Faithful to Science

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Category: poetry (page 2 of 2)

The recurrent laryngeal nerve

Image by Miroslav Duchacek, Wikimedia Commons, File:Giraffe_standing.jpg.

 
 
The recurrent laryngeal nerve
 
You sleek, fit, timorous, towering beast,
Enormous swan, or mis-shaped horse,
I saw your stately, tall progress
And thought, a triffid, or Queen Bess.
 
Puzzled, or puzzling, as you munch
You seem absorbed, not on your lunch
But on some hint, some alien hunch
That your slim brain-power cannot crunch.
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Red Shift

Red shift

Held by an image of our outer space:
Spots, dots, and whirls of white and red,
Time-tunneling in silent grace,
Parsecs where only thought can tread.

Blue blazes of the younger fire,
Red smudges of the ancient mist,
Vast mergers of the flowing gyre
Down ages of the world persist.

These distant forms of space and truth
Work back upon the thoughts we frame;
Prayer puzzles through a shaping sieve:
Dead words or else a larger name.

Still, quietly ask the teeming sky:
Draws over there that which can love?
Lights there a dance which can rejoice?
Rests there a hold of things above?

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R.S. Thomas: poetry, religion and spirituality in a scientific age

The reputation of the Welsh poet R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), already strong in his own lifetime, has been rising since. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1964, and in 1996 the prestigious Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature and the Horst Bienek Prize for Poetry. He is a major poet of the twentieth century, and one of the finest religious poets in the English language.

I am not an expert on Thomas, but I have read the biography by Byron Rogers (The Man Who Went Into the West: The Life of R.S.Thomas, Aurum Press Ltd), I have read a lot of the poems, and I have read various essays on the man and his work. My chief claim to some sort of right to comment is that I feel a lot of affinity for what is going on in his poetry. Seamus Heaney once remarked that “the only reliable source” for teaching about a given poem was “the experience of having felt the poem come home, memorably and irrefutably”. [1]

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The New Mariner

 
 
   The New Mariner
 
In the silence
that is his chosen medium
of communication and telling
others about it
in words. Is there no way
not to be the sport
of reason? For me now
there is only the God-space
into which I send out
my probes. I had looked forward
to old age as a time
of quietness, a time to draw
my horizons about me,
to watch memories ripening
in the sunlight of a walled garden.
But there is the void
over my head and the distance
within that the tireless signals
come from. An astronaut
on impossible journeys
to the far side of the self
I return with the messages
I cannot decipher, garrulous
about them, worrying the ear
of the passer-by, hot on his way
to the marriage of plain fact with plain fact.
 
 

This poem by R. S. Thomas was originally published in Between Here and Now (1981) and can be found in Collected Poems: 1945-1990, R. S. Thomas.

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