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R S Thomas: poet and Welsh patriot

 
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alan stewart



Joined: 24 Mar 2010
Posts: 979


Location: Born Glasgow/living in West Yorkshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2015 12:46 pm    Post subject: R S Thomas: poet and Welsh patriot  Reply with quote

In 1988 the great poet RS Thomas had the temerity to reflect that the burning of a few English holiday homes was insignificant as compared with the ongoing, longstanding erosion and impending destruction of the Welsh language, culture and nation.  The London press was furious.  Media hacks queued up to telephone him -hoping to interrogate him and to put him on the spot.  Martin (2006) notes however that the various Fleet Street jobsworths got nowhere.  Thomas calmly answered all their calls in an incomprehensible language -Welsh!
R S Thomas had been born into an Anglicised middle class family in Cardiff in 1913.  He then read classics in Bangor before becoming a clergyman.
He was a curate in Denbighshire and then Flintshire before becoming rector of St Michael's Church near Welshpool.
He published three volumes of poetry during this time.  However it was a fourth volume called SONG AT THE YEARS' TURNING -essentially a collected edition of the previous three- that attracted a major publisher in 1955 and put him firmly in the public domain.
From 1967 to 1978 he was vicar at St Hywyn's Church at Aberdaron at the western tip of the Llyn Peninsula.  He then retired to YRhiw and -free from the constraints of the church- became more vocal politically.
Thomas had learnt Welsh when he was 30.  He said however that he couldn't write poetry in Welsh.  Rogers (2006) says he -Thomas- "found himself with the English language as a cell mate."  England itself he saw as representing vulgar modernity and commercialism.  The English were "scavenging among the remains of our culture."  They were "elbowing our language into the grave" that we- the Welsh- had "dug for it."
Thomas has been portrayed as solitary, taciturn and brusque.  He was said to have lived in a succession of "increasingly remote and freezing vicarages" and to have feasted on baked potatoes -with no fillings- preceeded by a single glass of elderflower sherry (Martin 2006).
Yet his first marriage lasted over half a century and he wrote her fine love poetry.  He appeared to relax more in later life taking his second wife to restuarants where the former devotee of elderflower partook of Cotes de Rhone.  There were references even to his occasional bouts of kindness and dry sense of humour.

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