You are here:   Civilisation >  Books > More Than a Curmudgeon

No ogre: R.S. Thomas loved mankind in the raw

The most engaging entries in Richard Burton's recently published diaries (Yale, 2012) are also the most barbed. A particularly withering assessment is reserved for his fellow Welshman, the priest-poet R.S. Thomas:

R.S. Thomas is a true minor poet but I'd rather share my journey to the other life with somebody more congenial. I think the last tight smile that he allowed to grimace his features was at the age of six when he realised with delight that death was inevitable. He has consigned his wife to hell for a long time. She will recognise it when she goes there.

It is something like this view that pervades whatever public consciousness of Thomas can be said to exist: the cantankerous curmudgeon who eschewed refrigerators and vacuum cleaners; the dour, nationalistic Church in Wales vicar who gave implicit approval to the defacing of English-owned Welsh property. According to his son Gwydion, when invited to lunch by Burton and his then wife Elizabeth Taylor, Thomas engaged the actress in conversation about flatfish. This was not a man, so the stories tell us, with a gift for small talk or social sensitivity.

Uncollected Poems, a new volume marking this year's centenary of his birth, contains little-seen work previously only printed in journals and magazines. The poems here span more than 60 years of Thomas's life, from his mid-twenties through to his astonishingly fertile last decade, and in so doing they provide an opportunity to sidestep Burton's portrait. To be sure, Thomas was no bon vivant, but the prevalent caricature of the poet fails to acknowledge and even threatens to mask the quality of his verse.

View Full Article
March 27th, 2013
8:03 PM
This writer can't be much over 20. It's full of overly convoluted syntax - a common trait of young writers!

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.