Saturday, 30 March 2013

Cynddylan on a tractor

Cynddylan on a tractor, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
The clutch curses, but the gears obey
His least bidding, and lo, he's away
Out of the farmyard, scattering hens.
Riding to work now as a great man should,
He is the knight at arms breaking the fields'
Mirror of silence, emptying the wood
Of foxes and squirrels and bright jays.
The sun comes over the tall trees
Kindling all the hedges, but not for him
Who runs his engine on a different fuel.
And all the birds are singing, bills wide in vain,
As Cynddylan passes proudly up the lane

RS Thomas

This card was one of a series of poem postcards that Oriel Cardiff produced in the 70s(or was it 80s) -sadly, seemingly unobtainable now. Damn.

It was the centenary of RS Thomas' birth yesterday. I first met his poetry in Penguin Modern Poets 1, in the school library, and learned Welsh Landscape by heart.  Heard him read at Lower Machen church, not far from where I used to live in South Wales, where the 'mouldering quarries and mines' were all around; it was a memorable evening. Then in 2000, reading his obituary in the Telegraph, in the crew mess of the Dover ferry I was unhappily working on at the time, and feeling even more lonely.

Still, the poetry is still there. The Bright Field is one of my favourites, because it's twined itself into my own life.


  1. I met this one at school - twice, I believe - and it has stayed with me, too. Thank you. And that illustration is, indeed, a gem.

  2. Oriel was in Charles Street in Cardiff in the 1970s, when this series of posters and cards were produced. Yr Wylan , The Seagull is beautiful

  3. Could have been my dad on that tractor...

  4. Lucky you, Delia! Did you chance upon it, or did a teacher introduce you?

    I visited Oriel there, Gwynneth. It was somewhere else, too, wasn't it, closer to the museum? I've had a go at doing some poem-and-picture postcards too, it seems such a good idea. Oh, I was up on Mynydd Maen again last week; we were preceded across the common by a shepherd on a quad bike, dressed as for a polar expedition, with a very cheerful collie perched on the pillion. He disappeared off down to Cil-lonydd and we went on to have a quick look at Hafod Fach.

    We had a tractor very like that too, Anji! Hours of shivering in the rain... and good days too of course.