The Prisoner

By R. S. Thomas 1913–2000
‘Poems from prison! About
what?’
            ‘Life and God.’ ‘God
in prison? Friend, you trifle
with me. His face, perhaps,
at the bars, fading
like life.’
                  ‘He came in
with the warder, striving
with him. Where else
did the severity of the man
spring from, but awareness
of a charity he must
overcome?’
                   ‘The blows, then,
were God chastening
the beloved! Who
was the more blessed, the
dispenser or receiver
of them?’
                  ‘It is the same
outside. Bars, walls
but make the perspective
clear. Deus absconditus!
We ransack the heavens,
the distance between
stars; the last place we look
is in prison, his hideout
in flesh and bone.’
                              ‘You believe,
then?’
            ‘The poems
are witness. If his world
contracted, it was to give birth
to the larger vision. Not meadows
empty of him, animal
eyes, impersonal
as glass, communicate
God. On the bare walls
of a cell the oppressor watches
the diminishing of his
human shadow, as
he withdraws from the light.’

R. S. Thomas, “The Prisoner” from The Poems of R. S. Thomas. Copyright © by Kunjana Thomas 2001.  Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: The Poems of R. S. Thomas (1985)

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Poet R. S. Thomas 1913–2000

POET’S REGION Wales

Subjects Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

 R. S. Thomas

Biography

Recognized as one of the leading poets of modern Wales, R. S. Thomas writes about the people of his country in a style that some critics have compared to that nation's harsh and rugged terrain. Using few of the common poetic devices, Thomas's work exhibits what Alan Brownjohn of the New Statesman calls a "cold, telling purity of language." James F. Knapp of Twentieth Century Literature explains that "the poetic world which . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

POET’S REGION Wales

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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