R.S. Thomas was a clergyman from Wales born in 1913. He attended university in Cardiff and later joined the Welsh National Party (Plaid Cymru). In 1965 he won the “Observer poetry Prize”. Thomas was a poet who seemed to base his work on what he witnessed and believed in. The two poems that I will look at are Lore and Cynddylan on a Tractor. The word lore means information passed down by word of mouth.
The poems show Thomas’s opinions on the old and the new. Lore is based on an eighty five year old Welshman named Job Davies. Immediately we see the religious side of Thomas as he uses a biblical name for the character he has written about. Both the poems are presented in a format that makes them feel conversational and personal to the reader. This is achieved in Lore by using enjambment in the first two lines of the first quatrain to remove the rhyme and turn the poetry to conversation;
“Job Davies, eighty – five Winters old, and still alive” The name Cynddylan is Welsh for brave warrior. Both poems are firmly set in the context of the Welsh agricultural background and the poets consternation regarding the mechanisation of farming and the resultant impoverishment of the land and people. Although in this case Thomas has used it to gain sardonic effect. This is a metaphor that is describing the wonderfully fiery colours that the early morning rising sun turns all the hedgerows along the fields.
The final quatrain in the poem Lore is Thomas cleverly giving advice to the reader. He does this by asking the Rhetorical question to Job; “What to do?” The advice that Job gives comes in the form of; “Stay green, Never mind the machine, Whose fuel is human souls.” This last point is a very important metaphor used by Thomas in both the poems. It is seen again in Cynddylan On A Tractor when it is rephrased to; “Who runs his engine on a different fuel.”
These two dramatic metaphors are a very profound attempt by Thomas to alert people to the damage he sees mechanisation will cause, not only to the Welsh landscape but to the human. He is hinting that the machine eats up the human’s individuality and spirit to make them all part of the machine. The last line of the poem Lore is a Aphorism and it is a continuation of the advice that Job gives. It says live large, man, and dream small. Here Thomas is telling the reader to live to life’ full potential but do not fantasise about what could be. Cynddylan On A Tractor on the other hand finishes with the rhyming couplet; “All the birds are singing, bills wide in vain, As Cynddylan passes proudly up the lane.
The first line of this couplet is metaphorically saying that no matter what is said to try and stop the advance of mechanisation it will all be in vain. The second line then is a final sardonic remark about Cynddylan. The poems written by Thomas are of a very high quality as he uses a wide range of poetic methods and he cleverly installs his ideas and beliefs throughout the Poems. To make the poems so impacting on the reader and to have a strong contrast between the two characters he used a medieval technique known as the ideal and the complaint. Here Job Davies is the ideal and Cynddylan is the complaint.