Tuesday, 15 January 2013

poem for the day

I woke this morning to find that we'd had a light dusting of snow in the night.  A very light dusting, which I suppose is what you'd expect given the Met Office has us on a Level 3 Cold Weather Action Alert.  As the Daily Telegraph pointed out, that is one level below a National Emergency.  The thermometer outside is reading 0.9 degrees Celsius, and on the five day forecast it's going to drop to minus three overnight.  Minus three in the UK in January.  At night.  Who'd have thought it?

Unfortunately even that much snow and cold weather means I am not likely to see a great deal of gardening action this week.  Indeed, the highlight of today is probably going to be sliding down the lane to Waitrose to pick up some Click and Collect water glasses from John Lewis.  They have embossed bees on them, very pretty.  Our existing bistro tumblers are getting rather scratched to offer to visitors.  In the meantime I am writing the blog early, to put off the moment when I have to re-format the plant centre newsletter into boxes with pictures, which is the way the owner wants it done nowadays.  You will not find boxes with pictures in Cardunculus, no Sir.  If dense paragraphs of text are good enough for Caitlin Moran, they're good enough for me.

At the New Year I said that maybe Cardunculus concentrated rather on the Little House on the Prairie How to Build a Log Cabin side of things, and was a bit light on intellectual content and the inner life, so this morning I will share a poem with you.  I heard it on Radio 3 during Choral Evensong driving back from work on Sunday.  It seemed beautiful, in that half-concentrated-on way that poetry does when you're listening to it while negotiating a mini-roundabout involving the exit from a petrol station forecourt as well as the normal flow of road traffic, and oddly familiar.  I thought it might be by T S Eliot, and Googled the lines I could remember when I got home, without finding the poem.  I flicked through Eliot's collected works, again with no joy, so finally thought of looking at the Radio 3 website, which listed the readings as well as the music.

The poem turned out to be The Bright Field, by R S Thomas.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.  But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it.  I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.  Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past.  It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

I became very enthusiastic about R S Thomas and thought I should get some more of his poetry, until I looked him up on Wikipedia, when my enthusiasm began to wane.  He was a Welsh Anglican priest, who believed fiercely in all things Welsh.  When I read that he was in favour of the burning of English-owned holiday homes in Wales, and turned against the project to re-introduce red kites when he discovered that some of the birds would be of non-Welsh genetic origin, I began to dislike him.  When I read that he was against modern technology, and that the only appliance ever allowed in his house was a vacuum cleaner, but he banished it because it was too noisy, I began to really dislike him.  I didn't suppose it was R S Thomas who crawled around on his hands and knees with a dustpan and brush and a damp cloth, trying to get the floors clean, after R S Thomas banished the vacuum cleaner.  No, I darkly suspect it was Mrs R S Thomas, while R S Thomas sat in his study writing beautiful poems about eternity and fulminating against the alien gene pool of the foreign kites.

My guess that the poem was by Eliot wasn't a bad one, though.  R S Thomas was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature, losing out to Seamus Heaney.  Thomas Stearns Eliot won it in 1948.

Addendum  Caution:  I found the words of the poem on somebody else's blog.  I'm not sure if I have The Bright Field in an anthology, or have just heard it on the radio before.  If I knew where to find a published text I'd have copied it from there, since poems on the web have a way of mutating.

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