The idiot goes round and around
With his brother in a bumping car
At the fair. The famous idiot
Smile hangs over the car's edge,
Illuminating nothing. This is mankind
Being taken for a ride by a rich
Relation. The responses are fixed:
Bump, smile; bump, smile. And the current
Is generated by the smooth flow
Of the shillings. This is an orchestra
Of steel with the constant percussion
Of laughter. But where he should be laughing
Too, his features are split open, and look!
Out of the cracks come warm, human tears.
by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)
He addressed great congregations
And rolled his tongue with grease,
And his belly always flourished,
In times of war or peace.
He would talk of distant comrades
And brothers o’er the sea,
And snarl above his liquor
about neighbours two or three.
He knew a lot about public money –
More than he liked to say –
And sometimes sat with the paupers
To increase his Extra pay.
He could quote from Martin Tupper
and Wilhelmina Stitch,
And creep from chapel to bargain
With the likeliest local bitch.
He could swindle and squeal and snivel
And cheat and chant and pray,
and retreat like a famous general
When Truth would bar his way.
But God grew sick and tired
Of such a godly soul,
And sent down Death to gather
His body to a hole.
But before he died, the Bounder
Said: ‘My children, be at peace;
I know I am going to heaven,
So rub my tongue with grease.’
by Idris Davies
Fun facts: Martin Tupper was an English writer, and poet, and the author of Proverbial Philosophy. Wilhelmina Stitch was one of the pen names of Ruth Collie, an English born poet who started her writing career in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
They stand about conversing
In dark clumps, less beautiful than trees.
What have they come here to mourn?
There was a death, yes; but death’s brother,
Sin, is of more importance.
Shabbily the teeth gleam,
Sharpening themselves on reputations
That were firm once. On the cheap coffin
The earth falls more cleanly than tears.
What are these red faces for?
This incidence of pious catarrh
At the grave’s edge? He has returned
Where he belongs; this is acknowledged
By all but the lonely few
Making amends for the heart’s coldness
He had from them, grudging a little
The simple splendour of the wreath
Of words the church lays on him.
by R. S. Thomas
from The Bread of Truth (1963)
The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being mingle –
Why not I with thine?
See the mountain’s kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain’d its brother:
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea –
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
(from the Welsh of G. J. Williams)
It was an old white-friar who wrote
on yellowing parchment amongst tales
of the Welsh princes these words:
‘That year was buried Gwaldus Ddu.’
What was it made a brother
in his cell insert this in his story?
Did he taste heaven once in seeing
the sun brighten the darkness of Gwaldus Ddu?
And I, too, by my fireside remembered,
seeing Eryri’s cover white as wool,
that seven hundred winters had grizzled it
since summer basked in the hair of Gwladus Ddu.
Just now behind the manuscript’s account
of old, bold knights I saw a face
bloodless and unsmiling and the words:
‘That year was buried Gwladus Ddu.’
by R. S. Thomas
from No Truce With The Furies (1995)