There are two hungers

April 15, 2007

I have been engaged in discussion on Robert Frost’s Mending Walls with Shawn, and realise that agreement will not be possible, although the disagreement is reduced as a result of the engagement. Either way, the conversation took me to that part of my Library inhabited by the poets who mean (or have meant) much to me at various time of my life.

I follow my mothers habit of locating books not by title, but by potential for conversation. I find this makes for interesting associations and connections that alphabetical or subject indexing simply cannot achieve. In the way of Libraries, when you look for one thing, you find something else more interesting. I started to look at the various Anglo Welsh Poets (R.S. Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins & Dannie Abse – Two priests, one doctor and an alcoholic). In doing so I came across this:

The Dark Well
They see you as they see you,
A poor farmer with no name,
Ploughing cloudward, sowing the wind
With squalls of gulls at the day’s end.
To me you are Prytherch, the man
Who more than all directed my slow
Charity where there was need.
There are two hungers, hunger for bread
And hunger of the uncouth soul
For the light’s grace. I have seen both,
And chosen for an indulgent world’s
Ear the story of one whose hands
Have bruised themselves on the locked doors
Of life; whose heart, fuller than mine
Of gulped tears, is the dark well
From which to draw, drop after drop,
The terrible poetry of his kind.

R.S. Thomas

Iago Prytherch is an amalgam character who appears in much of Thomas’s early works, he binds harsh reality with vision. Thomas has platonic need to name things, and to understand the power of names to bind and to bound. In a sense too, this poem is about phase transitions – the essence in a modern language of Frost’s poem.

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