The River by R. S. Thomas

And the cobbled water

Of the stream with the trout’s indelible

Shadows that winter

Has not erased – I walk it

Again under a clean

Sky with the fish, speckled like thrushes,

Silently singing among the weed’s

Branches.

I bring the heart

Not the mind to the interpretation

Of their music, letting the stream

Comb me, feeling it fresh

In my veins, revisiting the sources

That are as near now

As on the morning I set out from them.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

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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)

The Cure by R. S. Thomas

But what to do? Doctors in verse

Being scarce now, most poets

Are their own patients, compelled to treat

Themselves first, their complaint being

Peculiar always. Consider, you,

Whose rough hands manipulate

The fine bones of a sick culture,

What areas of that infirm body

Depend solely on a poet’s cure.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

Concession by R. S. Thomas

Not that he brought flowers

Except for the eyes’ blue,

Perishable ones, or that his hands,

Famed for kindness were put then

To such usage; but rather that, going

Through flowers later, she yet could feel

These he spared perhaps for my sake.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)

History by R. S. Thomas

It appears before us,

wringing its dry hands,

quoting from Nietzsche’s book,

from Schopenhauer.

 

Sing us, we say,

more sunlit occassions;

the child by the still pool

multiplying reflections.

 

It remains unconsoled

in its dust-storm of tears,

remembering the Crusades,

the tortures, the purges.

 

But time passes by;

it commits adultery

with it to father the cause

of its continued weeping.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Later Poems (1983)

Sarn Rhiw by R. S. Thomas

So we know

she must have said something

to him – What language,

life? Oh, what language?

 

Thousands of years later

I inhabit a house

whose stone is the language

of its builders. Here

 

by the sea they said little.

But their message to the future

was: Build well. In the fire

of an evening I catch faces

 

staring at me. In April,

when light quickens and clouds

thin, boneless presences

flit through my room.

 

Will they inherit me

one day? What certainties

have I to hand on

like the punctuality

 

with which, at the moon’s

rising, the bay breaks

into a smile as though meaning

were not the difficulty at all?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)