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.
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.
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.
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