RS Thomas (1913-2000) is another world-renowned poet in Wales after Dylan Thomas in the 20th century. If the poetry of Dylan Thomas brought passion and imagination into the British poetic style, and moved towards a development path where surrealism and romantic traditions blend and coexist, then RS Thomas has a completely different style, and his poems are clear. , Transparent, bitter, cold and solemn, thick and profound, like a white stone that has been washed by years of rain, using very simple words to write ancient and modern themes, it is a meditative poem that can stand reading and reading again and again.
RS Thomas was born in 1913 in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, the only child of his parents. Before he was five years old, he accompanied his father, who was a seaman, and wandered in major British ports. Later, when his father suffered from ear problems and could not go to sea, the family settled down in Holyhead, Anglese, in the north. He entered Bangor University (Bangor University) to study classics in 1929. After graduating in 1935, he went to St. Michael’s Theological Seminary in Cardiff for further study, and was officially ordained as a priest in 1937.
Thomas liked to write poetry while in college, and published some young works anonymously. From the first collection of poems “Stones in the Field” (1946) dedicated to his wife to “No Armistice with Fate” (1995) before his death, Thomas published a total of 27 collections of poems, about 1,600 poems, and won various poems many times. Award, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. Some scholars in Wales believe that if the previous year’s literary prize had not been awarded to the poet Seamus Heaney, maybe he would not have lost to the Polish poetess Szymborska (Wilawa Szymborska).
There is a bitterness to Thomas’ poetry. He spent most of his life in Wales. The hard life of Welsh farmers, the crisis of Welsh culture under the British colonial rule, and his embarrassing identity as a Welsh who could not speak Welsh all made his poems thick and bitter. In his biography “Nobody”, he once mentioned his Welsh complex. When he was still a child, he once played with his father on the beach of Hoylake in Liverpool. His father pointed to the distant mountains in the west and said to him in English: “That is Wales.” Understanding is a gradual, slow process. After being transferred to Monavon as rector in 1942, he went deeper into Welsh soil. Monawen opened his eyes, where he understood the conflict between reality and ideal. The farmers here are rude, worldly, and life is very hard, and they measure everything in acres and pounds. The Welsh had turned their backs on their cultural heritage, and they went to places like Wespool to do business with the English, and farmers in cold, barren places dreamed of making money and moving to the fertile parts of the plains. Yet in a way it’s still an old-fashioned place. People worked by hand, hoeing, shearing sheep, stacking hay and building fences. These lonely and old-fashioned people work in the fields all day, what are they thinking? What is their spiritual life like? This is what the poet thinks about.
As such, he writes about the lives of Welsh peasants. “Think of this down in the field
people. / Boots muddy, lost in own breath, / No joy, no sorrow, / No child, no wife, / Tottering numbly in the furrows of the field, / Like a lost sleepwalker” “Do you remember wearing Weiss? he died. /Facing the wall, that is the posture of this poor peasant/working in a stone field/in the Welsh mountains. I remember the room/Under the slate tiles, and the wide bed/With dirty snow, on which he lay,/Lonely as a ewe with its lamb in mid-March weather/Lonely. / I still remember the trapped wind / Tearing the curtains, the savage light / Frenzied on the floor. / No blankets on the empty floor / Or pads to lighten the heavy trampling, / Neighbors walk over loose boards / Look at Davis, say something curtly / Empty comfort, then turn / Heartless, wet walls / An alliance with death stinks. “A farmer, “no joy, no sorrow, no children, no wife”, depressed spirit, no thoughts, bitter life, working in the fields all year round, even when he died, he still maintained the posture of labor; Working, but the walls of the house are empty, the curtains can be torn by the wind, there are no blankets on the empty floor, and the floor is loose. He feels the hardship of the peasants, and he can’t describe it easily.
For Thomas, Wales The bitterness of peasant life begins before they are born. In “Country Boys,” he writes: “Unhappiness falls from a barren womb, / Gradually matures, but parents grow old; / In his unlucky Slowly unfolds the landscape toward the wrinkled window: A raging cold storm/Covers the whole world; the gray curlew is howling,/A whining too harsh to relieve the mind. “The birth of a new life is “unhappy”. The birth of a child is “falling” like an animal, entering this world of endless suffering; the warm uterus is “barren”, the child is growing, but the parents are aging day by day. “Unlucky”, life is like a joke; even the cries of the gray curlew are “howling”, “whining” and “too piercing”. Everything is so bitter, without the slightest joy and happiness.
Thomas is Welsh, but he received a traditional British education, and English is his mother tongue. He didn’t start learning Welsh until he was over thirty. He once said in his autobiography that every original writer is a member of an independent country, has his own language, and his language can sensitively capture what he wants to express. He calls his bilingual “diabolism”, and with Welsh the poet’s mood is ambivalent and awkward. He suffered from his inability to write poetry in Welsh, although his later autobiography was written in Welsh. From the bottom of his heart, he wanted to integrate himself deeper into the interior of Wales, so he kept relocating to the northwest of Wales, which was farther and farther away from the UK. The poet writes bitterly of his lack of Welsh: “England, what have you done? / My father’s language is so foreign to my lips, / Offends the ear, binds the tongue, / It can make new thoughts into everlasting tunes Ah!” “Look, I’m Welsh, / True Cymro, / With peat in my veins. / I was born too late, / She took me, / Raised me, / No pain; / Only one Loss, / I cannot speak my own / language… Iesu, / Those beautiful words, / I can only wander outside, / Pick up a language / From a blond stranger.” “I want my own / Language, free from /Its condemnation. /Seeing the land/farms empty/missing countrymen;/stone manuscripts/blurred in the wind and rain,/I want the right word/to describe the distress of the heart.” This is a condemnation of England, because the language A crisis is a crisis of culture.
Thomas served as an assistant pastor from 1937 to his retirement in 1978, more than forty years. The harsh and lonely life of the village pastor, the Welsh peasants’ attitude towards religion, the hardship of his preaching and even his doubts about God constitute a large part of his poetry. After he arrived to serve as a missionary in Chirk, he really faced pain for the first time. Some of the parishioners were very ill, and as priest he had to visit them frequently. As he writes about the pastor’s life: “There was no other voice, / In the darkness, only one man’s / Breathing sound, testing his / Faith in nothingness, nailing his problems / One after another to an empty handle The cross.” When the service was over and the church was empty and the lights were off, he felt a sense of emptiness and asked all kinds of questions about the cross. As he writes of the country priests: “Their heads / Matured with so many prayers, / Fall into the same graves with fools and brutes. No writings / To commemorate the solitary musings / In nameless parishes /.”
The Welsh peasants’ indifference to religion made Thomas’s preaching difficult and helpless. He wrote in his autobiography that religion was only a Sunday thing for Welsh farmers. Cows giving birth to calves is also a reason for men not to go to church. In his poems, he also wrote about the absent-mindedness of farmers when they went to church. Even when they were praying, farmers were calculating the market price of heifers in their minds. As in “It’s sunny in the morning, and you’re ready / to go to a serious church, where the holy book frowns, / to wake the sun. Who taught you to pray / and immediately calculate? Your eyes look / to the sky, and your mind weighs quickly / heifer Selling at the Thursday/town farmers’ fair.” As a pastor, Thomas often wondered: What the hell is God? What kind of God created such a world where the strong prey on the weak? Is it a loving and merciful God? The God in his mind is not the same as the benevolent God in the Bible. For example, he wrote the story of God’s creation of man, “God looked into space, so I appeared / Rolled my eyes and looked at everything in front of me: / The earth smoked, and no bird sang; / The hot beach saw no footprints, / God spoke. I hurried Hide/beside the mountain.” The scene of the earth when man appeared, the alienation of man from God, is well reflected here. Another example is, “God said, I will build a church here,/call this nation to worship me,/torment them with poverty and disease,/in return for the hard work/and patience for thousands of years.” This is also ” A merciful God in the Bible?
Thomas’s poetry is generally bitter, but there is hope in the bitterness. “I am a farmer, stripped / of love, thought, and decency by the hardships of the land; / but in the dewy fields / I will say this: / Listen, listen, I am a man like you.” Even if you are deprived of love, thought and decency, you are still a human being just like you, how unyielding this is! He writes of Welsh history: “We were one people, and we are. / When we have finished wrangling / breadcrumbs under the table, or gnawed / bones of a dead culture, we shall rise, / In a new dawn Greet each other.” Seeing the present and seeing the future, Wales is one people that will rise and greet each other in the new dawn. “He’ll go on; sure he will. / Under him, the lease of the land / will change, and the machine will make everything / a noise, but / on the wall of the gallery of the mind, / the face fixed by the barren hills, is not glorious , / But as firm as the land.” Who says the persistence and strength of Welsh farmers are not the hope of the future?
Thomas’ poetic language is very plain, but that doesn’t mean it’s without artistry. Simple but not ordinary, he can describe the scene of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ in a few strokes: “The mountains are still there, / Embracing the horizon, / Watching / This serene scene from a distance. / Nearby / The towering cross, /Gloomy, no one, /Missing behind/The holy body in the tender arms of a virgin.” The contrast between far and near, the exaggeration of the atmosphere, reveals the unspeakable pain of the Virgin.
Thomas is a contradictory body. He has been preaching for forty years, but he is helpless in the face of insensitive mountain farmers; he is constantly integrating into Welsh society, moving from the border of England and Wales to the hinterland of Wales. He wants to truly become a Welsh tradition He is a retainer of culture, but he is worried about the impact of ubiquitous English on Welsh language and culture. The bitterness and sternness of his poems reflect a thinking poet and pastor’s sense of responsibility to society. He is a Wordsworthian poet, but his natural world is not as beautiful as Wordsworth’s; he is Tennysonian, describing nature “covered with blood-red teeth and claws”, He is realistic and calm. He directly hits the barrenness and emptiness of people’s spiritual life in modern society. From this point of view, he has Eliot’s “wilderness characteristics”. But his thinking about the silent God and his questioning of the ultimate meaning of life reflect the feelings of a philosopher. His poems closely revolve around his life experiences, whether internal or external, with a complex, penetrating and inescapable tension.