It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the heart’s passions – that was praise
Enough; and the mind’s cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.
by R. S Thomas
from Pietà (1966)
It is beautiful and still;
the air rarified
as the interior of a cathedral
expecting a presence. It is where, also,
the harrier occurs,
materialising from nothing, snow –
soft, but with claws of fire,
quartering the bare earth
for the prey that escapes it;
hovering over the incipent
scream, here a moment, then
not here, like my belief in God.
by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
Before death I have felt the dark of death;
I thought: like Ossian I shall lose my way
in mist by the grave’s edge and blindly stare
from wild moors down through the dim precipice
of dawnless night and see no trees, no fields
of freedom, no soft grass, no azure skies,
and no sun rising like a miracle.
Yet with the soul’s eye I shall see you, shades
of prophets, friends too soon flown out of sight,
and I shall hear the blessed poet’s song
and know each voice and recognize each face.
by Вильгельм Карлович Кюхельбекер (Wilhelm Karlovich Küchelbecker)
translated by Peter France
Fun fact: This was written after he went blind about a year before his death.