Thursday 30 July 2015

More Important Things

Getting to grips with R S Thomas...


In Wales there are jewels
To gather, but with the eye
Only, a hill lights up
Suddenly, a field trembles
With colour and goes out
In its turn, in one day
You can witness the extent
Of the spectrum and grow rich
With looking. Have care
The wealth is for the few
And chosen. Those who crowd
A small window dirty it
With their breathing, though sublime
And inexhaustible the view.

This is one of his simplest poems superficially  but so deep and politically incorrect by modern standards – but too interesting just to see in those terms. Good to share with some friends because the first five lines so much describe our times camping at Caerfai with the violent changes of light and weather.

I like how he deals in a few words with the modern preoccupation with cosmology (“the extent of the spectrum” – yes, quite, so what, Dawkins. Elsewhere RST shows how the universe is actually terrifying not reassuring).

And after that it could be described  (not casually but accurately) as a bit fascist (RS wouldn’t have cared of course, and nor should we too much) because, I am fairly sure, he meant that only a special kind of person could understand – and that wasn’t just to exclude non-Welsh people but people “without soul”.

It is especially exclusive that the reference to crowdedness is quite obviously not about volume but the attitude of the observers  - and a rather nasty transference about the dirty window.

No getting away from it – some kind of celebration of the Nietzschean Superman.

A big theme is also going on about wealth – a gentle ridicule I suppose and again a bit fascistic.

Then you go back to the beginning – he started by saying “In Wales” for a reason. I could go on for hours about what he meant line by line but he certainly didn’t obscure it – Larkin gave him credit for lucidity (which doesn't preclude layers of meaning) in spite of calling him “Arsewipe Thomas”.