Controversial poet Ronald Stuart Thomas was considered to be one of the leading writers of the twentieth century. This book, in three parts, interprets the development of a major theme over Thomas's twenty-seven volumes, probing particular themes and poems with a meticulous insight. The themes of identity, environment, and deity treated reflect the major preoccupations of his life and work. The book presents a comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre, while providing an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be explored. It suggests that such poetic explorations and revelations of identity provide the prima materia of the poetry and form an underlying foundation to Thomas's poetry viewed as a single body of work. Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work, is then discussed. The book also looks closely at Thomas's increasing preoccupation with science. It explores his philosophical concern with a scientific register for poetry, his own experimentation with that register, his subtle ambivalence towards applied technology, his ongoing critique of 'the machine', and his view of modern physics. Finally, examining Thomas's 'religious poetry', the book re-focuses on the exact nature of his poetic approach to a 'theology of experience' as reflected in his 'mythic' and 'via negativa' modes. It highlights Thomas's 'reconfiguring' of theology, that is, his insistence on the central validity and importance of individual spiritual experience, both as absence and as presence.
pure science, in particular of modernphysics.
Inheriting Wordsworth’s dream
In order to understand more fully Thomas’s dilemma concerning science and nature it is helpful to examine the first explicit treatment of
that dilemma by Wordsworth. In his 1802 ‘Preface’ to Lyrical Ballads
Wordsworth writes of an imagined relationship between poetry and
If the labours of Men of science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions
which we habitually receive, the Poet will sleep then no more than
that arose in the early years of the twentieth century take as accepted
among other things the impossibility of independent observation, the
straightforward existence of objects, or a defined temporality, and this
is the picture of the world that makes sense to me. It is also a picture
of the world as fundamentally interconnected, a notion expressed
perhaps most clearly by Fritjof Capra, whose book, first published
in 1975, draws connections between modernphysics and Indian and
Chinese philosophy.3 As Karen Barad puts it, much later, ‘Existence is
register for poetry, his own increasing experimentation with that register, his subtle ambivalence with regard to applied technology, his ongoing critique of ‘the machine’, and his view of modernphysics as a branch
of pure science potentially reconstructive in its employment of imagination and intuition. Although the significance of these topics is generally
recognised by critics, that significance has, as yet, received scant detailed
attention. My treatment in this chapter is aimed to reveal an often-underestimated intellectual breadth and sophistication in
two primary sources of Thomas’s accumulating critique of
applied science and examines the three poetic techniques according to
which he achieves this ‘escalating irony’. The final section of Chapter 5
looks briefly at a few of the poems in which Thomas envisions the possibility of a Wordsworthian unity between technology and poetry before
taking up his position on pure science, in particular modernphysics, as
he contextualises it in Old Testament theology. Looking primarily at his
1988 article for Planet entitled ‘Undod’ or ‘Unity’ one discovers a surprising
’ (= many), ‘seldom’ (= never), ‘long’ (= forever), and ‘often’ (= always).
The hero early confides about his heroism: ‘I don't brag about it much’ (586). (Imagine dating someone who talks like this.) There is an inherent fuzziness or imprecision in such evaluations, foreshadowing the basic fact of modernphysics that ‘nothing can ever be measured with perfect accuracy’.
Peter Ackroyd, searching in Anglo-Saxon England for the origins of the English imagination, speaks