Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As it is another miserably cold day, the seagulls are already wheeling overhead to snatch the bread that I have thrown out in the garden, perhaps Thomas can add to the mood of it..

The Island,

And God said, I will build a church here
And cause this people to worship me,
And afflict them with poverty and sickness
In return for centuries of hard work
And patience. And its walls shall be hard as
Their hearts, and its window let in the light
Grudgingly, as their minds do, and the priest's words be drowned
By the wind's caterwauling. All this I will do.

Said God, and watch the bitterness in their eyes
Grow, and their lips suppurate with
Their prayers. And their women shall bring forth
On my altars, and I will choose the best
Of them to be thrown back into the sea.

And that was only on one island.

R.S.Thomas, Anglican minister in Wales, ordained 1937. To quote "he was troubled by religious doubts which could not be easily revealed to those whose faith was more fervent" One wonders why he stayed in the job, his sensitive poetry shows a soul in torment but also the great pity he felt for the people he lived amongst, the places in which they lived "harsh, depopulated and deprived" . Codlins and Cream (
excellent essays on the ruined cottages that can still be found in the landscape shows how many a Welsh family foundered and failed.
There is also George Monbiot's excellent essay this morning on railways in Wales, headed by a revival of another priest!

The Open Veins of Wales


  1. RS Thomas is wonderful. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Yes he is beautifully gloomy for a vicar, I reckon its all those miserable Welsh chapels that made him depressed..