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Thirteen Blackbirds Looking at a Man -- R S Thomas

       
(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?
-- R S Thomas
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

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