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This review is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

LAMENTING IAGO PRYTHERCH R. S. Thomas, The Way Of It, Ceolfrith Press, £1.50.
John Mole, Our Ship, Seeker & Warburg, £2.90.
Freda Downie, A Stranger Here, Secker & Warburg, £2.90.

If you admire R. S. Thomas's poetry, but found H'm and Laboratories of the Spirit rather perplexing, The Way Of It is unlikely to reassure you. Where is the poet of the Welsh countryside and its dour resilient peasantry, of (above all) Iago Prytherch? It's not easy to find Iago now, or anyone like him:


He heard that there were other places
but he never saw them . . .
. . . Was there a tree he did not eat
of, because he was not tempted
to? And must we praise him for it?
                                       ('The Valley Dweller')


Well, there he is-but stranded amongst some shoddily manufactured imagery of Eden, unnamed, abstracted, recognizable largely by the poem's title and its description of the peasant who


               listened while
life lasted to what it seemed
to be saying to him between
two sides of a valley, which
was not much, but sufficient for him.


This relies on our expectations of Thomas's poetry yet simultaneously undermines them; the apotheosis of Prytherch perhaps, it is weaker than the parallel ending of 'Aside' a decade ago. Indeed, compared with the hard, clear language of his familiar work, much of this book is flaccid. This, for instance:


              What recipe
did he bequeath us for the solution
of our problems other than the statement
...


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