Near Llanthony, Brecon Beacons
Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars…
is the final sentence of R.S. Thomas’ poem A Peasant, which I’ve included below. I hadn’t heard of it untill this commission and the words describe so accurately and painterly the modest but weathered routines of tradional Welsh farming life, still existing in the remoter parts of Wales. A life without any frills, very worth writing poetry about.
My life has seen some radical changes, at times not really knowing what I was getting myself into. From a manmade country such as The Netherlands, where I grew up, I moved to a remote peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in trusted company of weather and solitude. It’s a tough environment and however unforgiving it can be, I’m aware of the privilege it has proven to be experiencing and learning from this down-to-earth lifestyle firsthand.
It’s such a beautfiful poem. The words fit the Llwyn Celyn building and body seamlessly: enduring the wild weather of the Black Mountains for centuries, not only the human inhabitants but also the winged ones, the bats, and the building itself.
‘A Peasant’ – R.S Thomas
‘Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind—
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind’s attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed, even in death’s confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.’
I’ve been commissioned to compose works for choir for Stefhan Caddick’s openings event of the renovated ‘Llwyn Celyn’ house by Landmark Trust, on October 5 and 6. The sheer wealth of material about the place, landscape, history, language and nature gathered by research, by knowledgable commissioners, professionals, friends and colleagues is such a treat, I’ll be blogging little snippets to share the joy.
Llwyn Celyn is one of the finest surviving medieval hall houses in the heart of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons, which is being restored into it’s full glory by the Landmark Trust. Click on the above links to read more.
Order Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars for SATB choir at Donemus / email