Guest Feature by John Wynn-Jones:

Dr John Wynn-Jones is well known in WONCA circles and immediate past chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice. During the COVID-19 crisis he has been writing a 'Rural Miscellany' email with poems and resource ideas to help and divert us in this difficult time. In this first item of 2021, we publish "Truth" - written by John this month.

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

 “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Winston S. Churchill

 “A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”  Oscar Wilde

“The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Mark Twain

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?” John Lennon


We live in uncertain times and that is more evident today than it has been for some time. Part of our insecurity revolves around “Truth” and what it is.  In an age when the media and in particular social media dominate our lives, how can we be certain what truth really is and whether what we are being told is true.

In healthcare, the gold standard has always been the peer reviewed scientific literature, led by critical thinking and rigorous scientific discipline but during this pandemic, so much of the cited material has been released early before peer review. In addition, two major journals had to withdraw two papers that had obvious flaws, leading to a loss of confidence in the science cannon in general.

Most scientific information available to the public at large comes from a multitude of news platforms, competing with each other, where interpretation is more geared to boosting reader volume than reporting accurate facts.

We have become openly sceptical about information coming from our governments, political leaders and major NGOs, leading to social turmoil, open hostility to disease and public health measures, public unrest and a plethora of conspiracy theories. The promise of herd immunity provided as a result of national vaccination programmes is being put a rick by those who do not believe in vaccination and believe that vaccine will harm them or change their DNA. In the UK, people have been caught taking pictures of empty corridors in hospitals in order to prove that there is no pandemic. The tragic daily figures of deaths seem to have no impact but further prove that it’s all a government conspiracy.

I have collected together poems on the theme of truth, starting with a 600-year-old poem by the English poet, writer and diplomat, Geoffrey Chaucer. To poets then, truth was related more to the nature of one’s faith and spiritual life whereas in recent times, the pursuit of truth has clearly taken much more secular course.


Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)

Geoffrey Chaucer was the outstanding English poet before Shakespeare. He has been called the "father of English literature", or, alternatively, the "father of English poetry". He is seen as crucial in legitimising the literary use of Middle English when the dominant literary languages in England were still French and Latin.

His “Canterbury Tales” ranks as one of the greatest poetic works in the English language. He also contributed importantly in the second half of the 14th century to the management of public affairs as courtier, diplomat, member of parliament and civil servant but it is his the writing of poetry—for which he is remembered. In his diplomatic career he was trusted and aided by three successive kings—Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV

He was the first writer to be buried in what has since come to be called Poets' Corner, in Westminster Abbey. Chaucer also gained fame as a philosopher and astronomer, composing the scientific ”A Treatise on the Astrolabe” for his 10-year-old son Lewis.

Among Chaucer's many other works are “The Book of The Duchess”, “The House of Fame”, “The Legend of Good Women” , and “Troilus and Criseyde”.

The poem "Truth" is 600 years old and is also sometimes called "Balade de Bon Conseyl" (Ballad of Good Counsel). In this, Chaucer explores what "truth" is ethically. The narrator of the poem states that we should not seek out the rewards of life, because our true home is in heaven and we are only pilgrims while alive. We are sent here to spread the word about God, live a simple life not beyond our means, and be kind to others. This poem is based on the Bible Gospel: John 8:32 which states, "the truth shall set you free". The poem is in Middle English and it is followed by a translation into Modern English


Fle fro the pres, and dwelle with sothefastnesse,
Suffise thin owen thing, thei it be smal;
For hord hath hate, and clymbyng tykelnesse,
Prees hath envye, and wele blent overal.
Savour no more thanne the byhove schal;
Reule weel thiself, that other folk canst reede;
And trouthe schal delyvere, it is no drede.

Tempest the nought al croked to redresse,
In trust of hire that tourneth as a bal.
Myche wele stant in litel besynesse;
Bywar therfore to spurne ayeyns an al;
Stryve not as doth the crokke with the wal.
Daunte thiself, that dauntest otheres dede;
And trouthe shal delyvere, it is no drede.

That the is sent, receyve in buxumnesse;
The wrestlyng for the worlde axeth a fal.
Here is non home, here nys but wyldernesse.
Forth, pylgryme, forth! forth, beste, out of thi stal!
Know thi contré! loke up! thonk God of al!
Hold the heye weye, and lat thi gost the lede;
And trouthe shal delyvere, it is no drede.

Therfore, thou Vache, leve thine olde wrechednesse;
Unto the world leve now to be thral.
Crie hym mercy, that of hys hie godnesse
Made the of nought, and in espec{.i}al
Draw unto hym, and pray in general
For the, and eke for other, hevenelyche mede;
And trouthe schal delyvere, it is no drede.

Truth: Translation to Modern English by Jacob Riyeff

Flee the crowd and dwell securely in trueness.
Let your own suffice, though it not be much,
for greed leads to hate and grasping to coldness;
the crowd leads to envy, and wealth deceives such
as hold too tightly everything they touch.
Rule yourself well, that others clearly see,
and have no doubt: the truth shall set you free.

Don’t try to amend all that is amiss,
trusting that Lady who spins like a ball;
true rest lies in spurning busyness.
There’s no sense in kicking the point of an awl
nor in the crock’s struggle against a wall.
Rule yourself, you who rule others’ deeds,
and have no doubt: the truth shall set you free.

Take what is sent to you in obedience;
struggle, for this world surely begs a fall.
We have no home here, only wilderness.
Go forth, pilgrim! Go forth, beast, from your stall!
Know our true home and thank the God of all.
Hold your course and follow your spirit’s lead,
and have no doubt: the truth shall set you free.

John Keats 1795-1821

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25. He trained as an apothecary at Guys Hospital in London but never practiced as his short life was taken up entirely by his poetry.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a complex, mysterious poem. The speaker looks at a Grecian urn, which is decorated with images of rustic life in ancient Greece. He is fascinated by the images and the fact that they are frozen in time. The speaker's response shifts through different moods, and ultimately the urn provokes questions more than it provides answers. The poem's ending has been and remains the subject of varied interpretation. The urn seems to tell the speaker that ‘Beauty is truth and truth beauty’ and they are one and the same. Keats wrote this poem in a great burst of creativity that also produced his other famous odes such as “Ode to a Nightingale.” Although it was not well received at the time it has become one of his most celebrated.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, 
    Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape 
    Of deities or mortals, or of both,
        In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
        What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
    Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, 
    Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
    Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
        Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
        For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
    Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
    For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
    For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
        For ever panting, and for ever young; 
All breathing human passion far above,
    That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d, 
        A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
    To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
    And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore, 
    Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
        Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
    Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
        Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
    Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
    Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
    When old age shall this generation waste, 
        Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all 
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Little known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts into a prominent family with strong ties to its community. I have included her poetry so many times already, that I hardly need to say anything more about her.

I include two short poems, typical of her style and format. Truth is a constant theme in her poetry.

In the first poem, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” Dickinson says that we should tell the truth – the whole truth – but tell it indirectly, in a roundabout way. The truth is too bright and aluring for us to be able to cope with straight away. We can be overwhelmed by it.

She likens it in the second verse to the way that lightning and thunderstorms are explained to children in kinder terms, so as not to frighten them. She says that the truth, if shown too directly and has the power to blind us. In the second poem “Truth—is As Old As God” Dickinson pairs Truth, not with Beauty, but with God.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –

Truth—is As Old As God

Truth—is as old as God— 
His Twin identity 
And will endure as long as He 
A Co-Eternity— 

And perish on the Day 
Himself is borne away 
From Mansion of the Universe 
A lifeless Deity.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work. Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book, Kim, and many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King"

He is one of the best-known of the late Victorian poets and story-tellers. Although he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907, his political views, which grew more toxic as he aged, have long made him critically unpopular. In the New Yorker, Charles McGrath remarked “Kipling has been variously labelled a colonialist, a jingoist, a racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist, a right-wing imperialist warmonger; and—though some scholars have argued that his views were more complicated than he is given credit for—to some degree he really was all those things. That he was also a prodigiously gifted writer who created works of inarguable greatness hardly matters anymore, at least not in many classrooms, where Kipling remains politically toxic.” However, Kipling’s works for children, above all his novel The Jungle Book, first published in 1894, remain part of popular cultural through the many film versions made and remade since the 1960s.

Kipling was born in Bombay (Mumbai), India, in 1865 and he spent the first years of his life in India, remembering it in later years as almost a paradise. “My first impression,” he wrote in his posthumously published autobiography “Something of Myself for My Friends Known and Unknown”, “is of daybreak, light and colour and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder.” In 1871, however, his parents sent him and his sister Beatrice to England, partly to avoid health problems, but also so that the children could begin their schooling.

Since his parents could not afford to send him to one of the major English universities, in 1882 Kipling left for India to rejoin his family and to begin a career as a journalist. For five years he held the post of assistant editor of the Civil and Military Gazette at Lahore. During those years he also published the stories that became Plain Tales from the Hills, works based on British lives in the resort town of Simla, and Departmental Ditties, his first major collection of poems. He later moved south in India until 1889, when he left India to return to England, determined to pursue his future as a writer.

In the poem, “A Legend of Truth”, Kipling tells us about how “Truth” shrank from the world, letting her sister, “Fiction”, go out into the world instead. This plan works well – until war breaks out…  I can’t think of a poem more suited to the world of “Fake News” that we now find ourselves in. Kipling was initially a great supporter of the 1st World War to the point that he bullied his only son to join up, despite the fact that he had been declared medically unfit. His son was killed and Kipling never really recovered.  I wonder whether some of the last verse refers to his changing views on the war.

A Legend of Truth

Once on a time, the ancient legends tell,
Truth, rising from the bottom of her well,
Looked on the world, but, hearing how it lied,
Returned to her seclusion horrified.
There she abode, so conscious of her worth,
Not even Pilate's Question called her forth,
Nor Galileo, kneeling to deny
The Laws that hold our Planet 'neath the sky.
Meantime, her kindlier sister, whom men call
Fiction, did all her work and more than all,
With so much zeal, devotion, tact, and care,

That no one noticed Truth was otherwhere.
Then came a War when, bombed and gassed and mined,
Truth rose once more, perforce, to meet mankind,
And through the dust and glare and wreck of things,
Beheld a phantom on unbalanced wings,
Reeling and groping, dazed, dishevelled, dumb,
But semaphoring direr deeds to come.

Truth hailed and bade her stand; the quavering shade
Clung to her knees and babbled, "Sister, aid!
I am--I was--thy Deputy, and men
Besought me for my useful tongue or pen
To gloss their gentle deeds, and I complied,
And they, and thy demands, were satisfied.
But this--" she pointed o'er the blistered plain,
Where men as Gods and devils wrought amain--
"This is beyond me! Take thy work again."

Tablets and pen transferred, she fled afar,
And Truth assumed the record of the War...
She saw, she heard, she read, she tried to tell
Facts beyond precedent and parallel--
Unfit to hint or breathe, much less to write,
But happening every minute, day and night.
She called for proof. It came. The dossiers grew.
She marked them, first, "Return. This can't be true."
Then, underneath the cold official word:
"This is not really half of what occurred."

She faced herself at last, the story runs,
And telegraphed her sister: "Come at once.
Facts out of hand. Unable overtake
Without your aid. Come back for Truth's own sake!
Co-equal rank and powers if you agree.
They need us both, but you far more than me!"

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

Stephen Crane was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Prolific throughout his short life, he is best known for his novels “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” and “The Red Badge of Courage” and the short stories “The Open Boat,” “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” and “The Blue Hotel.” He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.

His later life was a struggle with public opinion and society’s rejection of his championing of the downtrodden and dispossessed. His fascination with war and death, led him to travel as a war correspondent to Greece and Cuba. Eventually settling in England with his mistress Cora Taylor, his health and financial situation quickly deteriorated, eventually dying of Tuberculosis at the age of 29.

This poem describes two travellers, the first sees truth as highly visible and accessible. A “mighty fortress” which can guide his life while the other traveller describes it as a breath, a phantom which he has pursued in vain. The poet believes the second.

XXVIII [“Truth," said a traveller]

“Truth," said a traveller,
“Is a rock, a mighty fortress;
“Often have I been to it,
“Even to its highest tower,
“From whence the world looks black.”

“Truth," said a traveller,
“Is a breath, a wind,
“A shadow, a phantom;
“Long have I pursued it,
“But never have I touched
“The hem of its garment.”

And I believed the second traveller;
For truth was to me
A breath, a wind,
A shadow, a phantom,
And never had I touched
The hem of its garment.
"Truth" - said a traveller: Stephen Crane

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Maya Angelou was an American poet, educator, commentator, writer and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. I need not introduce Maya Angelou, as we have heard her poetry so many times on Rural Miscellany.

I always feel a sense of wonder when I read one of her poems for the first time and this was no different. The poem, “A Brave and Startling Truth” was delivered in June 1995 by Maya Angelou at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the United Nations.

The poem is about how we are the only ones who can change this terrible world. We allow ourselves to do both awful and amazing things. When we make peace with all nations, it will only be us who did it. no one else. This poem relates to the theme of redemption. It shows that all things are possible and not only that, but we can do it. In the end, we are the true wonder of this world. We are the ones who stop fighting and put down our weapons.

A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet 
Traveling through casual space 
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns 
To a destination where all signs tell us 
It is possible and imperative that we learn 
A brave and startling truth 

And when we come to it 
To the day of peacemaking 
When we release our fingers 
From fists of hostility 
And allow the pure air to cool our palms 

When we come to it 
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate 
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean 
When battlefields and coliseum 
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters 
Up with the bruised and bloody grass 
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil 

When the rapacious storming of the churches 
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased 
When the pennants are waving gaily 
When the banners of the world tremble 
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze 

When we come to it 
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders 
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce 
When land mines of death have been removed 
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace 
When religious ritual is not perfumed 
By the incense of burning flesh 
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake 
By nightmares of abuse 

When we come to it 
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids 
With their stones set in mysterious perfection 
Nor the Gardens of Babylon 
Hanging as eternal beauty 
In our collective memory 
Not the Grand Canyon 
Kindled into delicious color 
By Western sunsets 

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe 
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji 
Stretching to the Rising Sun 
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor, 
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores 
These are not the only wonders of the world 

When we come to it 
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe 
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger 
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace 
We, this people on this mote of matter 
In whose mouths abide cankerous words 
Which challenge our very existence 
Yet out of those same mouths 
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness 
That the heart falters in its labor 
And the body is quieted into awe 

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet 
Whose hands can strike with such abandon 
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living 
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness 
That the haughty neck is happy to bow 
And the proud back is glad to bend 
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction 
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines 

When we come to it 
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body 
Created on this earth, of this earth 
Have the power to fashion for this earth 
A climate where every man and every woman 
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety 
Without crippling fear 

When we come to it 
We must confess that we are the possible 
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world 
That is when, and only when 
We come to it. 

Maya Angelou reading her poem "A Brave and Startling Truth"

W H Auden (1907-1973)

Wystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet, playwright and librettist. He had a major influence on the poetry of the 20th century. Auden grew up in Birmingham, England and was known for his extraordinary intellect and wit. His first book, Poems, was published in 1930 with the help of T.S. Eliot.

Just before World War II broke out, Auden emigrated to the United States where he met the poet Chester Kallman, who became his lifelong lover. Auden won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for “The Age of Anxiety”. Much of his poetry is concerned with moral issues and has a strong political, social, and psychological context. The teachings of Marx and Freud weighed heavily in his early work but they later gave way to religious and spiritual influences. Some critics have called Auden an anti-Romantic.

Throughout his career, he collaborated with Christopher Isherwood and Louis MacNeice, and also frequently joined with Chester Kallman to create libretti for musical works by Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Today he is considered one of the most skilled and creative mid-20th century poets who regularly wrote in traditional rhyme and meter.

He agonised about the nature of love all his life, trying to classify it and how each type of love manifests itself in the life of an individual. The nature of love remains a universal theme for poets worldwide. Auden’s poetry was always rational and to the point. He did not fall into the trap of romanticism.

Tell me the truth about love

Some say love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like Classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn't over there;
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn't in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its time at the races,
or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

"O Tell Me the Truth about Love" by W. H. Auden (read by Dan Stevens)

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Dylan Thomas was a brilliant Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion"; the play for voices “Under Milk Wood”; and stories and radio broadcasts such as “A Child's Christmas in Wales” and “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog”. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest Welsh poets writing in the English Language.

He was born in Swansea, South Wales. His father was an English teacher at the local grammar school and would often recite Shakespeare, fortifying Thomas's love for the rhythmic ballads of Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. B. Yeats, and Edgar Allan Poe. 

Thomas dropped out of school at sixteen to become a junior reporter, but he soon left his job and decided to concentrate on his poetry full-time. It was during this time, in his late teens, that Thomas wrote more than half of his collected poems.

In 1934, when Thomas was twenty, he moved to London, won the Poet's Corner book prize, and published his first book, “18 Poems”. Unlike his contemporaries, T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, Thomas was not concerned with writing about themes of social and intellectual issues, and his writing, with its intense lyricism and highly charged emotion, had more in common with the Romantic tradition.

Thomas describes his technique in a letter: "I make one image—though 'make' is not the right word; I let, perhaps, an image be 'made' emotionally in me and then apply to it what intellectual & critical forces I possess—let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make, of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict."

The Welsh, Hollywood star Michael Sheen, said of the poem, "This Side of the Truth is one of Thomas’ less widely known poems and yet it features all the traits that make his poems truly great. Namely: the directness of talking to his son through it and the humanity of that, alongside the huge cosmic context; the sensuality and elemental imagery; the underpinning of a deeply felt, sharply intelligent and near-pagan philosophy; and running through it all a deep sense of compassion for what it is to be human. Challenging, tender and apocalyptic, Thomas was the voice of a whiskey-soaked preacher - his best poems reflect everything that implies. And I believe this to be one of his best."

Living in New Quay in February 1945, he wrote to his son Llewelyn, who was with his grandmother in Ringwood, in southern England, where he had been for most of the war. It had been reported that Llewelyn had fallen from a tree and split his tongue. We do not have Thomas’s letter but ‘This side of the truth’, was written soon after. Dylan takes us on a magical and lyrical journey of words and ideas. He tells us about the conflict of good and evil which is not visible yet to his 6 year old. Life can take two courses towards death where “all your deeds and words, each truth, each lie, die in unjudging love”.

This Side of the Truth
(for Llewelyn) 

This side of the truth, 
You may not see, my son,
King of your blue eyes 
In the blinding country of youth, 
That all is undone, 
Under the unminding skies, 
Of innocence and guilt 
Before you move to make 
One gesture of the heart or head, 
Is gathered and spilt 
Into the winding dark 
Like the dust of the dead. 

Good and bad, two ways 
Of moving about your death 
By the grinding sea, 
King of your heart in the blind days, 
Blow away like breath, 
Go crying through you and me 
And the souls of all men 
Into the innocent 
Dark, and the guilty dark, and good 
Death, and bad death, and then 
In the last element 
Fly like the stars' blood 

Like the sun's tears, 
Like the moon's seed, rubbish 
And fire, the flying rant 
Of the sky, king of your six years. 
And the wicked wish, 
Down the beginning of plants 
And animals and birds, 
Water and Light, the earth and sky, 
Is cast before you move, 
And all your deeds and words, 
Each truth, each lie, 
Die in unjudging love.

"This Side of the Truth" by Dylan Thomas (read by Tom O'Bedlam)