“What One Sees Must Depend on Where One Stands, When One Stands” – R.S. Thomas

A sharp report, like the slapping together of two pieces of hardwood. Not thunder I expected to hear in the dining room of Saint Corny by the Quarry.

I looked around, and there was a woman holding her hands high above her head. She brought them together once more – a resounding clap. And a server dashed to her side.

After that, whenever I saw the woman, I whispered to my wife, “There’s the Clapper.”

And I was confident that I’d seen all I needed to see, to tuck her away in in my mental drawer labeled “Imperious Personages.”

Some months passed, then Nancy and I decided to go to the dining room for our New Year’s Day meal.

The hostess seated me beside the Clapper. What a condiment to go with my traditional Pennsylvania Dutch sauerkraut and pork!

When I spoke to her, her accented English told me she was French. So I asked where she was born.


“I love Paris and know it reasonable well. Where did you live?”

She named the boulevard, and my mind clicked: “Only the wealthy live there.”

Eventually, I got around to her maiden name. When she told me, I repeated the name to myself, then commented: “That’s the name of a famous twentieth-century French conductor.”

“Yes, my father.”

Now that I was seated beside her, I saw her in a new way: No longer the Clapper.

Pierre Monteux’s daughter.

“What one sees must depend,” R. S. Thomas writes, “on where one stands, when one stands.”

Where one sits, when one sits.

Prose of R. S. Thomas quoted in this post:

“What one sees must depend” – untitled prose, The Echoes Return Slow, 70.


2 thoughts on ““What One Sees Must Depend on Where One Stands, When One Stands” – R.S. Thomas

  1. What a fascinating blog! And, now that you mention it, how true. As you put it so well, occasionally the more we learn about someone our perception of that person can change so dramatically (sp?). In other words – be not too quick to judge. But – how exciting it can turn out to be. An aside: Peter has enjoyed your book so much that he wants me to send him copies of your blogs but I think he could be able to get them on his computer too.

    • Thanks, Barbara. The Clapper died not too long after she became Pierre Monteux’s Daughter, so I never had the opportunity to learn to know her better. Her husband was a professor of music at Lebanon Valley College; a composer, as I recall. Lenise was his surname – I hope I have the correct spelling.

      Glad to hear that Peter is enjoying my book. He should be able to access my blog by entering https://doubtbeliefrsthomas.wordpress.com

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