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A Welsh Testament

 All right, I was Welsh.
Does it matter? I spoke a tongue that was passed on To me in the place I happened to be, A place huddled between grey walls Of cloud for at least half the year.
My word for heaven was not yours.
The word for hell had a sharp edge Put on it by the hand of the wind Honing, honing with a shrill sound Day and night.
Nothing that Glyn Dwr Knew was armour against the rain's Missiles.
What was descent from him? Even God had a Welsh name: He spoke to him in the old language; He was to have a peculiar care For the Welsh people.
History showed us He was too big to be nailed to the wall Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him Between the boards of a black book.
Yet men sought us despite this.
My high cheek-bones, my length of skull Drew them as to a rare portrait By a dead master.
I saw them stare From their long cars, as I passed knee-deep In ewes and wethers.
I saw them stand By the thorn hedges, watching me string The far flocks on a shrill whistle.
And always there was their eyes; strong Pressure on me: You are Welsh, they said; Speak to us so; keep your fields free Of the smell of petrol, the loud roar Of hot tractors; we must have peace And quietness.
Is a museum Peace? I asked.
Am I the keeper Of the heart's relics, blowing the dust In my own eyes? I am a man; I never wanted the drab role Life assigned me, an actor playing To the past's audience upon a stage Of earth and stone; the absurd label Of birth, of race hanging askew About my shoulders.
I was in prison Until you came; your voice was a key Turning in the enormous lock Of hopelessness.
Did the door open To let me out or yourselves in?

Poem by R S Thomas
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