(Poem #152) The Ancients of the World
The salmon lying in the depths of Llyn Llifon Secretly as a thought in a dark mind, Is not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd Who tells her sorrow nightly on the wind. The ousel singing in the woods of Cilgwri, Tirelessly as a stream over the mossed stones, Is not so old as the toad of Cors Fochno Who feels the cold skin sagging round his bones. The toad and the ousel and the stag of Rhedynfre, That has cropped each leaf from the tree of life, Are not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd, That the proud eagle would have to wife.
from George Macbeth] ... R[onald] S[tuart] Thomas was born in Wales in 1913, a year before his more famous namesake Dylan Thomas. He has lived his life as a clergyman, often in the remote country parishes whose landscape and people he has celebrated in his poems... </Macbeth> Actually, this is an extremely atypical piece for Thomas, so I'll defer the critical assessment of his career and all the other usual et ceteras to a later date. Anyway, back to the poem at hand. It's hard to define just _what_ it is I like about 'The Ancients of the World'. It's not as if a great deal happens in the poem; indeed, there are just the three descriptive stanzas, and that's it. And yet... There's a magic there somewhere, which I can't quite explain. Certainly the imagery is remarkably effective in its simplicity; certainly there's a glorious 'Welshness' to the verse itself , in the strong rhythms and the clean syllables; certainly there's a mythic resonance to the names, redolent as they are with Arthurian and Celtic legend . Still... Most certain of all, perhaps, is the fact that for this poem, the whole _is_ greater than the sum of the parts. Call it genius. thomas.  As an aside: just what is it about the Welsh, that their poetry is so damn good? Sheer music, some of it is.  The names, of course, are from the Mabinogion, the repository of a wealth of Celtic folklore and mythology, and a truly amazing work of literature. SF&F fans amongst you may also have spotted the reference in Susan Cooper's "The Grey King", another lovely book.