Hireling by R. S. Thomas

Cars pass him by; he’ll never own one.

Men won’t believe in him for this.

Let them come into the hills

And meet him wandering a road,

Fenced with rain, as I have now;

The wind feathering his hair;

The sky’s ruins, gutted with fire

Of the late sun, smouldering still.

 

Nothing is his, neither the land

Nor the land’s flocks. Hired to live

On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth

With cats and hens, he has lost all

Property but the grey ice

Of a face splintered by life’s stone.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Tares (1961)

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St Julian and the Leper by R. S. Thomas

Though all ran from him, he did not

Run, but awaited

Him with his arms

Out, his ears stopped

To his bell, his alarmed

Crying. He lay down

With him there, sharing his sores’

Stench, the quarantine

Of his soul; contaminating

Himself with a kiss,

With the love that

Our science has disinfected.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)


 

12 February is St Julian’s feast day. He is the patron saint of: boatmen, carnival workers, childless people, circus workers, clowns, ferrymen, fiddlers, fiddle players, hospitallers, hotel-keepers, hunters, innkeepers, jugglers, knights, murderers (they have a patron saint?!), pilgrims, shepherds, to obtain lodging while traveling, travelers, wandering musicians, He is also known as Julian the Hospitaller.