R.S. Thomas was born in Cardiff in 1913 and became the rector of Manafon church in 1942. He was a rector there for twelve years and during that time, he taught himself the Welsh language so he could better understand and relate to the local people. At first sight, his poetry is based around a narrow range of subjects: the Welsh people and landscape, but the emotional range of his poetry is vast and it tends to be universalised.
The three main poems I am going to write about are ÃÂEvansÃÂ, ÃÂLoreÃÂ, and ÃÂCynddylan on a TractorÃÂ.
In ÃÂEvansÃÂ, the poet is reflecting on the emptiness, coldness and starkness of EvansÃÂ life and how his surroundings are bare and unfriendly. The personification of the ÃÂgaunt kitchenÃÂ and the ÃÂblack kettleÃÂs whineÃÂ reinforce the lack of comfort and warmth there is in EvansÃÂ life and further strengthens his loneliness, solitude and the painful and mournful situation he is in.
The fact that the kettle is black also shows that everything in his life is dark, bleak and uncomfortable with no hope for the future. It also relates to when, later on in the poem, the poet talks about the dark night closing in on him like death.
Evans is represented by the ÃÂweather-tortured treeÃÂ; he is distorted, twisted, stunted and he has been through much suffering and pain throughout his life. As he lies on his bed about to die, the poet talks about the ÃÂtideÃÂ of death coming to smother and drown him, which gives us a sense of how appalled the poet is at the loneliness and horror of EvansÃÂ death after his lonely and hard life. It also shows that Evans is old and so frail that he is being drowned by his bed, which, in turn, is being engulfed by the oppressive darkness washing over it, almost so that it is inside Evans and taking away his life. The monosyllabic finish is heavy and leaves an impact on us.
ÃÂEvansÃÂ is similar in some ways to the lyrical pleas of ÃÂThe Hill Farmer SpeaksÃÂ because the farmer in it is ÃÂstripped of loveÃÂ and is bleak and lonely. This shows the shared experiences in life of the Welsh people and how their lives are hard and lacking in delicate feelings such as love.
ÃÂLoreÃÂ is a direct contrast to this. Although it is also about the bleakness of the Welsh peopleÃÂs lives, it is a Welsh manÃÂs knowledge on how to keep alive and happy in the bleak landscape and not to die in the way that Evans did. It is Job DaviesÃÂ fight against the hardships in life and how he is always determined, defiant, stubborn and optimistic, even through the hardest times. R.S. Thomas begins the poem by talking about the harshness in JobÃÂs life in the first stanza. He shows the bleakness and harshness by describing him as: ÃÂeighty-five winters oldÃÂ because winters are cold, harsh and numbing, like his life. He also does this by saying about ÃÂthe slow poison and treachery of the seasonsÃÂ because living there is slowly killing them and sucking the life out of them. Time itself is deceiving them because all they have waiting for them is decline, loneliness and death.
The tone changes in the second stanza to that of defiance and determination and the poet uses vernacular language to show JobÃÂs defiance and the poetÃÂs admiration of him. JobÃÂs advice is that to be happy, he has to rise above life by laughing at it and having an optimistic refusal to let life get him down. The poet uses the metaphoric imagery of the hearse to convey and reinforce what Job is saying. Job also says country food like tea and porridge (which are warm and have a round, chubby sound) will give you courage in the face of adversity and help you to get through the day.
The fifth and final stanza is a conclusion of all JobÃÂs advice on staying happy throughout life. He says we should ÃÂstay greenÃÂ meaning we should keep young at heart. The poet uses the scary image of a machine ÃÂwhose fuel is human soulsÃÂ to show his disapproval of technological advances. This is also echoed in ÃÂCynddylan on a TractorÃÂ, which is a cheerful poem but has an underlying tone of resentment and sense of regret. JobÃÂs last piece of advice to us is to live life to the full and not to waste our time dreaming about the impossible and to be content with what we have.
Relating to the point about avoiding technological advances to stay happy which is in ÃÂLoreÃÂ, ÃÂCynddylan on a TractorÃÂ has underlying tones of disapproval towards machines even though it is a cheerful and upbeat poem. The machinery has changed Cynddylan so that he no longer has ÃÂthe old look that yoked him to the soilÃÂ. Thomas conveys a sense of CynddylanÃÂs change by describing his ÃÂnerves of metal and his blood oilÃÂ which shows that the machinery has dehumanised him and cut the bond between man and nature. This is also shown by the sun ÃÂkindling the hedgesÃÂ which is a beautiful image, but Cynddylan has been desensitised to it and does not notice the beauty of nature around him anymore. At the end of the poem, birds are singing ÃÂin vainÃÂ which shows CynddylanÃÂs distraction from nature by the machine because the birds are singing for him but he is oblivious to it. A sense of the countryside is conveyed by Cynddylan scattering the hens with his tractor, showing the disruption the machinery causes and again reinforcing ThomasÃÂ disapproval of technological advances. When Cynddylan bought the tractor, he did it to improve his life, but he is ÃÂbreaking the fieldsÃÂ mirror of silenceÃÂ. This has allusion to Alfred Lord TennysonÃÂs ÃÂLady of ShallotÃÂIn conclusion, R.S. Thomas uses many devices in which to create and convey a sense of the Welsh people and landscape, the main ones being the use of natural imagery, similes and metaphors, the personification of objects, contrasting colours and tone changes. The people of Wales are shown to have very difficult lives with nothing to look forward to and no aspirations. The poet shows mainly how different people react to this lifestyle in different ways, optimistic Job Davies or the despondent Hill Farmer, or Cynddylan with so much faith in technology. The poem which I prefer is ÃÂLoreÃÂ because it has an optimistic tone and is not as sombre as ÃÂEvansÃÂ or as critical as ÃÂCynddylan on a TractorÃÂ and because it is upbeat and full of hope, determination, defiance and vigour.
bibliography:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._S._ThomasÃÂEvansÃÂ, ÃÂLoreÃÂ, and ÃÂCynddylan on a TractorÃÂ by R. S. Thomas