Forest Dwellers

By R. S. Thomas 1913–2000
Men who have hardly uncurled
from their posture in the
womb. Naked. Heads bowed, not
in prayer, but in contemplation
of the earth they came from,
that suckled them on the brown
milk that builds bone not brain.

Who called them forth to walk
in the green light, their thoughts
on darkness? Their women,
who are not Madonnas, have babes
at the breast with the wise,
time-ridden faces of the Christ
child in a painting by a Florentine

master. The warriors prepare poison
with love’s care for the Sebastians
of their arrows. They have no
God, but follow the contradictions
of a ritual that says
life must die that life
may go on. They wear flowers in their hair.

R. S. Thomas, “Forest Dwellers” 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, Christianity, Living, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

 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, Christianity, Living, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

POET’S REGION Wales

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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