Ritual by R.S. Thomas

Not international

renown, but international

vocabulary, the macaronics

of time: μοίρα, desiderium,

brad, la vida

breve, despair – I am the bone

on which all have beaten out

their message to the mind

that would soar. Faithful

in translation, its ploy was to evade

my resources. It saw

me dance through the Middle

Ages, and wrote its poetry

with quilled pen. What

so rich as the language

to which the priests

buried me? They have exchanged

their vestments for white coats,

working away in their bookless

laboratories, ministrants

in that ritual beyond words

which is the Last Sacrament of the species.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)


Fun fact: The greek word μοίρα means fate. Desiderium means desire. La vida breve means ‘the short life’ or ‘life is short’ in Spanish but is also the title of an opera.

In Great Waters by R. S. Thomas

You are there also

at the foot of the precipice

of water that was too steep

for the drowned: their breath broke

and they fell. You have made an altar

out of the deck of the lost

trawler whose spars

are your cross. The sand crumbles

like bread; the wine is

the light quietly lying

in its own chalice. There is

a sacrament there more beauty

than terror whose ministrant

you are and the aisles are full

of the sea shapes coming to its celebration.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Frequencies (1978)

This Bread I Break by Dylan Thomas

This bread I break was once the oat,

The wine upon a foreign tree

Plunged in its fruit;

Man in the day or wind at night

Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.

 

Once in this wine the summer blood

Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,

Once in this bread

The oat was merry in the wind;

Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.

 

This flesh you break, this blood you let

Make desolation in the vein,

Were oat and grape

Born of the sensual root and sap;

My wine you drink, my bread you snap.

 

by Dylan Thomas, December 1933

The Notebook Poems 1930–34