I can’t fathom someone railing against refrigeration or washing machines. I get the preference for fresh food, but what about dairy? Must we get milk and cheese daily?
Today is the birthday of the poet R.S. Thomas, born Ronald Stuart Thomas in Cardiff, Wales (1913). Most of his poems were about the Welsh landscape and its people. He was an Anglican clergyman, as well as a poet, until 1978, when he retired and devoted himself to the cause of Welsh nationalism. He often grew frustrated with his fellow countrymen, though, blaming them for letting their culture fade away into history. In his poem “Welsh Landscape,” he called them “an impotent people, sick with inbreeding / worrying the carcass of an old song.” He didn’t learn the Welsh language until he was 30, and though he wrote his poetry in English, he wrote his autobiography in Welsh. He called it Neb (1985), meaning “nobody.”
He was a Luddite, viewing modern conveniences as distractions that cause us to neglect our spiritual health. He and his wife Elsi lived in a small and almost primitive stone cottage for much of their marriage, and their son, Gwydion, remembered his father preaching against the evils of the refrigerator and the washing machine from his pulpit. His poems were as austere as his lifestyle, and he once wrote: “A recurring ideal, I find, is that of simplicity. At times there comes the desire to write with great precision and clarity, words so simple and moving that they bring tears to the eyes.”
That must have been some church. Was using a washing machine sinful? Or just dirty?
- From the Writer’s Almanac (conjecturesguilty.wordpress.com)
- Is there more to Welsh literature than Dylan Thomas?, Arts and Literature (visitwales.co.uk)
- Collecting R.S. Thomas (finebooksmagazine.com)
- Welsh language ‘is dying out’ (independent.co.uk)
- Tolkien Festival in Mid Wales. 13 – 15 August 2010, Festivals (visitwales.co.uk)