R S Thomas

In the clan
There was Edward Thomas. He was very good
Though it was late before even he knew.
They gave him a gun and sent him away.
Two months he lasted, until a stray shell
With his name on it exploded at Arras.

There was Dylan Thomas. He was bloody good.
Every evening after the versifying
He would sit in a bar with the boyos
Staring cymrically into his whisky,
Pouring it down his throat like a fish.

There was D M Thomas too. He was OK
If you liked sex and psychoanalysis and such
And goings-on in white hotels.
In time, poetry ceased to be his field,
But he of course was not Welsh.

Lastly there was Thomas the Church.
Duw, that was not an easy man to know,
Unless your name was Puw or Prytherch,
But those who read his quiet books
Reach the simple verdict: he was good. 

Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-2000) was the foremost Welsh poet of his day, and an Anglican clergyman. In 1996 he was nominated for the Nobel prize for Literature, but was passed over in favour of Seamus Heaney.

His poetry gave a realistic, sympathetic but unsentimental view of the Welsh countryside and the people who inhabited it. He wrote two prose works in Welsh, but all of his poetry was in English. Only occasionally would he "perform cultural excesses on Saxon territory" i.e. read his poetry to audiences in England. He was a Welsh nationalist who - despite his professed pacifism - supported the fire-bombing of English holiday homes. He resigned from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) over their plans to introduce non-native red kites (birds of prey) to Wales. One does not have to read far between the lines of the various accounts of his life to detect that he must have been a cantankerous old so-and-so. But by comment consent he was a very fine poet indeed.  

I ought to be ashamed of myself for ever confusing him with  Edward Thomas. No-one could ever confuse him with Dylan Thomas. The above poem (based on R S Thomas's poem On the Farm) should makes any such such confusions less likely.

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Bob Newman 2007. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 16/02/2007