Tuesday, 11 May 2010


R S Thomas should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Too late now. Here's the start of his poem 'Welsh History' (from Welsh Airs, 1987):
We were a people taut for war; the hills
Were no harder, the thin grass
Clothed them more warmly than the coarse
Shirts our small bones.
We fought, and were always in retreat,
Like snow thawing upon the slopes
Of Mynydd Mawr; and yet the stranger
Never found our ultimate stand
In the thick woods, declaiming verse
To the sharp prompting of the harp.
I suppose I'd assumed that the peculiar state of mind this describes, this particular small-boned belligerence, this fuck-you-ishness, this relish-in-defeat, this glory in the hopeless struggle, this sense of the world's beauty as a chilly thing (which, it seems to me, describes something very true about my own being-in-the-world) was a function of my Englishness. Perhaps, though, it has to do with my Welsh blood, only very partially reined by a veneer of pseudo-English courtesy of manners.

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