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Thursday, 18 October 2012

R. S. Thomas: Fuel


Early Morning
: Samuel Palmer, 1825, pen and ink and wash, mixed with gum arabic, varnished, 188 x 232 mm (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

And the machines say, laughing
up what would have been sleeves
in the old days: ‘We are at
your service.’ ‘Take us’, we cry,

‘to the places that are far off
from yourselves.’ And so they do
at a price that is the alloy in
the thought that we can do without them.

R. S. Thomas (1913-2000): Fuel, from Experimenting with Amen (1986)

Early Morning (detail): Samuel Palmer, 1825 , pen and ink and wash, mixed with gum arabic, varnished, 188 x 232 mm (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Untitled sketch
: Samuel Palmer, 1824 from Sketchbook, folio 5 verso, pencil, brown ink and wash, 116 x 189 mm (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)


TC said...

And see:

R. S. Thomas: The Moor

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The machines do indeed laugh
up their sleeves
no use for gold
anymore. The old
argument about coal
oil oil oil

how to get it
cheap cheaper cheap
last gasp standing.
Let's get it

on the path
the humans hide
convenient ravine
under the obvious tree
while the hare

strolls along oblivious
to which department
he might belong. He heads
for a friendly tomb
the obvious choice
for shelter.

It is tucked away
quite cozy. The mummies
enjoy an early breakfast
happy once again
with their machine.

TC said...

This is exactly why the Emperor -- who in order to take care of the necessary good works for the day got up very early in the morning before the mummies had awakened -- divided the Resources Pool into four distinct groups, for the four elements.

The Department of Earth was to be in charge of Agriculture and the Agricultural Sciences, Fire was to be in charge of the Military (but only for salutary purposes, such as cooking -- all the best chefs were decorated as great generals), Water was the Department of the Canals and Waterways while Air seemed to have responsibility for everything else.

And the rabbits were happy.

TC said...

But then they got to thinking about the meaning of that odd word "alloy"...

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I want to live in these woods
where trees are still gigantic
storybook before clear-cut
fantasies came true.

To touch smooth wood
trunks all there
the path

friendly going along
the family
cozy in front of the hut
everything there
in its place
under the tree
quite organic.

Wooden Boy said...

"Take us", we cry/ "to the places that are far off/ from yourselves"

This is how the ruse is taken. What a terrible intimacy we've come to.

The Samuel Palmers are wonderful.

Nin Andrews said...

"while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread . . ."
But alas,
The machines own us. i know that today after trying to navigate tech support . . .

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Check out Calibanonline #9. It has speculative commentary about Tom Clark Beyond the Pale in the "Contributor's Advice" section that could quite possibly ignite the next poetry renaissance in the Department of Air.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Half rabbit
half lamb
I sauntered down the path
in the wooden painting

observed my shadow
by daylight
out of my eye
I counted to seven
saw a V

bill sherman said...

Hello again, Tom....When I heard R.S. Thomas read, in Wales, 1970, he was verbally attacked by members of the Welsh Language Society (the then radical wing of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Party) who said that it is "no wonder all the characters in your poems are so unahppy. None of them speak Welsh!" Thomas took this to heart actually, learned Welsh, began to speak and even write in Welsh, and from his pulpit supported Meibion Glyndwr (who called for the burning of empty English holiday homes occupied only 2 or 3 weeks each year and which Welsh people could not hope to afford). There is an excellent biography titled "The Man Who Went Into The West" by Byron Rogers. There is an exceptional and powerful poem titled "Geriatric" from Thomas's penultimate volume of poetry (written when he was in his eighties): "No Truce With The Furies" ...Thinking of Wales recently, I posted on my blogsite one of Thomas's truly great short early lyrics: "A Peasant"....

Sarah Sarai said...

R.S. Thomas. I thought he was my secret.

TC said...

Susan, that's so sweet of you to say such kind things in Caliban, about the problematic Caliban... and the blameless Miranda.

Sarah, so happy to hear you appreciate this fine poet. The genius of R. S. Thomas remains pretty much a secret to American poetry audiences, in their general occluded endarkenment.

As you can see, our friend Bill Sherman would be an exception to this statement; but as Bill spent much of his life in the UK, where it seems English (not to mention Welsh) is still kept up, he might not count.

WB, thanks very much for seeing the beauty of the Palmers. (I thought no one was going to notice, the machines having run off with our vision and all.)

Nin, the older and blinder I get, here at the helm of the slowly sinking ship, the more I too feel the need to navigate tech support; yet what is tech support but more machines; and the machines are never there for us when we really need them, a lesson that actually worked its way through the skull shield several chapters earlier on in my voluminous unknown book of neo-Luddite dreams:

All the machines are running. It appears
They have simply turned them on and gone.

In your dream all the machines are running
(Can they be turned off?) out of the empty house
Across the emerald turf toward you,
Tridents waving like wild stalks of corn,
Antennae scraping the clouds… and then they’re gone.
You turn around and it’s tomorrow,
Nature has shut her doors.

The Vacant Estate

Sarah Sarai said...

Yup. We endarkened Americans like our cave. Except of course those many poets who are reaching out and beyond. I discovered Thomas about six years ago, saw his name and the glowing word "poet" on a bulletin board outside St. Luke's on Hudson. The lady priest, a Britisher, presented a series of lectures on him & George Herbert. He sometimes has a grueling cynicism that doesn't serve the work. You have a lovely blog, a lovely eye, a lovely ear.

TC said...

That's our good luck, to have you bringing this Thomas poem to us, Sarah.

Here's the clickable link. Let us all revel in the embrace of those 3000 loving arms.

R. S. Thomas: Threshold