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This article is taken from PN Review 144, Volume 28 Number 4, March - April 2002.

The Poetry of Roland Mathias Sam Adams

For most readers, Mathias made his debut in Modern Welsh Poetry (Faber, 1944), edited by Keidrych Rhys. In the alphabetically arranged 'Contents', he follows Alun Lewis, his elder by a few months only, who died in Burma the year the anthology was published. They had several things in common: a boarding school education and enjoyment of hockey among them. They read History, Lewis at Aberystwyth, Mathias at Oxford, gained first class honours and subsequently did research - on topics that both found oppressively dull. Both chose teaching as a career and had difficulty finding a job. Both were pacifist but, whereas in Lewis's case the inclination was (with difficulty) suppressed, Mathias chose the path of conscientious objection. The points of resemblance notwithstanding, the differences between them are immense. Wider gulfs separate Mathias from the other contributors, several of whom were wellacquainted with one another, thanks largely to Wales, the magazine founded and edited by Rhys that for the first time brought together as a recognisable group the scattered tribe of Welsh writers in English who made their mark in the 1930s. Mathias was a stranger in their midst, and his upbringing had been very different from theirs.

If Lewis and all the others who shared this literary context knew nothing of Mathias, it was equally true that he knew nothing of them, at that time and for years to come. In his primary school days, when small stature, a stammer and intellectual superiority had already set him ...


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