Wednesday, May 4, 2011

R. S. Thomas By The Sea: "The Look Of Those Who Have Come Safely Home"

Whether deserved or not, R. S. Thomas has a reputation for not being the life of the party.  This may be due to the fact that he preferred silence and solitude to noise.  I cannot fault him for this.  (Silence is of great significance in Thomas's poetry -- particularly the huge silence of God.  Thomas, an Anglican priest, pondered that silence all his life.)

As always, we should be wary of caricatures.  For instance, Thomas found his way to the sea, and brought this back.


There was that headland, asleep on the sea,
The air full of thunder and the far air
Brittle with lightning; there was that girl
Riding her cycle, hair at half-mast,
And the men smoking, the dinghies at rest
On the calm tide.  There were people going
About their business, while the storm grew
Louder and nearer and did not break.

Why do I remember these few things,
That were rumours of life, not life itself
That was being lived fiercely, where the storm raged?
Was it just that the girl smiled,
Though not at me, and the men smoking
Had the look of those who have come safely home?

R. S. Thomas, Tares (1961).

Abersoch is located on the Lleyn (Llyn) Peninsula in Wales.  Although Thomas mostly abandoned traditional forms and rhyme after his first two books, he did thereafter write a number of 14-line poems that resemble sonnets.  This is one of them.

                     John Brett, "The Garrison Walk, St. Mary's" (1873)


From My Easy Chair said...

"Rumors of life" is very thought-provoking. Aren't there more rumors than rages and thank goodness if so?

Stephen Pentz said...

From My Easy Chair: Thank you for stopping by again, and for your thoughts. Yes, I wonder about "rumours of life" as well -- an interesting phrase, isn't it? I think that perhaps the "rumours" in the end turn out to be life.

PAL said...

Mr Pentz: I always think there are two kinds of poems, neither necessarily superior to the other: those that deepen thoughts you've had yourself, and those which express things that have never occurred to you before, or at least not formulated as a thought; and for me this belongs very much to the latter category.

I continue to click on this blog with undiminished anticipation.

Stephen Pentz said...

PAL: Thank you very much for your kind words. For my part, I greatly appreciate the fact that you continue to visit.

Your comment about two kinds of poems is a fine one -- sometimes I find myself returning too often to the former, and I have to remind myself to keep searching for the latter as well.

I wholly agree with you about "Abersoch." It is not one of Thomas's better-known poems, but it struck me as being remarkable when I first encountered it for the reasons pointed out by you.

As always, thank you for stopping by.