Tuesday, June 7, 2011


R.S. Thomas was a Welsh preacher-poet who wrote about his rural parishioners in a time when the tractor was just beginning to replace the horse team. R.S. never met a machine he didn’t hate, and his disdain for anything mechanical or electrical fueled his poetry to the extent that it became a sub-category of a whole lifetime’s work. In the sonnet “Cynddylan on a Tractor” (which came to me as my neighbor fired up her leaf blower) the old curmudgeon is gruffly humorous on the subject:

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.


More about R.S. Thomas here and here.


Anonymous said...

I appreciated the poem very much. It was also a cunning use of poetry to veil a mild rant about public noise, which is an epidemic.

I must admit to having a chain saw, a mower, and a leafblower, BUT, I use them very sparingly. I prefer a bush axe, a scythe, a machete, and a broom. This is to show mercy to myself, the distant neighbors, and the animals (and get a healthy workout). I always thought it unfair that a machinery user can use earplugs but the rest of us have to hear the continual racket!

Thanks for joining me in a bit of a rant about this, though more direct. Bill Gable

Richard Jorgensen said...

I, too, own a few machines, so have to watch out for the hypocrisy factor. Funny how a lawnmower four or five houses away has an almost bucolic, peaceful sound; a leafblower at the same distance just sounds like an enraged mosquito. RLJ

Jeffrey Dean said...

It is indeed a noisy world, or so I'm told.
So much noise has reached my ear that I can no longer hear.