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R.S. Thomas

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Added by: Andrew Mayers
This short poem is a brief attempt to describe man’s fear of the unknown qualities of death. What appears to have sparked off this line of thought in Thomas is the death of a local man called Evans (Thomas was a clergyman whose parishes were the remote areas of the bleak Welsh hills), who lived a harsh existence in a “stark farm”. For all its starkness, however, there are elements of warmth and happiness in the house: “crickets sang / Accompaniment to the black kettle’s whine”.

Having begun by dealing with a specific individual, Thomas then changes direction slightly and concentrates on death in a more general sense. The physical hostility which the world seems to present after a death, e.g. the darkness of night or the bloodlike raindrops do not bother him half as much as the dark, unknown qualities of death as it slowly creeps up on a man leaving him companionless to face a long and unknown journey. By the end of the poem therefore, the death which is slowly overtaking Evans has been extended to include us all. This very moving poem gives us an insight into the feelings of a priest unable to help someone faced with death. The end of the poem is ambiguous. Obviously, the “dark” is a metaphor for death, but perhaps the real tragedy is that Evans will die without the light of God’s grace.

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