The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Green Categories” is one of R. S. Thomas’s more complex poems, drawing in part on the ideas of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant that are developed in Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781; Critique of Pure Reason, 1838). Thomas blends language and concepts from Kant’s work with images of the Welsh countryside, a device that simultaneously raises questions about Kant’s ideas and provides a larger context for the representation of a Welsh farmer, Iago Prytherch. The title reflects this blend: “Green” describes the countryside, while “Categories” refers specifically to Kant’s divisions of forms of pure understanding.

Stylistically, the poem is not particularly complicated: It consists of two stanzas, a long first one and a shorter second one. It is written in the second person and addressed to Prytherch, who is a character in several of Thomas’s other poems, including “Iago Prytherch,” “Lament for Prytherch,” and “Invasion on the Farm.” Thomas introduces Kant in the first line, writing, “You never heard of Kant, did you, Prytherch?” He goes on in the stanza to speculate upon what Kant might have thought of Prytherch’s life and draws distinctions between Kant’s logic and abstract ideas and Prytherch’s life on the farm, a life tied to the natural world and concrete objects. Slightly more than halfway through the first stanza, Thomas takes two of Kant’s concepts, space and time, and gives an...

(The entire section is 513 words.)