The Cat and the Sea by R. S. Thomas

It is a matter of a black cat

On a bare cliff top in March

Whose eyes anticipate

The gorse petals;


The formal equation of

A domestic purr

With the cold interiors

Of the sea’s mirror.


by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)


Moithered by Mike Jenkins

She used it totally out of place

but natural as calling an infant ‘Babes!’

The poet’s moithered by all that pollution

like herself annoyed at my constant questions.


The word was her, chewing-gum twirler

giving so much lip and jip,

a desk-scribbler stirrer

using her tongue as a whip.


It was perfect for flustered:

I could imagine the artist

as all the complex phrases whirred

and churned, his hair in a twist.


No examiner could possibly weight it,

no educationalist glue and frame it:

it leapt out like her laughter

and my red mark was the real error.


by Mike Jenkins

from Red Landscapes

Twenty-four Years by Dylan Thomas

Twenty-four years remind the tears of my eyes.

(Bury the dead for fear that they walk to the grave in labour.)

In the groin of the natural doorway I crouched like a tailor

Sewing a shroud for a journey

By the light of the meat-eating sun.

Dressed to die, the sensual strut begun,

With my red veins full of money,

In the final direction of the elementary town

I advance for as long as forever is.


by Dylan Thomas


Fun fact: Because of his almost obsessive preoccupation with death, each birthday was a milestone that called for a celebration, and on several occasions Thomas composed a poem that expresses his sense of where he stood as a man and an artist. “Twenty-four Years” is his earliest significant version of this celebratory mode, and it is full of both the exuberance of early manhood and his already familiar feeling that death was imminent.

Land of my Mothers by Idris Davies

Land of my mothers, how shall my brothers praise you?

With timbrels or rattles or tins?

With fire.

How shall we praise you on the banks of the rhymneying waters,

On the smokey shores and the glittering shores of Glamorgan,

On wet mornings in the bare fields behind the Newport docks,

On fine evenings when lovers walk by Bedwellty Church,

When the cuckoo calles to miners coming home to Rhymney Bridge,

When the wild rose defies the Industrial Revolution

And when the dear old drunken lady sings of Jesus and a little shilling.


Come down, O girls of song, to the bank of the coal canal

At twilight, at twilight

When mongrels fight

And long rats bite

Under the shadows of pit-head light,

And dance, you daughters of Gwenllian,

Dance in the dust in the lust of delight.

And you who have prayed in the golden pastures

And oiled the wheels of the Western Tradition

And trod where bards have danced to church,

Pay a penny for this fragment of a burning torch.

It will never go out.


It will gather unto itself all the fires

That blaze between the heavens above and the earth beneath

Until the flame shall frighten each mud-hearted hypocrite

And scatter the beetles fattened on the cream of corruption,

The beetles that riddle the ramparts of Man.


Pay a penny for my singing torch,

O my sisters, my brothers of the land of my mothers,

The land of our fathers, our troubles, our dreams,

The land of Llewellyn and Shoni bach Shinkin,

The land of the sermons that peddle the streams,

The land of the englyn and Crawshay’s old engine,

The land that is sometimes as proud as she seems.

And the sons of the mountains and sons of the valleys

O lift up your hearts, and then

lift up your feet.


by Idris Davies

On A Wedding Anniversary by Dylan Thomas

The sky is torn across

This ragged anniversary of two

Who moved from three years in tune

Down the long walk of their vows.


Now their love lies a loss

And Love and his patients roar on a chain;

From every true or crater

Carrying cloud, Death strikes their house.


Too late in the wrong rain

They come together whom their love parted:

The windows pour into their heart

And the doors burn in their brain.


by Dylan Thomas

(September 1945)


The different first version published in January 1941 was prompted by his third wedding anniversary.

O Make Me A Mask by Dylan Thomas

O make me a mask and a wall to shut from your spies

Of the sharp, enamelled eyes and the spectacled claws

Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of the face,

Gag of a dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies

The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,

The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,

Shaped in old armour and oak the counternance of a dunce

To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,

And a tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes

To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive

Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses

By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeve.


by Dylan Thomas

(Notebook version March 1933; rephrased and severely shortened November 1937)


He seeks to defend his inner privacy against the sharp examination of strangers and critics.

Pisces by R. S. Thomas

Who said to the trout,

You shall die on Good Friday

To be food  for a man

And his pretty lady?


It was I, said God,

Who formed the roses

In the delicate flesh

And the tooth that bruises.


by R. S. Thomas

from Song at the Year’s Turning (1955)