R. S. Thomas (1913–2000) was a Welsh poet and priest. His poem "Here" appears to express feelings of guilt and doubt. The penultimate stanza goes as follows:

I have no where to go
The swift satellites show
The clock of my whole being is slow,

The word "satellite" has many different meanings, including the following:

The satellites (if they are artificial satellites) and the clock seem to contrast with natural elements such as "brain", "tree", "boughs", "blood", "hands" and "loins". The satellites' swiftness and the clock might be reminders that time is running out to repent your sins and to be saved. But how does all of this fit together?

  • "Here" first appeared in R.S. Thomas's collection Tares, published in January, 1961. The first satellite, Sputnik, was launched in 1957. So satellites were new enough in 1961 that it wouldn't be surprising if Thomas put them in his poem. And satellites are indeed swift—they move much faster than any other celestial objects. And they keep time—they have regular orbits. As for the meaning of the whole poem ... maybe somebody else will figure it out.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Jun 20 at 14:37
  • @PeterShor Thanks. I had not yet tried to find when the poem was first published. That particular meaning of "satellite" now seems the most plausible one. I still find their appearance in the poem a bit odd.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jun 20 at 14:38
  • If I remember correctly, artificial satellites were still viewed as a truly amazing thing when I was young (I was born a couple of years after Sputnik) — although maybe it was just my father who believed this. So I don't think they're out of place in the poem.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Jun 20 at 14:40
  • I was only five or six, so I didn't understand much about it, but I do remember Sputnik being much talked about. Commented Jun 22 at 8:20
  • Why, then, are my hands red // With the blood of so many dead? // Is this where I was misled? Could this be referring to original sin?
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Jun 24 at 0:46

2 Answers 2


The poem "Here" first appeared in Thomas's book Tares, published in January 1961. The first artificial satellite, Sputnik, was launched in 1957. In 1961, satellites were a new phenomenon, and people still viewed them as amazing objects.

Satellites are fast (they move much faster than any other celestial objects) and they keep time (they have regular orbits). They thus fit quite well in the lines

The swift satellites show
The clock of my whole being is slow,

so it seems very likely that Thomas is referring to artificial satellites here.


R.S. Thomas wrote a second (posthumously published) poem, Decentred (2002), which also deals with the isolation of man from God and from his place of origin. In it he explicitly uses the term "satellite" to mean an artificial satellite, something created by man and hurled into space away from the "flower" that is Earth.

Now I attend
the launchings into populated
space, the packed universe,
the inability to distinguish
the winking lights from the fixed
lights. In the conditioned capsules
the artifices continue; the species
re-consumes its waste, cultivates disinfected ersatz, reproduces
and dies, circling on a wind
that was once wild and now drags
itself round and round laden
with satellites far from the desert
with its one flower, where the dance is.


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