A Welsh Testament

by RS Thomas

All right, I was Welsh.

Does it matter?

I spoke a tongue that was passed on

To me in the place I happened to be,

A place huddled between grey walls

Of cloud for at least half the year.

My word for heaven was not yours.

The word for hell had a sharp edge

Put on it by the hands of the wind

Honing, honing with a shrill sound

Day and night.

Nothing that Glyn Dwr

Knew was armour against the rain’s


What was descent from him?

Even God had a Welsh name:

He spoke to him in the old language;

He was to have a peculiar care

For the Welsh people.

History showed us

He was too big to be nailed to the wall

Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him

Between the boards of a black book.

Yet men sought us despite this.

My high cheek bones, my length of skull

Drew them as to a rare portrait

By a dead master.

I saw them stare

From their long cars, as I passed knee-deep

In ewes and wethers.

I saw them stand

By the thorn hedges, watching me string

The far flocks on a shrill whistle.

And always there was their eyes; strong

Pressure on me; You are Welsh, they said;

Speak to us so; keep your fields free

Of the smell of petrol, the loud roar

Of hot tractors; we must have

Peace and quietness.

Is a museum

Peace? I asked.

Am I the keeper

Of the heart’s relics, blowing the dust

In my own eyes? I am a man;

I never wanted the drab role

Life assigned me, an actor playing

To the past’s audience upon a stage

Of earth and stone; the absurd label

Of birth, of race hanging askew

About my shoulders.

I was in prison

Until you came; your voice was a key

Turning in the enormous lock

Of hopelessness.

Did the door open

To let me out or yourselves in?

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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