DOES R S Thomas's farmer really lay so little store by the sounds of the burbling stream and the importuning thrush?
Surely there's a latent sensitivity implied in his reactions? The Welsh poet-cleric Thomas (1913-2000) is not in self-doubting religious mood here, but a compassionate observer.
Poor hill farmer astray in the grass:
There came a movement and he looked up, but
All that he saw was the wind pass.
There was a sound of voices in the air,
But where, where? It was only the glib stream talking
Softly to itself. And once when he was walking
Along a lane in spring he was deceived
By a shrill whistle coming through the leaves:
Wait a minute, wait a minute – four swift notes;
He turned, and it was nothing, only a thrush
In the thorn bushes easing its throat.
He swore at himself for paying heed,
The poor hill farmer, so often again
Stopping, staring, listening, in vain,
His ear betrayed by the heart's need.