R.S. Thomas quotes

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R.S. Thomas

Birthdate: 29. March 1913
Date of death: 25. September 2000

Ronald Stuart Thomas , published as R. S. Thomas, was a Welsh poet and Anglican priest who was noted for his nationalism, spirituality and dislike of the anglicisation of Wales. John Betjeman, in his 1955 introduction to Song at the Year's Turning, the first collection of Thomas's poetry to be produced by a major publisher, predicted that Thomas would be remembered long after he himself was forgotten. M. Wynn Thomas said: "He was the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Wales because he was such a troubler of the Welsh conscience. He was one of the major English language and European poets of the 20th century."

Works

„It is alive. It is you,
God. Looking out I can see
no death.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"Alive", p. 51
Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Context: It is alive. It is you,
God. Looking out I can see
no death. The earth moves, the
sea moves, the wind goes
on its exuberant
journeys. Many creatures
reflect you, the flowers
your color, the tides the precision
of your calculations. There
is nothing too ample
for you to overflow, nothing
so small that your workmanship
is not revealed.

„Man is a dream about a shadow. But when some splendour falls upon him from God, a glory comes to him and his life is sweet.“

—  R.S. Thomas

Neb [No-one] (1985)
Context: On seeing his shadow fall on such ancient rocks, he had to question himself in a different context and ask the same old question as before, "Who am I?", and the answer now came more emphatically than ever before, "No-one."
But a no-one with a crown of light about his head. He would remember a verse from Pindar: "Man is a dream about a shadow. But when some splendour falls upon him from God, a glory comes to him and his life is sweet."

„He was too big to be nailed to the wall
Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him
Between the boards of a black book.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"A Welsh Testament"
Tares (1961)
Context: Even God had a Welsh name:
He spoke to him in the old language;
He was to have a peculiar care
For the Welsh people. History showed us
He was too big to be nailed to the wall
Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him
Between the boards of a black book.

„The nearest we approach God…is as creative beings.“

—  R.S. Thomas

The Penguin Book of Religious Verse (1963), p. 8
Context: The nearest we approach God…is as creative beings. The poet, by echoing the primary imagination, recreates. Through his work he forces those who read him to do the same, thus bringing them... nearer to the actual being of God as displayed in action.

„True Christianity at its most profound is as good as you get. … I think I've been lucky in the period which I've lived through because obviously I would have been for the chop in earlier days.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"R. S. Thomas in conversation with Molly Price-Owen" in The David Jones Journal R. S. Thomas Special Issue (Summer/Autumn 2001)
Context: True Christianity at its most profound is as good as you get. … I think I've been lucky in the period which I've lived through because obviously I would have been for the chop in earlier days. The Inquisition would have rooted me out; even in the 19th century I would probably have been had up by a Bishop and asked to change my views, or to keep them to myself etc.... I think that so much of our Christian beliefs … are an attempt to convey through language something which is unsayable.

„Yet men sought us despite this.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"A Welsh Testament"
Tares (1961)
Context: Yet men sought us despite this.
My high cheek-bones, my length of skull
Drew them as to a rare portrait
By a dead master. I saw them stare
From their long cars, as I passed knee-deep
In ewes and wethers. I saw them stand
By the thorn hedges, watching me string
The far flocks on a shrill whistle.
And always there was their eyes; strong
Pressure on me: You are Welsh, they said;
Speak to us so; keep your fields free
Of the smell of petrol, the loud roar
Of hot tractors; we must have peace
And quietness.

„God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"The Country Clergy"
Poetry For Supper (1958)
Context: 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 sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.

„Any form of orthodoxy is just not part of a poet's province … A poet must be able to claim … freedom to follow the vision of poetry, the imaginative vision of poetry … And in any case, poetry is religion, religion is poetry.“

—  R.S. Thomas

R. S. Thomas : Priest and Poet, BBC TV (2 April 1972)
Context: Any form of orthodoxy is just not part of a poet's province … A poet must be able to claim … freedom to follow the vision of poetry, the imaginative vision of poetry … And in any case, poetry is religion, religion is poetry. The message of the New Testament is poetry. Christ was a poet, the New Testament is metaphor, the Resurrection is a metaphor; and I feel perfectly within my rights in approaching my whole vocation as priest and preacher as one who is to present poetry; and when I preach poetry I am preaching Christianity, and when one discusses Christianity one is discussing poetry in its imaginative aspects. … My work as a poet has to deal with the presentation of imaginative truth.

„Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you'd build
Your verse a ladder.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"Poetry For Supper"
Poetry For Supper (1958)
Context: Natural, hell! What was it Chaucer
Said once about the long toil
that goes like blood to the poems making? Leave it to nature and the verse sprawls,
Limp as bindweed, if it break at all
Life's iron crust
Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you'd build
Your verse a ladder.

„Ah, what balance is needed at
the edges of such an abyss.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"Threshold", p. 110
Between Here and Now (1981)
Context: Ah, what balance is needed at
the edges of such an abyss.
I am left alone on the surface
of a turning planet. What to do but, like Michelangelo’s
Adam, put my hand
out into unknown space,
hoping for the reciprocating touch?

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„You cannot find the centre
Where we dance“

—  R.S. Thomas

"Children’s Song"
Song at the Year's Turning (1955)
Context: You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.

„All right, I was Welsh. Does it matter?“

—  R.S. Thomas

"A Welsh Testament"
Tares (1961)
Context: All right, I was Welsh. Does it matter?
I spoke a tongue that was passed on
To me in the place I happened to be,
A place huddled between grey walls
Of cloud for at least half the year.
My word for heaven was not yours.
The word for hell had a sharp edge
Put on it by the hand of the wind
Honing, honing with a shrill sound
Day and night. Nothing that Glyn Dwr
Knew was armour against the rain's
Missiles. What was descent from him?

„I think that so much of our Christian beliefs … are an attempt to convey through language something which is unsayable.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"R. S. Thomas in conversation with Molly Price-Owen" in The David Jones Journal R. S. Thomas Special Issue (Summer/Autumn 2001)
Context: True Christianity at its most profound is as good as you get. … I think I've been lucky in the period which I've lived through because obviously I would have been for the chop in earlier days. The Inquisition would have rooted me out; even in the 19th century I would probably have been had up by a Bishop and asked to change my views, or to keep them to myself etc.... I think that so much of our Christian beliefs … are an attempt to convey through language something which is unsayable.

„On seeing his shadow fall on such ancient rocks, he had to question himself in a different context and ask the same old question as before, "Who am I?", and the answer now came more emphatically than ever before, "No-one."“

—  R.S. Thomas

But a no-one with a crown of light about his head. He would remember a verse from Pindar: "Man is a dream about a shadow. But when some splendour falls upon him from God, a glory comes to him and his life is sweet."
Neb [No-one] (1985)

„Deliver me from the long drought
of the mind.“

—  R.S. Thomas

"Prayer", p. 10
Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Context: Deliver me from the long drought
of the mind. Let leaves
from the deciduous Cross
fall on us, washing
us clean, turning our autumn
to gold by the affluence of their fountain.

„Even God had a Welsh name:
He spoke to him in the old language“

—  R.S. Thomas

"A Welsh Testament"
Tares (1961)
Context: Even God had a Welsh name:
He spoke to him in the old language;
He was to have a peculiar care
For the Welsh people. History showed us
He was too big to be nailed to the wall
Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him
Between the boards of a black book.

„I turn now
not to the Bible
but to Wallace Stevens“

—  R.S. Thomas

"Homage to Wallace Stevens"
No Truce with the Furies (1995)

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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