(Poem #621) Thirteen Blackbirds Looking at a Man
I It is calm. It is as though we lived in a garden that had not yet arrived at the knowledge of good and evil. But there is a man in it. II There will be rain falling vertically from an indifferent sky. There will stare out from behind its bars the face of the man who is not enjoying it. III Nothing higher than a blackberry bush. As the sun comes up fresh, what is the darkness stretching from horizon to horizon? It is the shadow here of the forked man. IV We have eaten the blackberries and spat out the seeds, but they lie glittering like the eyes of a man. V After we have stopped singing, the garden is disturbed by echoes. It is the man whistling, expecting everything to come to him. VI We wipe our beaks on the branches wasting the dawn's jewellery to get rid of the taste of a man. VII Nevertheless, which is not the case with a man, our bills give us no trouble. VIII Who said the number was unlucky? It was a man, who, trying to pass us, had his licence endorsed thirteen times. IX In the cool of the day the garden seems given over to blackbirds. Yet we know also that somewhere there is a man in hiding. X To us there are eggs and there are blackbirds. But there is the man, too, trying without feathers to incubate a solution. XI We spread our wings, reticulating our air space. A man stands under us and worries at his ability to do the same. XII When night comes like a visitor from outer space we stop our ears lest we should hear tell of the man in the moon. XIII Summer is at an end. The migrants depart. When they return in spring to the garden, will there be a man among them?
This is not one of R. S. Thomas' more famous poems, and for good reason - it is, quite simply, not one of his better ones. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but I can't help but think a poet loses a certain something when he moves away from his own style, no matter how compelling the reasons for that move. That said, this is not a _bad_ poem per se. Thomas eschews Wallace Stevens' Imagistic suggestiveness for a more overt style; the fragments of today's poem seem to have a more explicit theme - innocence, fall, redemption - than those of yesterday's. It doesn't fully succeed in its aims, but 'tis enough, 'twill serve. thomas. [Links] Yesterday's poem - Wallace Stevens' famous "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird": poem #620 Another very famous blackbird poem - Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven": poem #85 Mike Keith's amazingly ingenious version thereof: http://members.aol.com/s6sj7gt/mikerav.htm Other poems by R. S. Thomas: poem #152 poem #187 poem #392 poem #554