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A Welsh Testament

R.S. Thomas

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But where will we go for our holiday?
Added by: Andrew Mayers
Thomas often concerns himself with breaking down some of the romantic myths which British society has created about the countryside. In this poem he attempts to make the city-dweller realise that the peace the latter finds attractive about the country for two weeks a year may not be so attractive to the man who has to make his living there all the year round. The peace, says Thomas, is that of a museum, lifeless and sterile. The shepherd who is supposed to be speaking in the poem finds the life drab and deplores the accident responsible for his way of life. Visitors from the outside world seemed at first to offer an opportunity to leave this prison, but now he wonders whether, blind to the restrictions of his life, they are simply joining him in prison rather than giving him a means of escape.
The poem also explores the accident of birth from the point of view of nationalism, pointing out that although there are differences between nations; the language, the buildings, the weather, these differences are only superficial. There is nothing in the writer’s ancestry that made it possible for him to achieve any more than any non-Welsh person. However, visitors seem to think that because he is Welsh he ought to cater for their needs at the expense of his own:

“keep your fields free
Of the smell of petrol, the loud roar
Of hot tractors; we must have peace
And quietness.”

In some of its aspects, the poem seems to be topical once again.

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