Monday, 19 July 2010

R S Thomas and The Other

The Other is a poem inscribed on a slab of Snowdonia slate in the seaside village of Aberdaron (Wales) where the poet served as priest.

When I visited Aberdaron many years ago I bought a picture postcard of the poem.

I subsequently lost, or more correctly thought I'd lost the card, the card which I had trimmed so that I could carry it about with me in my wallet. But just now, sorting out my books, I've found it. It was inside Heinrich Heine's Eine Auslese, a book which had disappeared long ago behind a pile of old papers that I'm now going to throw out. The Other is as a matter of interest one of the few poems I've memorised. I'd like to share it.

The Other

There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

On the other side of the trimmed postcard there are some scribbled words from another R S Thomas' poem. These made a strong impression on me some time ago:

prayers like gravel flung at the sky's window ... I would have refrained long since but that peering once through my locked fingers I thought that I detected the movement of a curtain


  1. I lie
    in the lean hours awake

    Exactly so! The Other captures the feeling so well...

  2. jinksy, blimey that was quick,
    I was just loading the photo of RST, you beat me to it,

  3. To be aware of the other beings and to pray -- perceptive and kind,

    Nice and thanks for the introduction Gwylim, i have not heard of him :)


  4. He was brilliant, wasn't he? He had several tussles with his religious belief - in fact in your photograph his face looks troubled.

    Those words in italics at the end I had not read before - very, very good.

    I once wrote to him and asked him what he meant in a particular poem - I had a handwritten answer and I have not seen it for years - I hope, like yours, in falls out of a book one day when I open it.

  5. Devika,
    RST was nominated for the Nobel Prize. Aged over 80 he was still writing some remarkable poems; some of his best work the critics say.

  6. Weaver, I hope you find your handwritten letter from RST. I had a handwritten postcard reply to a Q. from Patrick Moore (Sky at Night) but unfortunately I've lost it. Disappeared into a black hole I think.

  7. It is isn't it John, and I you might be tempted to develop an interesting haiku from those first 3 lines?

  8. I can understand your frantic scribbling... "prayers like gravel flung at the sky's window" is such an evocative line

  9. Clowncar, it lovely a line isn't it? There's quite a lot about vatious things to do with RST on this blog.

  10. Wonderful. Rhythm of calm reassurance.

  11. Thanks! Good to know people are still reading and enjoying the 'old' stuff :)


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