Absence and presence
in R. S. Thomas

R. S. Thomas's mythic poems reflect primarily a deistic understanding, that is, they set forth a distant and, for the most part, impersonal creator-God. While Bishop Robinson argues for the 'ground of being' as a move towards a personal God of relationship, Thomas emphasises the phrase as indicating that God is not a 'being' at all. Thomas's poem entitled 'Via Negativa', from the collection H'm, is a good example of this, depicting the sensation of painful absence as itself indicative of divine presence. Thomas's depictions of the via negativa are primarily concerned with the experience of absence rather than with the technique of asceticism. This chapter discusses the root of the paradox out of which the via negativa emerges, and explains the poems 'Shadows', 'Adjustments' and 'The Absence', all from Frequencies, in order to examine it more closely.

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R. S. Thomas

Identity, environment, and deity

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