The Last Days -A Small Vision of Hell
The anonymous Times Literary Supplement review of The Beast at the Door appeared on 6 September 1963. Headlined ‘For the most part gloomy’, it stood alongside work by Tom Scott, Edwin Brock and Richard Weber. T. H. Jones was dismissed as an unhappy sheep-farmer with a ‘macabre gift of putting his fantasies in order by bringing mem face to face with the realities of his condition’. His subject-matter was seen as often trivial, and his style ‘so consistent that one ends up wondering whether Mrs Jones looks like a wild crag or Alexander Pope was a secret drinker who took wry amusement out of having his portrait painted’. The first reference is to ‘Cwmchwefri rocks’,1 a richly allusive poem inaccessible to superficial reading. The second, with unintentional irony which would have delighted the Augustan poet, is to ‘Mr Pope’,2 which, in a form and style which could hardly be less ‘consistent’ with ‘Cwmchwefri rocks’, damns contemporary dunces:
How we could use now his pain and his perfection
When the stupid army’s swollen even more,
And literacy has become a means of rejection
Of everything by which Mr Pope set store.
Jones does receive a grudging acknowledgement of his ‘integrity’, but Weber alone is considered ‘a real poet’ because (wonderful irony!) ‘He can lie with aplomb’.
Glyn Jones reviewed the collection in the Western Mail,3 alongside R. S. Thomas’s The Bread of Truth. He saw Thomas’s work as ‘touched with greatness and compassion’; for him it was Thomas who dictated the dominant reading of T. H. Jones: ‘Echoes and prose are the besetting menaces of his poetry and several of the poems here sound like R. S. Thomas, e.g. the fine