Tag Archive: R. S. Thomas

The coming

Here’s another poem by R. S. Thomas which I think is appropriate to the seasons of Advent and Christmas, as well as Good Friday.

The coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As though through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.



Today a poem from R. S. Thomas (1913 – 2000). It might seem a bit bleak to start with but bear with him, there is hope in the end. I like it because I do sometimes feel like this.


It is this great absence
that is like a presence, that compels
me to address it without hope
of a reply. It is a room I enter

from which someone has just
gone, the vestibule for the arrival
of one who has not yet come.
I modernise the anachronism

of my language, but he is not more here
than before. Genes and molecules
have no more power to call
him up than the incense of the Hebrews

at their altars. My equations fail
as my words do. What resource have I
other than the emptiness without him of my whole
being, a vacuum he may not abhor.

The Bright Field

The Bright Field  is also a title of an anthology of readings and meditations edited by Martyn Percy. When searching on the internet for it one of the results was this poem. A happy accident to have rediscovered this gem.

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.

by R. S. Thomas

View from the window

I was bound to return to this subject sooner or later if only to mention one of my favourite poems. “The View from The Window” by R. S. Thomas. We sometimes hear friends complain, “I had to do  Shakespeare/[insert name of writer or poet here] at school and that just ruined it for me, I’m afraid.” Well, in this instance, here is a poem from a poet whom “we did at school” which actually caught my teenage imagination and has stayed with me ever since.

In part it is the sparing use of language which yet manages to conjure up a picture in the mind’s eye. OK, so much of what we get out of a poem is what we put into it – either through conscious effort in reading it or through memories, emotions, recollections and knowledge mulling around in our subconscious. This poem reflects something of the author’s Christian faith and the landscape of the parish in which he served. However, it also contains, for me at least, a revolutionary idea that a thing may be constantly changing but at the same time be finished, complete. The change we see outside this window is not because improvement is needed – it does not need to be made better – but because, change, movement (“the dynamic”) is a characteristic of what it is. If the view did not change it would be still, i.e. lifeless. In a way this is a truth that is obvious once you get it and yet profound – do we not instinctively resist change? Yet change is all around us – in nature, in society, in politics, in our bodies growing up/old and so on. We might sometimes complain that change seems to be for change’s sake, but sometimes change happens because it is the nature of the beast, so to speak. Change works on different time scales from the ephemeral world of fashion at one end to the epochal pace of geology at the other. It takes a certain amount of discernment to know which changes to let go and which ones we should try to shape. Mostly we can’t stop change but we can sometimes change change so to speak.

I wonder how many days of gazing out at the clouds and busy skies of Wales if took for Revd R. S. Thomas reach his conclusions about the created world? And, as is sometimes the way when writing poetry, perhaps he did not realise it until after he had written his poem.

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