Prytherch and pastoral: rural reality in the poetry of R. S. Thomas
Ewing, James McCartney
Master of Arts
The poems in which R. S. Thomas depicts the hill farmers of his native Wales are examined in this thesis, primarily in terms of genre and theme. The particular genre within which this large segment of the poetry seems to fall is the pastoral mode as interpreted mainly by Wordsworth and William Empson. The argument that pastoral is a genre that presents certain environmental characteristics of human behavior for particularly those evident in a rural or primitivistic situation, and is not necessarily defined by traditional stylistic criteria forms the basis of the first chapter. In the subsequent chapters the poems by Thomas that fall within this pastoral category are examined. In pastoral there usually exists an implicit contrast between town life the sophisticated environment of the writer, and rural life in which man is in immediate contact with the reality of nature's life-death cycle. The extreme contrast between these two forms of existence--urban and rural--as it appears in Thomas's poetry, is discussed in the second chapter. The third chapter concerns the nature of this rural reality. Throughout the farmer poems runs a contract between what Thomas calls the "light" and the "dark". Glimpses of on ineffable purpose underlying the life force fluctuate with moments of bleak certainty that nature's survival ethic reflects the complete absence of divine love. The last main chapter of the thesis traces the acceptance of this 'dark" side of nature that Thomas's poet-priest persona achieves through his evolving relationship with Iago Prytherch, an Adamic type of farmer whose life epitomizes man's potential harmony with the universe.