Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Poetic Break 2

When the soul is dry it is time to go to the soul's well.  For me there are many wells - so many poets whose well-wrough work in words waters the barren spaces of my soul.  One such well is that of the briliant Welch poet, R.S. Thomas Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913 – 2000) was a Welsh poet and Anglican clergyman, noted for his nationalism, spirituality and deep dislike of the anglicisation of Wales. He was one of the most famous Welsh poets.  He also lived a very ascetic life and despised many modern machines which he said prevented human beings from tending to more spiritual matters.  His poems are never schmaltzy or sugary or saccharine.  No, indeed.  They are full of hard love, deep insight and catch us unawares with their wisdom about life.  His poems are always strong and their language inevitable in its simplicity.  His themes are universal: our destruction of nature and the rural life; the search for our true self and for meaning; the quest for and dialogue with an often absent God - so the reader will find no sugary or watered-down spiritual trinkets in these sweat-wrought poems.  Professor M. Wynn Thomas said: "He was the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Wales because he was such a troubler of the Welsh conscience. He was one of the major English language and European poets of the 20th century."  Although he was a clergyman, he wasn't always charitable and was known for being awkward, taciturn and somewhat difficult. Some critics have interpreted photographs of him as indicating he was "formidable, bad-tempered, and apparently humourless".  Although he may have taken some of his ideas to extreme lengths, Theodore Dalrymple wrote that Thomas "was raising a deep and unanswered question: What is life for? Is it simply to consume more and more, and divert ourselves with ever more elaborate entertainments and gadgetry? What will this do to our souls?"

A Blackbird Singing

It seems wrong that out of this bird,
Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
Places about it, there yet should come
Such rich music, as though the notes'
Ore were changed to a rare metal
At one touch of that bright bill.

You have heard it often, alone at your desk
In a green April, your mind drawn
Away from its work by sweet disturbance
Of the mild evening outside your room.

A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history's overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.
These words are, what S.T. Coleridge might say, well chosen, thta is  "the right word in the right place" and in the right order.  In this sense the language is inevitable and apt.  Enjoy, and let its wholeness or holism or balance -  insofar as it contains both beauty and ugliness, both bright and dark, both happy and sad -  bring your mind a contemplator's equanimity.

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