THE COUNTRY CLERGY
I see them working in old rectories
By the sun's light, by candlelight,
Venerable men, their black cloth
A little dusty, a little green
With holy mildew. And yet their skulls,
Ripening over so many prayers,
Toppled into the same grave
With oafs and yokels. They left no books,
Memorial to their lonely thought
In grey parishes; rather they wrote
On men's hearts and in the minds
Of young children the sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.
R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) was a Welsh poet and an Anglican priest. You can read all about him at the Poetry Foundation. His poems tend to be rather grim--see, for instance, "Evans." Wales, in his eyes, seems to be a pretty grim place. But his is the sort of low-key unostentatious work that appeals to me.
I had planned to post a different poem this week. But first I let the time get away from me and didn't remember till late last night that this post was due. And then, when I started working on it this morning, I discovered that the poem I'd meant to post presents some serious formatting problems, so I decided to do this one instead. I've had in mind from the beginning that I'd include something by R.S. Thomas, and since I didn't have much time to browse chose this one, the first of his I read and the one that made me go out and buy his Selected Poems in the Phoenix Poetry Series, a very nice little hardback which unfortunately seems to be out of print, though used copies seem to be easy to find (Amazon link).
I will admit that I've probably not read more than a third of it. But when I flipped through it just now I found something curious, a little sheet of paper with some scraps of a poem I was apparently working when I was last reading the book. I'm pretty sure that was at least fifteen, perhaps twenty, years ago. The first line on the sheet is:
Assurance that things are well somewhere
That may be an appropriate comment on "The Country Clergy," and a qualification of the general darkness of Thomas's work.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.