The Vanishing Village by R.S. Thomas (An Analysis)

The Vanishing Village by RS Thomas Analysis Summary Explanation

The poet R.S. Thomas, in this poem “The Vanishing Village”, has presented the gloomy picture of a village that has lost its hustle and bustle. There are only a few houses, one street connecting a shop and a tavern, and a singular vanishing path that ends on a small hill beside the village. The path has been gradually covered by the grass due to disuses. Moreover, the trackless path hints at full-fledged human activity making it a pleasant place. It was the only route connecting the village with the outside world. Hence its disappearance is very tragic as its gradual elimination is connected with the present dismal scene of the village. It points out that the majority of the population has migrated to cities and industrial centers in search of employments.

There is a little activity of human life in the village that no traces of human habitation can be found around. Even the ill dog that used to be sitting in the open sun trying to escape from the biting pests has died and become a matter of past history. (The Vanishing Village)

But in spite of all this despairing evidence about the dull and deserted village life, there appears suddenly a little girl as a symbol of life. She is a ray of hope roving about in the village from house to house. So, she changes the scene of desertion into a hopeful living human abode by her innocent movements. She transcends the boundaries of day and night, and the poet hopes that with her growth, the village life will return once again to its full swing. The appearance of the little girl on the scene shows that life activity in the village has not completely ended.

In the end, the poet prays for the revival of social life activity in the village, because it is the axis of world civilization. It is the basic source of human activity that provided lifeblood to the industrial activity of the cities. The importance of village was emphasized and interpreted by renowned Greek philosopher Plate.

Explanation with Reference

Scarcely a street, too few houses
To merit the title, just a way between
The one tavern and the one shop
That leads nowhere and fails at the top
Of the short hill, eaten away
By long erosion of the green tide
Of grass creeping perpetually nearer
This last outpost of time past

The given lines show that the poet, R.S. Thomas, is standing in a desolate village. He presents a deplorable picture of the village. People have left the village. The poet wonders whether it is an inhabited village of a historical ruin. There is no activity of life in houses. There are few houses in the real sense. Thus, there exists one public house and one shop between which the only street passes. Even the street has turned into a path, which leads to the top of a small hill. The path is also worn out and destroyed by the constant erosion of grass. The overpopulated village is now only a remnant of old days.

So little happens, the black dog
Cracking his fleas in the hot sun
Is history, yet the girl who crosses
From door to door moves to a scale
Beyond the bland day’s two dimensions

In these lines, the poet points out that there is little human activity as all the signs of life have disappeared. So, there is nothing to prove the hustle-bustle of human life. Even the ill dog that used to sit in the open sun to escape from the biting pests has died and become a matter of history. But in spite of all this despairing evidence about the desertion of the village, the poet is not completely disappointed. He feels a ray of hope as he sees a little girl roaming about in the village from house to house. She changes the scene of desertion into a hopeful living human abode by her innocent movements. She transcends the boundaries of day and night. The poet hopes that with her growth and development the village life will return once again to its full swing.

Stay, then, village, for round you spin
On slow axis a world as vast
And meaningful as any poised
By great Plato’s solitary mind

The poet prays for the revival of that village; because the village is the axis of world civilization. Life in the entire world (towns and cities) revolves around the village, which is the central unit of human life. In fact, the village the base that provides lifeblood to all civilized life. Human activity in the vast world depends on the activity of the village. The importance of the village was visualized by the great mind of Plato.

Plato’s Village Ideology

According to Plato, “The village is the basic unit of human civilization. ” The world’ is turning into a “Global Village” at a very fast pace. Ironically enough, the real villages are also vanishing at the same pace. People are migrating from villages to the cities at a fast speed and on a large scale. The unchecked migration towards cities is making villages dead places. The poet is deeply concerned about the miserable plight of the village. He opines that a village is the basic unit of human habitat. It is a source of preserving civilization as Plato said.

The poem projects a gloomy picture of a deserted village. There is hardly a street and few houses. The only inn and the only shop are joined by a way that ends at the top of hill. The last outpost of time is being eaten up.

The poet follows Plato and we agree that the village is the axis around which the city life spins. The village is a state, says Plato, in miniature level. It is in the village that man learns how to rule others and how to be ruled by others. Plato idealizes the village as the cradle for human civilization. The village is a symbol of a simple, soothing, and peaceful revival of life. The death of a village is the death of civilization, which causes the death of cities, too. That is the reason, by referring to Plato Thomas rightly says, “You spin round a world as vast as meant by Plato.”

Critical Analysis: Effective Communication in Poem

The poet laments for the change that is taking place in villages. It is a common trend that people are moving towards cities from villages. He feels sorry and presents us with a pictorial picture of the pitiable condition of the village. There are few houses, a tavern and a shop in the village. So, the moss and grass are gradually covering the only path of the village. Everything gives the look of the past action. Even the black dog seems to be the part of history.

However, the poet traces out some signs of life in this standstill village. The poet pictures a stagnant life in the form of a girl who goes from door to door. She is not passing her life in the limited duration of day and night. The scale with which she measures time is beyond our reach. As she surpasses time, so the action and vitality she represents will last forever.

Then the poet addresses the village directly and asks it to stop diminishing because now the whole world will rotate around it. This will be the world that is presented by Plato who thinks that all the things of the world are unreal. The real things are in our minds. Vanishing village can get all aesthetic ideas that will make it a perfect and ideal village. The poet also combines the vanishing village with the world of ideas. He connects solidly with the unsubstantial and remote with near. Thus he gives an analytical treatment to his subject instead of giving an emotional one.  

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