Souillac: Le Sacrifice d’Abraham by R. S. Thomas

And he grasps him by the hair

With innocent savagery.

And the son’s face is calm;

There is trust there.

 

And the beast looks on.

 

This is what art could do,

Interpreting faith

With serene chisel.

The resistant stone

Is quiet as our breath,

And is accepted.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from The Bread of Truth (1963)


Fun fact: Souillac is a small market town, and is the hub for the area. This is an agricultural region which is known for its walnuts, strawberries and quiet, rural way of life. Thomas visited the abbey church of Sainte-Marie in this town and that is the subject of this poem. The domed roofs are similar to but rather smaller than those of Périgueux Cathedral. Fragments of the original Romanesque sculptures are grouped just inside the west door.

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Llananno by R. S. Thomas

I often call there.

There are no poems in it

for me. But as a gesture

of independence of the speeding

traffic I am a part

of, I stop the car,

turn down the narrow path

to the river, and enter

the church with its clear reflection

beside it.

There are few services

now; the screen has nothing

to hide. Face to face

with no intermediary

between me and God, and only the water’s

quiet insistence on a time

older than man, I keep my eyes

open and am not dazzled,

so delicately does the light enter

my soul from the serene presence

that waits for me till I come next.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)


 

Llananno has a church and the screen mentioned in this poem has been restored. Here are some links if you want to learn about the poem’s subject:

Information with links to maps and more detailed information about the area: http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/wal/RAD/Llananno

Information about the church and its screen’s restoration: http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/llananno-rood/llananno-rood.htm

 

All Right by R. S. Thomas

I look. You look

Away. No colour,

No ruffling of the brow’s

Surface betrays

Your feeling. As though I

Were not here; as

Though you were your own

Mirror, you arrange yourself

For the play. My eyes’

Adjectives; the way that

I scan you; the

Conjunction the flesh

Needs – all these

Are as nothing

To you. Serene, cool,

Motionless, no statue

Could show less

The impression of

My regard. Madam, I

Grant the artistry

Of your part. Let us

Consider it, then,

A finished performance.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

‘Blows The Swan Wind…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Blows the swan wind,

The blue sky’s smeared

With blood; the anniversary

Of your love’s first days draws near.

 

You have destroyed

My sorcery; like water the years

Have drifted by. Why

Aren’t you old, but as you were?

 

Your tender voice even more ringing…

Only your serene brow

Has taken from time’s wing

A scattering of snow.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas