Centenary Poet R.S. Thomas Always Seeking Greater Silence

The centenary of the birth of the great Welsh Anglican priest- poet, R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), is on 29th March 2013 and as part of many events to celebrate his life and work, BBC Radio 3  had a fine programme on him yesterday called "Always Seeking Greater Silence. " 

The R.S. stands for Ronald Stuart by the way !

The photos of Thomas often show his gaunt figure and scowling face
 and many accounts of him relate to his cantankerous nature, confusing ambiguity and contradictions : I see him as a sort of grumpy cat figure with a soft underbelly and his poetry can often be searingly honest and beautiful; a true poet of the via negativa and apophatic "dark night of the soul" search for God.
 Luke Coppen's account of why he regarded Thomas as his favourite religious poet can be read here.
 Click here for this great image of him in his cottage in the Lyyn peninsula, Wales

He was nominated for the Nobel prize in his 82nd year but he lost out to Seamus Heaney,who later provided Thomas' eulogy at a tribute in Westminster Abbey.

I have posted his poems a few times but here again are a few of my favourites....

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God   
To speak; the air a staircase   
For silence; the sun’s light   
Ringing me, as though I acted   
A great rôle. And the audiences   
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message. 
                         Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,   
Though it be you who speak   
Through me, something is lost.   
The meaning is in the waiting.
R. S. Thomas, "Kneeling" from The Collected Later Poems: 1988-2000. Copyright © 2004 by R. S. Thomas. 

The Other
Thomas's poem "The Other" stands inscribed on slate in the village church of St Hywyn, Aberdaron, where he was parish priest for 11 years: 

There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake listening
to the swell born somewhere in
the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village that is without
and companionless. And the
thought comes
of that other being who is
awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

The Bright Field 
read by Nicola Davies 

Music Spem in alium", by Thomas Tallis 
"Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te" translates as
 "I have never put my hope in any other but in You" 

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