The Nativity? No.
Something has gone wrong.
There is a hole in the stable
acid rain drips through
onto an absence. Beauty
is hoisted upside down.
The truth is Pilate not
lingering for an answer.
The angels are prostrate
'beaten into the clay'
as Yeats thundered. Only Satan beams down,
poisoning with fertilisers
the place where the child
lay, harrowing the ground
for the drumming of the machine-
gun tears of the rich that are
seed of the next war.
By R. S. Thomas
from Counterpoint (1990) 2. Incarnation
Getting up early on a Sunday morning
leaving them sleep for the sake of peace,
the lunch pungent, windows open
for a blackbird singing in Cyncoed.
Starlings glistening in the gutter come
for seed. I let the cats in from the night,
their fur already glossed and warm with March.
I bring the milk, newspaper, settle here
in the bay of the window to watch people
walking to church for Mothering Sunday.
A choirboy holds his robes over his shoulder.
The cats jump up on windowsills to wash
and tremble at the starlings. Like peaty water
sun slowly fills the long brown room.
Opening the paper I admit to this
the water-shriek and starved stare
of a warning I can't name.
By Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Cyncoed is a community in the north of the city of Cardiff, capital of Wales. Located to the north east of the city, Cyncoed is one of the most affluent suburbs of Cardiff. It has some of the highest property prices in Wales. Cyncoed is a short distance from the city centre and boasts beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. It is also just a short walk from the well known Roath Park.
They are those that life happens to.
They didn’t ask to be born
In those bleak farmsteads, but neither
Did they ask not. Life took the seed
And broadcast it upon the poor,
Rush-stricken soil, an experiment
What is a man’s
Price? For promises of a break
In the clouds; for harvests that are not all
Wasted; for one animal born
Healthy, where seven have died,
He will kneel down and give thanks
In a chapel whose stones are wrenched
From the moorland.
I have watched them bent
For hours over their trade,
Speechless, and have held my tongue
From its question. It was not my part
To show them, like a meddler from the town,
their picture, nor the audiences
That look at them in pity or pride.
by R. S. Thomas
from Pietà (1966)
Until this summer
throught the open roof of the car
their lace was as light as rain
against the burning sun.
On a rose-coloured road
they laid their inks,
knew exactly, in the seed,
where in the sky they would reach
Traffic-jammed under a square
of perfect blue I thirst
for their lake’s fingering
shadow, trunk by trunk arching
a cloister between the parks
and pillars of a civic architecture,
older and taller than all of it.
Heat is a salt encrustation.
Walls square up to the sky
without the company of leaves
or the town life of birds.
At the roadside this enormous
firewood, elmwood, the start
of some terrible undoing.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letters from a Far Country (1982)
The sower walks down the even furrows;
his fathers all furrowed the path he follows.
The young seed glitters gold in his hand,
but it must fall into the black ground.
There, amid the tunnels of the blind worm,
it will die on its due day – and grow again.
So now my soul treads the path of the grain –
down into darkness – and spring’s return.
And you, my people, and you, my native land,
you will die and live, when the dark months end,
for we have been granted only this one truth:
whatever lives must follow the grain’s path.
by Владислав Фелицианович Ходасевич (Vladislav Felitsianovich Khodasevich)
translated by Robert Chandler
And to be able to put at the end
Of the letter Anthens, Florence – some name
That the spirit recalls from earlier journeys
Through the dark wood, seeking the path
To the bright mansions; cities and towns
Where the soul added depth to its stature.
And not to worry about the date,
The words being timeless, concerned with truth,
Beauty, love, misery even,
Which has its seasons in the long growth
From seed to flesh, flesh to spirit.
And laying aside the pen, dipped
Not in tear’s volatile liquid
But in black ink of the heart’s well,
To read again what the hand has written
To the many voices’ quiet diction.
by R. S. Thomas
from Poetry for Supper (1958)