Prayer by R. S. Thomas

Baudelaire’s grave

not too far

from the tree of science.

Mine, too,

since I sought and failed

to steal from it,

somewhere within sight

of the tree of poetry

that is eternity wearing

the green leaves of time.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Ingrowing Thoughts (1985)

This Winter That Will End by Margaret Lloyd

I have to admire the way your words

enduring and graceful create

just the right tone. Not giving

anything away but making it

clear you are enduring the necessity

of words for the sake of grace.

But are we talking about being polite

or are we talking about God?

In my mind I put your words

next to the old woman

whose knees and bare feet

froze to the ice on her own floor,

and was found days later repeating

‘Oh God, Oh God’ in Polish.

It was the officer’s opinion

this kept her alive. But was he

referring to speech or prayer?

If prayer, it was through

her continuous prayer, her prayer

was answered. Presuming, of course,

she wanted to stay alive. Often,

we don’t know what we want.

I fear this winter will end

and it will be too late. Too late

to remember our intentions, too late

to repeat what we never understood.

 

by Margaret Lloyd

Bread by R. S. Thomas

Hunger was lonliness, betrayed

By the pitiless cadour of the stars’

Talk, in an old byre he prayed

 

Not for food; to pray was to know

Waking from a dark dream to find

The white loaf on the white snow;

 

Not for warmth, warmth brought the rain’s

Blurring of the essential point

Of ice probing his raw pain.

 

He prayed for love, love that would share

His rags’ secret; rising he broke

Like sun crumbling the gold air

 

The live bread for the starved folk.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry For Supper (1958)

‘Under An Empty Dwelling’s Frozen Roof…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Under an empty dwelling’s frozen roof,

Dead days. Here no living comes.

I read the acts of the Apostles

And the Psalms.

 

But the stars are blue, the hoar-frost downy,

And each meeting more wonderful,

And in the Bible a red maple leaf

Marks the pages of the Song of Songs.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas

In A Country Church by R. S. Thomas

To one kneeling down no word came,

Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips

Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;

Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,

Bats not angels, in the high roof.

 

Was he balked by the silence? He kneeled long,

And saw love in a dark crown

Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree

Golden with fruit of a man’s body.

 

by R. S. Thomas

From Song At The Year’s Turning (1955)