An R. S. Thomas poem

Chapel Deacon by R. S. Thomas
Who put that crease in your soul,
Davies, ready this fine morning
For the staid chapel, where the Book's frown
Sobers the sunlight? Who taught you to pray
And scheme at once, your eyes turning
Skyward, while your swift mind weighs
Your heifer's chances in the next town's
Fair on Thursday? Are your heart's coals
Kindled for God, or is the burning
Of your lean cheeks because you sit
Too near that girl's smouldering gaze?
Tell me, Davies, for the faint breeze
From heaven freshens and I roll in it,
Who taught you your deft poise?

I swear I have a book fairy lodged at home. Volumes I thought I had disappear, nowhere to be found, so I must acquire them anew. I bought R. S. Thomas' Collected Poems on being reminded by Ron Ferguson of their difference from George Mackay Brown's in their treatment of faith. Both poets had a bare, spare language but if Mackay Brown celebrated being at home in a world ritualised in faith, R. S. Thomas was more aware of the fragility of faith and its purchase on a more austere, remote God (and the converse - the fickleness of humans and their ability to keep God's intruding claims at bay). This latter ability is beautiful caught in the chapel deacon's dual nature described here, so deftly and economically.


  1. Do you have the audio recording of RS Thomas's poems? It is so earthy and soulful.


  2. Yes, I have heard him read his own poems , extremely well, not a feat that many poets accomplish in my own experience!

  3. They are a fascinating contrast, and my two favourite modern poets. Did RST ever reach what he was searching for? Did GMB's search arrive at the right place?

    1. For RST not I suspect in this life, holding to his curmudgeonly persona to the end - of reaching after, glimpsing finely but always ending disappointed. For GMB yes, possibly, every moment captured in God's eye as meaningful and always the invitation to see the world with that eye, hold it in vision.


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