Poetry Friday: The Country Clergy by R.S. Thomas

Posted by Sherry on 1/24/2014 in Family, General, Poets and poetry |

I stole this poem fragment by poet R.S. Thomas from Glynn because I loved it and wanted to share it/preserve it here.

I see them working in old rectories
By the Sun’s light, by candlelight,
Venerable men, their black cloth
A little dusty, a little green
With holy mildew. And yet their skulls,
Ripening over so many prayers,
Toppled into the same grave
With oafs and yokels. They left no books,
Memorial to their lonely thought
In grey parishes; rather they wrote
On men’s hearts and in the minds
Of young children sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.

This poem reminded me of my father-in-law, a Baptist preacher in tiny West Texas Baptist churches. He didn’t usually work full time as a pastor, but rather he was what we now call a bi-vocational pastor. His churches were in places that don’t stand out on the map: Buda, Prairie Lea, Robert Lee and Maverick—all in rural Texas. He left no books, only journals written in spiral-bound notebooks, talking about things like the weather, the comings and goings of family members, and the many things he was thankful for.

My father-in-law, John Early, has gone to his reward, and his words and ideas often read as somewhat quaint and outmoded, but always faithful. God in his time or out of time will correct this.

Tara is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at A Teaching Life.


  • Amy @ Hope Is the Word says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Glynn says:

    I love that poem. And I’m glad you saved it here, too.

  • This is a beautiful poem. Many measure a man’s life by accolades and awards, but the reality of a person’s maturity and depth is to live an everyday life that reflects the verse in Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does The Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” I’m sure many could say that of your father’s faithful service. They may not remember great sermons or astounding miracles, but to live a life that honors God and touches others is a lasting legacy. I am sorry for your loss.

  • kortney says:

    love those last phrases…”in his time/or out of time”

    thanks so much for sharing!

  • Such a lovely piece~ “a little green with holy mildew.” Perfect.

  • Violet N. says:

    This reminds me of Marilynne Robinsons’s book Gilead and the pastor in it, and of Jesus’ words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Loved the mildew line and this one: “…their skulls,
    Ripening over so many prayers…”

  • jama says:

    How beautiful.

    they wrote
    On men’s hearts and in the minds
    Of young children sublime words
    Too soon forgotten. God in his time
    Or out of time will correct this.

    An honor to know about John Early. 🙂

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