Archive for Dylan Thomas

I see the boys of summer

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on June 29, 2013 by telescoper

I

I see the boys of summer in their ruin
Lay the gold tithings barren,
Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils;
There in their heat the winter floods
Of frozen loves they fetch their girls,
And drown the cargoed apples in their tides.

These boys of light are curdlers in their folly,
Sour the boiling honey;
The jacks of frost they finger in the hives;
There in the sun the frigid threads
Of doubt and dark they feed their nerves;
The signal moon is zero in their voids.

I see the summer children in their mothers
Split up the brawned womb’s weathers,
Divide the night and day with fairy thumbs;
There in the deep with quartered shades
Of sun and moon they paint their dams
As sunlight paints the shelling of their heads.

I see that from these boys shall men of nothing
Stature by seedy shifting,
Or lame the air with leaping from its heats;
There from their hearts the dogdayed pulse
Of love and light bursts in their throats.
O see the pulse of summer in the ice.

II

But seasons must be challenged or they totter
Into a chiming quarter
Where, punctual as death, we ring the stars;
There, in his night, the black-tongued bells
The sleepy man of winter pulls,
Nor blows back moon-and-midnight as she blows.

We are the dark deniers let us summon
Death from a summer woman,
A muscling life from lovers in their cramp
From the fair dead who flush the sea
The bright-eyed worm on Davy’s lamp
And from the planted womb the man of straw.

We summer boys in this four-winded spinning,
Green of the seaweeds’ iron,
Hold up the noisy sea and drop her birds,
Pick the world’s ball of wave and froth
To choke the deserts with her tides,
And comb the county gardens for a wreath.

In spring we cross our foreheads with the holly,
Heigh ho the blood and berry,
And nail the merry squires to the trees;
Here love’s damp muscle dries and dies
Here break a kiss in no love’s quarry,
O see the poles of promise in the boys.

III

I see you boys of summer in your ruin.
Man in his maggot’s barren.
And boys are full and foreign to the pouch.
I am the man your father was.
We are the sons of flint and pitch.
O see the poles are kissing as they cross.

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

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A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Posted in Literature with tags , on December 24, 2012 by telescoper

Well, I’m up early to get the train Up North, so I thought I’d just sign off for the holiday with a little gift. I have posted this before but, on the grounds that you can’t have too much of a good thing, here it is again. Plus, of course, this will be my last Christmas in Wales…

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who have heard Dylan Thomas reading his wonderful short autobiographical story A Child’s Christmas in Wales; and those who haven’t. I’ve heard it hundreds of times, like a favourite piece of music. Technically it’s a prose work, but it’s prose that’s so close to poetry that it really defies categorisation. Either way, the language certainly has a musical quality, and the author’s voice brings it to life in a way nobody else has ever been able to. It’s also shot through with flashes of a dry offbeat humour that tickles my fancy any time of the year but at Christmas time I think it’s just magical.

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.

And Death shall have no Dominion

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on September 17, 2011 by telescoper

I’ve been meaning to post this marvellous reading by Dylan Thomas of his poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion, and the sad news of the death of four miners in Gleision colliery near Pontardawe not far from Thomas’ own home town of Swansea makes this a fitting time to post it as a mark of respect to the four men and their grieving families.

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Light breaks where no sun shines

Posted in Poetry with tags , on July 31, 2011 by telescoper

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.

A candle in the thighs
Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age;
Where no seed stirs,
The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars,
Bright as a fig;
Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.

Dawn breaks behind the eyes;
From poles of skull and toe the windy blood
Slides like a sea;
Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky
Spout to the rod
Divining in a smile the oil of tears.

Night in the socket rounds,
Like some pitch moon, the limits of the globes;
Day lights the bone;
Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin
The winter’s robes;
The film of spring is hanging from the lids.

Light breaks on secret lots,
On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;
When logics die,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye,
And blood jumps in the sun;
Above the waste allotment the dawn halts.

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

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.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Posted in Poetry with tags on July 19, 2011 by telescoper

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

P.S. This has been among my list of poems to post for some time now, and only today I find that cosmic variance have beaten me to it!