The Belfry by R. S. Thomas

I have seen it standing up grey,

Gaunt, as though no sunlight

Could ever thaw out the music

Of its great bell; terrible

In its own way, for religion

Is like that. There are times

When a black frost is upon

One’s whole being, and the heart

In its bone belfry hangs and is dumb.

 

But who is to know? Always,

Even in winter in the cold

Of a stone church, on his knees

Someone is praying, whose prayers fall

Steadily through the hard spell

Of weather that is between God

And himself. Perhaps they are warm rain

That brings the sun and afterwards flowers

On the raw graves and throbbing of bells.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Pietà (1966)

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St Julian and the Leper by R. S. Thomas

Though all ran from him, he did not

Run, but awaited

Him with his arms

Out, his ears stopped

To his bell, his alarmed

Crying. He lay down

With him there, sharing his sores’

Stench, the quarantine

Of his soul; contaminating

Himself with a kiss,

With the love that

Our science has disinfected.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)


 

12 February is St Julian’s feast day. He is the patron saint of: boatmen, carnival workers, childless people, circus workers, clowns, ferrymen, fiddlers, fiddle players, hospitallers, hotel-keepers, hunters, innkeepers, jugglers, knights, murderers (they have a patron saint?!), pilgrims, shepherds, to obtain lodging while traveling, travelers, wandering musicians, He is also known as Julian the Hospitaller.