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)

Calling by R. S. Thomas

The telephone is the fruit

of the tree of the knowledge

of good and evil. We may call

everyone up on it but God.

 

To do that is to declare

that he is far off. Dialling

zero is nothing other

than the negation of his presence.

 

So many times I have raised

the receiver, listening to

that smooth sound that is technology’s

purring; and the temptation

 

has come to experiment

with the code which would put

me through to the divine

snarl at the perimeter of such tameness.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

The Journey by R. S. Thomas

And if you go up that way, you will meet with a man,

Leading a horse, whose eyes declare:

There is no God. Take no notice.

There will be other roads and other men

With the same creed, whose lips yet utter

Friendlier greeting, men who have learned

To pack a little of the sun’s light

In their cold eyes, whose hands are waiting

For your hand. But do not linger.

A smile is payment; the road runs on

With many turnings towards the tall

Tree to which the believer is nailed.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

Time by R. S. Thomas

The pessimist says: Time

goes; the optimist: It is coming.

 

What is this thing, time?

Let Augustine be our spokesman.

 

Its competitor knows its neurosis;

the lover the dragging of its chained feet.

 

Now, we say, looking at the moon

that is the sun in Australia.

 

We keep saving it for the future

and arriving there are insolvent.

 

Young, our hobby was assassinating it.

Old we pray for its recuperation.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Mass for Hard Times (1992)

Acting by R. S. Thomas

Being unwise enough to marry her

I never knew when she was not acting.

‘I love you’ she would say; I heard the audiences

Sigh. ‘I hate you’; I could never be sure

They were still there. She was lovely. I

Was only the looking-glass she made up in.

I husbanded the rippling meadow

Of her body. Their eyes grazed nightly upon it.

 

Alone now on the brittle platform

Of herself she is playing her last role.

It is perfect. Never in all her career

Was she so good. And yet the curtain

Has fallen. My chamber, come out from behind

It to take the applause. Look, I am clapping too.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

Resurrection by R. S. Thomas

Easter. The grave clothes of winter

are still here, but the sepulchre

is empty. A messenger

from the tomb tells us

how a stone has been rolled

from the mind, and a tree lightens

the darkness with its blossom.

There are travellers upon the roads

who have heard music blown

from a bare bough, and a child

tells us how the accident

of last year, a machine stranded

beside the way for lack

of petrol is covered with flowers.

 

by R. S. Thomas