A Peasant by R. S. Thomas

Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,

Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,

Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.

Docking mangels, chipping the green skin

From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin

Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth

To a stiff sea of clouds that glint in the wind—-

So are his days spent, his spittled mirth

Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks

Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.

And then at night see him fixed in his chair

Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.

There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.

His clothes, sour with years of sweat

And animal contact, shock the refined,

But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.

Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season

Against siege of rain and the wind’s attrition,

Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress

Not to be stormed even in death’s confusion.

Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,

Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.


by R. S. Thomas

from The Stones of the Fields (1946)


Missing The Troop Train by Yevgeny Vinokurov

There’s something desperate about trains…

I stood alone on the icy platform,

lost in the Bashkir steppes.

What can be more fantastic, more desolate

than the light of an electric lamp

rocking in a small station at night?

Trains swept past from time to time.

Their roar engulfed me,

I was submerged in coal dust,

and each time, I grabbed hold of my cap –

it looked as though I was greeting someone.

The bare, stunted tree by the side of the platform

reached out after them…

I waited for one train at least

to stop, for God’s sake!

In the distance was the dark forest mass.

I lifted my head –

over me, a vast

host of stars:



armies of stars,

all bound for somewhere.

An hour earlier, I’d got out of the train

to fetch some boiling water…

I could be court-martialled for this.

I stood there,

the snow melted round my boots,

and the water in the aluminium kettle I was holding

had already iced over.

Above the forest mass I saw

a little star,

fallen a long way behind the others.

I looked at it

and it looked at me.


by Евгений Михайлович Винокуров (Yevgeny Mikhailovich Vinokurov)


translated by Daniel Weissbort

Welsh Lanscape by R. S. Thomas

To live in Wales is to be conscious

At dusk of the spilled blood

That went to the making of the wild sky,

Dyeing the immaculate rivers

In all their courses.

It is to be aware,

Above the noisy tractor

And the hum of the machine

Of strife in the strung woods,

Vibrant with sped arrows.

You cannot live in the present,

At least not in Wales.

There is the language for instance,

The soft consonants

Strange to the ear.

There are cries in the dark at night

As owls answer the moon,

And thick ambush of shadows,

Hushed at the field’s corners.

There is no present in Wales,

And no future;

There is only the past,

Brittle with relics,

Wind-bitten towers and castles

With sham ghosts;

Mouldering quarries and mines;

And an impotent people,

Sick with inbreeding,

Worrying the carcase of an old song.


by R. S. Thomas

from An Acre of Land (1952)