by R.S. Thomas
Because you had been in the dark wood
and heard doom’s nightingales sing,
men listened to you when you told
them how death is many but life
one. The shell’s trumpet sounded
over the fallen, but there was no
resurrection. You learned your lettering
from bones, the propped capitals which described
how once they were human beings.
Men march because they are alive,
and their quest is the Grail, garrisoned
by the old furies so it is blood
wets their lips. Europe gave you
your words, but your hand practised
an earlier language, weaving time’s branches
together to form the thicket the soldier
is caught in, who is love’s sacrifice
to itself, with the virgin’s smile poised
like a knife over it as over her first born.
David Jones – a fellow Welshman of R.S. Thomas – was one of the few poets who survived the carnage of WWI.
An early reminder that on October 27 Anne Fletcher will lead a discussion on the Poetry of the First World War.