Here is the soldier home from the War, sailing into Cardiff. He’s startled after Palestine by the colours on the ridge, dead bracken, glossy, like wet army cottons, purple coppice he can’t identify, the mossy green of fir trees that weren’t there when he volunteered.
The cold cuts through the suit bought from the tallest of the Lascars, the cuffs, inches short of his wrists, expose his skin, now as dark as theirs, but collier-white before he went. He looks like them, but Christ, he’d hardly kept up. Only pennies rub in his pocket – the captain had skint him, the Scotch bastard.
Posted missing back at Easter, he’d not written, couldn’t risk the censor checking on his letter. He’ll stay on board till it’s dark, jump the wall, thread the back streets north, then – the freedom of the frozen tracks – up and over the top, past the hill farms’ yowling sentries, down to the town where ghosts parade.
Easter. I go to church to proclaim with my fellows I believe in the Ressurection - of what? Here everything is electric and automatic. In April a myriad bulbs are switched on as flowers incandesce; a new generation of creatures rehearses its genetic code. All this is easy. Earth is a self-regulating machine; everything happens because it must. My faith is in the inevitability of creation. There will come a day - dust under a dry sun, ashes under its incineration... is there somewhere in all the emptiness of the universe a fertile star where the old metaphors wil apply, where the bugling daffodil will sound abroad not the last post, but a gush of music out of an empty tomb?
Top left an angel hovering. Top right the attendance of a star. From both bottom corners devils look up, relishing in prospect a divine meal. How old at the centre the child's face gazing into love's too human face, like one prepared for it to have its way and continue smiling?
By R. S. Thomas from Counterpoint 2. Incarnation (1990)
The Nativity? No. Something has gone wrong. There is a hole in the stable acid rain drips through onto an absence. Beauty is hoisted upside down. The truth is Pilate not lingering for an answer. The angels are prostrate 'beaten into the clay' as Yeats thundered. Only Satan beams down, poisoning with fertilisers the place where the child lay, harrowing the ground for the drumming of the machine- gun tears of the rich that are seed of the next war.
By R. S. Thomas from Counterpoint (1990) 2. Incarnation