To the angel without wings:
‘Greetings; don’t let me keep you.’
To the winged one, making as if
to be up and gone: ‘Stay awhile.’
To the dark angel, pedlar
of reflections: ‘I am not at home.’
To the one sworn eternally
to silence: ‘Eavesdrop my heart.’
To truth’s angel: ‘In his ear about me
nothing but the white lie.’
by R. S. Thomas
from Mass for Hard Times (1992)
We remember wartime
The leaves were red
And skies were tight.
Singers in uniform
Cracked burst buckled
The living the key workers
The throats of loyal trumpets
The minds of washed out cockpits
Our prayers were pistons
Our leaders in bunkers
As indestructable as rats
The tongues and necks
Of true survivors
In one cold wood
A headless boy
A thin man prays
In his own blood
On every side
Wait to be counted
In old blood
Are not doors
They are the walls
Of empty tombs
At stated times
By true survivors
by Emyr Humphreys
Fun fact: He registered as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the war he worked as a teacher, as a radio producer at the BBC and later became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University.
Cars pass him by; he’ll never own one.
Men won’t believe in him for this.
Let them come into the hills
And meet him wandering a road,
Fenced with rain, as I have now;
The wind feathering his hair;
The sky’s ruins, gutted with fire
Of the late sun, smouldering still.
Nothing is his, neither the land
Nor the land’s flocks. Hired to live
On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth
With cats and hens, he has lost all
Property but the grey ice
Of a face splintered by life’s stone.
by R. S. Thomas
from Tares (1961)
Nothing, nothing will be returned;
love, forgiveness – unearned, unlearned;
though we can never learn to forget.
Sweet is the sleep of an alien land.
We sense spring, hear the sea’s even sound
in this world of eternal torment.
by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)
translated by Robert Chandler