Groping by R. S. Thomas

Moving away is only to the boundaries
of the self. Better to stay here,
I said, leaving the horizons
clear. The best journey to make
is inward. It is the interior
that calls. Eliot heard it.
Wordsworth turned from the great hills
of the north to the precipice
of his own mind, and let himself
down for the poetry stranded
on the bare ledges.
For some
it is all darkness; for me, too,
it is dark. But there are hands
there I can take, voices to hear
solider than the echoes
without. And sometimes a strange light
shines, purer than the moon,
casting no shadow, that is
the halo upon the bones
of the pioneers who died for truth.

R. S. Thomas

About Russell Boyle

Russell Boyle is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. His poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness. Russell is the author of the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 to 10 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Sample poems and questions may be downloaded from
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14 Responses to Groping by R. S. Thomas

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Utterly beautiful…going to read next one~

  2. Do you know the quote from Poincare: Poetry is the art of using many names to mean the same thing. Mathematics is the art of using one name to mean many things. I was struck by the way he saw metaphor and abstraction as inverse processes.
    Sofia Kovalevski said, “You cannot be a good mathematician without also being a poet.” For myself, doing math and writing or reading poetry seem very closely related.

    • russellboyle says:

      Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful quote from Poincare. My first response is that metaphor and abstraction are not mutually exclusive. And I most definitely agree with Kovalevski. “One should always generalise,” said Carl Jacobi.

  3. russellboyle says:

    Yes, Carroll, mathematics and poetry are my twin passions. As Dean of Mathematics at Ruyton Girls’ School, in Melbourne, I advise young students to make use of Pascal’s triangle to find quickly the coefficients of algebraic terms in binomial expansions. The older girls study combinatorics and the Binomial theorem. There is some historical evidence that Pascal may not have been the first person to make use of his triangle. Thank you for the theological references.

  4. The Pensees is the classic. I also read The Provincial Letters and found them very amusing. I did a term paper on him for a church history class and he was the more fun than any theologian. So are you a math person? I am but not many people are familiar with Pascal’s mathematical work.

  5. I like this very much, by a poet I have not known. Solitude is much in my thoughts these days, and silence, and the importance of being quiet enough to hear God speak. This poem reminds me of some fragments by Pascal as well, some of which were poetic in their own way.

    • russellboyle says:

      I’ve added silence and solitude to the tags for this post, Carroll. Thank you for suggesting them to me. I’m more familiar with Blaise Pascal’s work as a mathematician than with his theological writing. Feel free to suggest an entry point for me.

  6. indytony says:

    “the halo upon the bones
    of the pioneers who died for truth.”

    Powerful image. That will stick with me for some time.

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