Saturday, June 26, 2010

No Escape, Part Six: "The Bright Field" And "The Water's Quiet Insistence"

In this visit to the land of "wherever you go, there you are," R. S. Thomas offers a possible solution to the problem of not being able to escape from yourself when you attempt to travel to that ever-illusory ideal place.  It turns out that the place you long for may be right there in front of you (if you first turn aside a bit).

            The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.  But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it.  I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.  Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past.  It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

                    John Nash, "A Gloucestershire Landscape" (1914)


I often call there.
There are no poems in it
for me.  But as a gesture
of independence of the speeding
traffic I am a part
of, I stop the car,
turn down the narrow path
to the river, and enter
the church with its clear reflection
beside it.
                 There are few services
now; the screen has nothing
to hide.  Face to face
with no intermediary
between me and God, and only the water's
quiet insistence on a time
older than man, I keep my eyes
open and am not dazzled,
so delicately does the light enter
my soul from the serene presence
that waits for me till I come next.

                      John Nash, "Landscape Near Hadleigh" (c. 1945)


PAL said...

There appears to be a strange paucity of feedback to this superlative blog, so I thought I'd let you know that you're hitting at least one spot here in the UK. Lit crit here is a slave either to dogma or fashion. A cultivated American viewpoint is refreshing, particularly on English poetry.

Stephen Pentz said...

PAL: Thank you very much for your extremely kind words. When it comes to this type of undertaking, one never knows if anyone is looking in. (I don't avail myself of tools for measuring "visits," etc.) Hence, receiving a thoughtful comment like yours means a great deal to me. My only goal is to share my enthusiasms, and it is gratifying to discover that there are others out there who may share those enthusiasms, and who may check in on my meanderings from time to time. Thank you again.