Poetry and the Kenotic Word
Lacerating Logos. The Divinity of R. S. Thomas’s Mythic Poems – A Reckless Experimenter or a Selfless Saviour?
The sheer number of poems in R. S. Thomas’s oeuvre that grapple with the question of faith and the nature of God suggests not only the author’s unwavering commitment to such investigations but also his somewhat resigned acceptance of the fact that no definite answers or solutions to any of them may ever be found. In this admirable tenacity (which did occasionally produce artistic results of less admirable quality), the Welsh poet seems to have followed in the footsteps of Martin Heidegger, whose insistence that the very act of posing the question shows the supreme piety of the spirit makes the inconclusiveness of most philosophical inquiries much less disheartening. If one cannot hope to conquer a city by mounting a full frontal attack, one is forced merely to lay siege, hoping that minor forays may eventually weaken the city’s defences and expose its well guarded interior. It was in this kind of “besieging of the transcendent” that Ronald Stuart Thomas engaged for several decades of his long life. One such “sortie” is made in a group of poems which have been labelled “mythic” or “mythopoeic”. Most of them are to be found in the 1972 collection H’m (“Once”, “Echoes”, “Making”, “The Island”, “Soliloquy”, “The Coming”, “Other”) but others are scattered through other volumes. Of the critical reflections made on these poems, the most valuable are probably the exegetical elucidations of Elaine Shepherd, Christopher Morgan, D. Z. Phillips and M. Wynn Thomas.
Since they form a distinct...
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