Thursday, July 31, 2008

A poem and a church

Llananno church
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
A highlight of last week's wandering round tiny deserted Welsh churches was a visit to the church of St Anno, Llananno church. We almost drove past it, despite our hosts' knowing it was there - the road runs above the little river valley it sits in, and the sign was facing the wrong way and half obscured in a hedge. The special thing for me was the association with the poet R.S.Thomas, who wrote a poem about this church - a hand-written copy is displayed on the wall just inside the door.
"I often call there" he begins,
"in a gesture
of independence of the speeding
traffic I am a part
I don't know how many people seek out the church precisely for this connection, but it was apparent that there were no regular services held there. The door was open, the grass around it had been cut, but there was little sign of life other than some slightly drooping flowers on the altar - "brownish now", to go back to Larkin. But behind the altar, through the plain glass of the large East window, a huge tree in full leaf seemed to suggest a great life force embracing this quiet place, so that the whole place seemed full of it.

There Thomas felt he came
"face to face,
with no intermediary
between me and God"
and recalled the delicate light which entered his soul.

The whole poem can be found in Thomas' Collected Poems (p3.304), or you can read it here. I realise now how much of the poetry I love was shaped by such places - and how enhanced my understanding has been by my visit to this one. Why didn't I think of a school trip...?

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