Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: R.S. Thomas

Half of the poets whose work I replicate here on Sundays need no introduction from me; but because part of my goal with these posts is providing a place where interested readers with little awareness of helpful resources can find stimulating, worthwhile poetry (Christian either explicitly or by relation), forgive the potentially unnecessary intros.

R.S. Thomas is one of the giants of poetry for the 20th century; born barely a dozen years into it, he died before the dawn of the new millennium. A Welsh clergyman profoundly in harmony with creation and with those who tended to it, Thomas loved his land and his neighbors who inhabited it. Here I share two sermons dealing with revelation, salvation, incarnation, and Trinity -- so much weight packed into so few words -- published in 1972 and 1975, respectively. My own poem afterward is, to the examination of my own eye, so unrelated as to be comical; but it is one I wrote a few weeks back that I particularly enjoyed, possibly because I think my best poems are written while a professor is speaking. Nevertheless: enjoy.

- - - - - - -

The Coming

By R.S. Thomas

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows; a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

- - - - - - -


By R.S. Thomas

And to one God says: Come
to me by numbers and
figures; see my beauty
in the angles between
stars, in the equations
of my kingdom. Bring
your lenses o the worship
of my dimensions: far
out and far in, there
is always more of me
in proportion. And to another:
I am the bush burning
at the centre of
your existence; you must put
your knowledge off and come
to me with your mind
bare. And to this one
he says: Because of
your high stomach, the bleakness
of your emotions, I
will come to you in the simplest
things, in the body
of a man hung on a tall
tree you have converted to
timber and you shall not know me.

- - - - - - -

German For Reading Comprehension on the Eighth Floor of Woodruff Library

Float upwards above the trees
Drift toward the ordered windows
Frame them barely, blackly, bookishly

Peer inside the classroom high above the ground
Smell by intuition the fading pages of knowledge
Print them on the sacrifice of giants in parallel stance

See the man toddling around before younger eyes
Watch his small weathered Indian body speak
Notice life in the eyes when fun spills from the mouth

Observe the histories intersecting, introducing themselves
Listen to their tales, tall and small, finding the earth whole
Stay, stay quiet; remain, and do not depart

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