is to be found in his poetry. But Poet-in-Residence begins his journey at the church gate. There's no getting away from it -in RST's poetry his God is almost always there; straight up-front as in the poem 'Tell Us', or hovering invisibly somewhere in the background as in other works we will come to. Not very often is the 'Supreme Being' completely Deus Absconditus.

Tell Us

We have had names for you:
The Thunderer, the Almighty
Hunter, Lord of the snowflake
and the sabre-toothed tiger.
One name we have held back
unable to reconcile it
with the mosquito, the tidal-wave,
the black hole into which
time will fall. You have answered
us with the image of yourself
on a hewn tree, suffering
injustice, pardoning it;
pointing as though in either
direction; horrifying us
with the possibility of dislocation.
Ah, love, with your arms out
wide, tell us how much more
they must still be stretched
to embrace a universe drawing
away from us at the speed of light.


  1. Yup, I agree.
    Salt of the earth is old RST;
    funny that I say that, I often think of him as being alive.


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