A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Time Out Of Mind

A final poem by R. S. Thomas, one of my favourite poets. Despite the bleakness of many of his poems, I find them ultimately consoling, as is all great literature, all great art. Somehow it helps, makes us feel better, that a gifted writer or artist shares with us his or her very human doubts and fears. The poet Ted Hughes describes poetry as consisting of things we don't actually want to say but desperately need to share.


You ask why I don't write.
But what is there to say?
The salt current swings in and out
of the bay, as it has done
time out of mind. How does that help?
It leaves illegible writing
on the shore. If you were here,
we would quarrel about it.
People file past this seascape
as ignorantly as through a gallery
of great art. I keep searching for meaning.
The waves are a moving staircase
to climb, but in thought only.
The fall from the top is as sheer
as ever. Younger I deemed truth
was to come at beyond the horizon.
Older I stay still and am
as far off as before. These nail-parings
bore you? They explain my silence.
I wish there were as simple
an explanation for the silence of God.

Incidentally the phrase "time out of mind" in the 5th line of the poem is taken from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and was also used by Bob Dylan as an album title in 1997.

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