Archive for A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London

Manchester Thoughts

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on May 23, 2017 by telescoper

I went to bed early last night after a long day, so I only found out about the terrible events in Manchester when I woke up this morning. The lives of 22 people ended last night, and many of those who survived will never be the same again because of their physical injuries or because of the awful things they witnessed.

I know it’s a feeble response, but I send my deepest condolences to the bereaved and wish a speedy recovery to all those injured or in any other way affected.

Words fail in situations like this. Comprehension fails too. How someone purportedly of the same species as me can sit down and systematically plan to murder children and teenagers is quite beyond my ability to fathom. The choice of target was as callous as it was deliberate: an audience of young girls. The murderer blew himself up in the course of this attack, which means he has evaded justice. I just hope the police will identify the remains and wrap up whatever network helped him plan and execute this attack.

There’s enough information in the news to make a reasonably informed guess as to what kind of explosive device was used. It’s not difficult to make a bomb of that type, but it’s a step up in sophistication from the event on Westminster Bridge. Let’s hope it’s not the start of a new wave of terror attacks, but even if it is they will not win.

It’s difficult to concentrate on work when something like this happens, but I think it’s important to force oneself to do so. If we allow ourselves to become distracted, then the bastards have won. I won’t write much more, but I will refer you to a poem by Dylan Thomas, arguably his greatest, which came into my mind this morning as it has done (sadly) many times before.

A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London was first published just after the end of the Second World War and was written after Thomas heard news of a young girl who had burned to death when the house she was in was set on fire during an air raid.

The idea behind the poem is complex, and its message double-edged, but Thomas finds a perfect balance between horror and sadness, and between indignation and heartbreak. Children shouldn’t have to die, and neither should anyone else whose life is cut short by another’s hand, but we have to live with the fact that they can and do. There’s no consolation to be found in mourning and in any case it’s hypocritical to favour one death with elegies, when suffering is so widespread. The best we can do is allow the dead some dignity and the bereaved some time to heal.

Here is a short extract from the poem, which sums up my thoughts.

I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

I won’t post the full poem here, but you can find it elsewhere on this blog.

 

Another Refusal to Mourn

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on December 17, 2012 by telescoper

I posted this poem after the terrible events in Norway last year. Sadly the awful killings in Newton, Connecticut make it relevant again.

The full title is A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London  and it was written  by Dylan Thomas. Published just after the end of the Second World War, it was written some time earlier when Thomas heard news of a young girl who had burned to death when the house she was in was set on fire during an air raid. Here is the poet himself reading it.

The idea behind the poem is complex, and its message double-edged,  but Thomas finds a perfect balance between horror and sadness, and between indignation and heartbreak. Children shouldn’t have to die, and neither should anyone else whose life is cut short by another’s hand, but we have to accept that they can and do.  There’s no consolation to be found in mourning  and in any case it’s hypocritical to favour one death with elegies, when suffering is so widespread. The best we can do is allow the dead some dignity and their families and loved ones some time to grieve.

Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn

The majesty and burning of the child’s death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

Deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.

A Refusal to Mourn

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on July 24, 2011 by telescoper

This poem by Dylan Thomas, arguably his greatest, was first published just after the end of the Second World War and was written after Thomas heard news of a young girl who had burned to death when the house she was in was set on fire during an air raid. The full title is A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London.

The idea behind the poem is complex, and its message double-edged,  but Thomas finds a perfect balance between horror and sadness, and between indignation and heartbreak. Children shouldn’t have to die, and neither should anyone else whose life is cut short by another’s hand, but we have to accept that they can and do.  There’s no consolation to be found in mourning  and in any case it’s hypocritical to favour one death with elegies, when suffering is so widespread. The best we can do is allow the dead some dignity.

During my delayed journey yesterday I passed some of the time by following the reaction on Twitter to the terrible events in Norway. I wish I hadn’t. Such events bring out the ghloulish worst in some people, and the worst of the worst is always to be found on the internet. Going online is sometimes like lifting the lid on a cesspit.

I was going to post something myself, but having realised that I don’t really care much for what other people think about this, I can see no point in adding to the blizzard of opinion. Far better to post this, which expresses everything I might have aspired to say far more eloquently than I ever could.

Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn

The majesty and burning of the child’s death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

Deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.