Pre-Cambrian by R. S. Thomas

Here I think of the centuries,

six million of them, they say.

Yesterday a fine rain fell;

today the warmth has brought out the crowds.

After Christ, what? The molecules

are without redemption. My shadow

sunning itself on this stone

remembers the lava. Zeus looked down

on a brave world, but there was

no love there; the architecture

of their temples was less permanent

than these waves. Plato, Aristotle,

all those who furrow the calmness

of their foreheads are responsible

for the bomb. I am charmed here

by the serenity of the reflections

in the sea's mirror. It is a window

as well. What I need

now is a faith to enable me to out-stare

the grinning faces of the inmates of its asylum,

the failed experiments God put away.


by R. S. Thomas

from Frequencies (1978)

Epigraph to ‘The Queen of Spades’ by Alexander Pushkin

In rainy weather

they gather together

to play.

To double – redouble –

a stake was no trouble,

they say.

They did not find it hard

to entrust to a card

their pay,

So no day of rain

ever slipped by in vain,

they say.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin

(1833)

translated by Robert Chandler


Fun fact:

This piece of course precedes Pushkin’s famous short story ‘The Queen of Spades’.

I found this 1916 silent film adaption in the Expressionist style, made famous by works such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, with burnt in English subtitles (give it a few moments at the start as they don’t show up immediately) which might be of interest if you have an hour to spare.

This by Fernando Pessoa

They say I pretend or lie

All I write. No such thing.

It simply is that I

Feel by imagining.

I don’t use the heart-string.

 

All that I dream or lose,

That falls short or dies on me.

Is like a terrace which looks

On another thing beyond.

It’s that thing leads me on.

 

And so I write in the middle

Of things not next one’s feet,

Free from my own muddle,

Concerned for what is not.

Feel? Let the reader feel!

 

by Fernando Pessoa

(1888-1935), Portugal

translated by Jonathon Griffin after the Portuguese of Fernando Pessoa

The Lay Preacher Ponders by Idris Davies

‘Isn’t the violet a dear little flower? And the daisy, too.

What nice little thoughts arise from a daisy!

If I were a poet now – but no, not a poet,

For a poet is a wild and blasphemous man;

He talks about wine and women too much for me

And he makes mad songs about old pagans, look you.

Poets are dangerous men to have in chapel,

And it is bad enough in chapel as it is

with all the quarelling over the organ and the deacons;

The deacons are not too nice to saintly young men like me.

(Look at Jenkins John Jones, the old damn scoundrel!)

They know I can pray for hours and hours,

They know what a righteous young man I am,

They know how my Bible is always in my pocket

And Abraham and Jonah like brothers to me,

But they prefer the proper preacher with his collar turned around;

They say he is more cultured than I am,

And what is culture but palaver and swank?

I turn up my nose at culture.

I stand up for faith, and very simple faith,

And knowledge I hate because it is poison.

Think of this devilish thing they call science,

It is Satan’s new trick to poison men’s minds.

When I shall be local councillor and a famous man –

I  look forward to the day when I shall be mayor –

I will put my foot down on clever palaver,

And show what a righteous young man I am.

And they ought to know I am that already,

For I give all my spare cash to the chapel

And all my spare time to God.’

 

by Idris Davies