Petition by R. S. Thomas

And I standing in the shade
Have seen it a thousand times
Happen: first theft, then murder;
Rape; the rueful acts
Of the blind hand. I have said
New prayers, or said the old
In a new way. Seeking the poem
In the pain, I have learned
Silence is best, praying for it
With my conscience. I am eyes
Merely, witnessing virtue's
Defeat; seeing the young born
Fair, knowing the cancer
Awaits them. One thing I have asked
Of the disposer of the issues
Of life: that truth should defer
To beauty. It was not granted.


by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)
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Night Sky by R.S. Thomas

What they are saying is
that there is life there, too;
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.

They have gone on from the human;
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind

of untenanted space. It is its own
light, a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness

that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow

traveller. But there is more than time
to arrive. Resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.

by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)

The Film of God by R.S. Thomas

Sound, too? The recorder
that picks up everything picked
up nothing but the natural
background. What language
does the god speak? And the camera's
lens, as sensitive to
an absence as to a presence,
saw what? What is the colour
of his thought?
It was blank, then,
the screen, as far as he
was concerned? It was a bare
landscape and harsh, and geological
its time. But the rock was
bright, the illuminated manuscript
of the lichen. And a shadow,
as we watched, fell, as though
of an unseen writer bending over
his work.
It was not cloud
because it was not cold,
and dark only from the candlepower
behind it. And we waited
for it to move, silently
as the spool turned, waited
for the figure that cast it
to come into view for us to
identify it, and it
didn't and we are still waiting.


By R.S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)

Message by R.S. Thomas

 A message from God
delivered by a bird
at my window, offering friendship.
Listen, such language!
Who said God was without
speech? Every word an injection
to make me smile. Meet me,
it says, to-morrow here
at the same time and you will remember
how wonderful to-day
was: no pain, no worry;
irrelevant the mystery, if
unsolved. I gave you the X-ray
eye for you to use not
to prospect, but to discover
the un-malignancy of love's
growth. You were a patient, too,
anaesthetised on truth's table
with life operating on you
with a green scalpel. Meet me, I say,
to-morrow and I will sing it for you
all over again, when you have come to.


By R.S. Thomas


from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

The Casualty by R.S. Thomas

 I had forgotten
the old quest for truth
I was here for Other cares

held me: urgencies
of the body; a girl
beckoned; money

had never appeared
so ethereal; it was God's blood
circulating in the veins

of creation; I partook
of it like Communion, lost
myself on my way

home, with the varying voices
on call. Moving backward
into a receding

future, I lost the use
of perspective, borrowing poetry
to buy my children

their purpose. The past was a poor
king, rendering his crown down
for the historian. Every day

I went on with that
metallic warfare in which
the one casualty is love.


by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)

‘Top left an angel’ by R.S. Thomas

 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’ by R.S. Thomas

Text above the poem in the book
 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