Dylan Thomas

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Biography
Born October 27, 1914 in Swansea, Wales, Dylan Thomas is one of the most brilliant and contradictory poets of the twentieth century. Thomas, a notable writer and poet has had anything but a normal writing career.
Thomas is described as an awkward and distant child who shied away from school and his peers to read and write. He took some time off of school at the age of sixteen to pursue a career in journalism. At the age of nineteen his notebooks, which contained his poetry, were published in local papers.
His work found immediate success when he decided to pursue writing full time. He was admired by many because he didn’t write about intellectual and social issues like other prominent writers of his time but rather resembled the works of the Romantics.

His writing sounded alive but constantly alluding to death. It was with his most famous work, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” that brought him the international attention he felt he deserved and the 1934 Poet’s Corner Prize. He soon became an icon for modern poetry popularizing it to those who didn’t find it interesting before. He travelled to cities and college towns on reading tours, making it known to the younger generations.
His high-browed and intellectual writing published in The Criterion Magazine gained him recognition in the distinguished and elite writers circle. His content and ‘rock star’ demour made him popular in the pop culture scene, putting him on the album cover of the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Favored by both T.S Eliot and John Lennon, Thomas bridged the gap between modernism and pop; between written and spoken word.

In 1934, at the peak of his career, he moved to London to publish his book 18 Poems. Here he met his wife Cailin Macnamara. Cailin was a strong-willed dancer who realized his genius but soon grew tired of constantly being in his shadow. Thomas, started writing to reconcile his conflicting personalities and the trials and tribulations of their marriage; this started the final phase of his writing career. Cailin did not approve of Thomas’ frivolous lifestyle. He was always drinking out and reading his work. She grew jealous and tired of sacrificing resources for their children so Thomas can travel and drink.

Despite his massive success, he and his family were still living in poverty. The stress of supporting more than himself and the lack of income turned Thomas into a heavy drinker, and it was shown through the deteriorating quality of his work. His writing took a hit, and he soon had to resort to relying on readings and tours as a source of income. Despite his famous work he lived in poverty with his wife Cailin Macnamara and their two sons and daughter.

He was exempt from fighting in WWII because of a lung issue and instead took a job at the BBC as a film script writer on the war. He was last seen at the City College of New York in 1953 where he died a few days later due to pneumonia, swelling of the brain and a failing liver. Dylan Thomas will forever be remembered as the rock star poet who had the charm of both a man and a boy.

Works Cited:

“Dylan Thomas.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 17 Aug. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017. <https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/dylan-thomas>.

Biography.com Editors. “Dylan Thomas Biography.com.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 May 2017. <http://www.biography.com/people/dylan-thomas-9505719>.

Lycett, Andrew. Dylan Thomas: A New Life. New York: The Overlook Press, 2014. Print.

Poetry:

Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night (1947)
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Interpretation:
The poem was originally written for his father whose health was in bad condition. The focus of this poem is to point out the inevitable fate that we will all die, but also to counteract this fate and “fight” against death. This fight that Thomas suggests is clear when he states, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. At the moments before one dies, there is often the phenomena referred to as “the light”. In this section of the poem Thomas is encouraging his dying father to fight against the urge to follow “the light”. In the first and second stanza, Thomas suggests that those who are near death must fight to stay alive. By the end of the poem, however, we realize as the audience why this “fight” is so important to Thomas.

In the first stanza, the author is encouraging those to fight against death. Perhaps the most important aspect of the poem is the metaphor of death and night. During the night a darkness falls over the world, thus making “night” a great metaphor to allude to death. At the end of our time on earth, generally marked by old age, there is less resistance to fight the inevitable fate of death. Thomas, however, is encouraging those of older age to continue the fight to stay alive. Rather than leave this world peaceful, he suggests those people to “burn and rave” and “rage” against that fate.

In the second to last stanza Thomas begins to describe the process of one surrendering to the light that takes one to their death. The light, that ultimately signifies death, may burn so brightly it hurts and may seem like a happy place, but he encourages those to continue to fight and “rage” against the light.

The last stanza of the poem is where the poem takes another dramatic shift. The poem has transitioned from a general poem signifying the fight to stay alive, to a personal poem about Thomas’ father. He states, “And you, my father” signifying to the audience that this poem was intended for his father. As a audience, the poem instantly becomes more meaningful, as it was a personal testament of Thomas’ inability to accept his father’s upcoming death sentence.

__https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2cgcx-GJTQ__ – Video recording of Dylan Thomas reading poem

__https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIfK809B0Qs__ – Sir Anthony Hopkins very dramatic reading of poem

A Death Shall Have No Dominion (1933)
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man 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.

Interpretation:
Thomas had a fascination with the cosmos, which is emulated in this poem. The focus of this poem is to remind people of life beyond death, for “death shall have no dominion”. Essentially, while death has the power to end one’s physical time here on Earth, death does not have the power to end your spirit. One’s soul and spirit forever lives in the cosmos, the stars, and/or the ocean. He suggests life in the cosmos when he states, “With the man in the wind and the west moon;”. In the final lines of the first stanza Thomas’ emphasizes the concept of unity and sameness. He states that, “bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone”, referring to the bad things one has done that they carry through their bones. Thomas suggests, however, that everyone is rid of this the fact. Everyone becomes unified in the cosmos. For example, he suggests that lovers may be lost, but there is still love. The pain and suffering that comes with lovers lost is diminished by the abundance of love felt in the presence of the cosmos. Thomas utilizes the power of repetition of “death shall have no dominion” to enforce this idea throughout the poem. For a reader who has a hard time, or fears, death this poem can serve as comfort. Through the power of his eloquent lines, and repetition of the concept, Thomas is able to ease the worried soul.

__https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQiZof204yI__ – Recording of Dylan Thomas reading poem

The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

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.

Interpretation:
The poem draws connection between both man and nature and the effect time has on both of their existences. The poem uses vivid and emotionally raw descriptions to emphasize how time deteriorates our lives. The green fuse discussed in the first stanza is the stem of a flower. Thomas is using this to illustrate the powerful force of its growth. He does this again with the roots of a tree describing powerful, forceful growth. In the same sense he personifies the roots and the “green age” connecting it to human life and youth. He connects the expedited growth of nature to the life of a human by asking if he dumb to parallel the same destiny of intense, forceful growth in nature to his own youth. He continues on this mindset as he continues to personify various parts of nature as forces of nature that have strong and rapid effects and parallels with time’s effect on the human life. For example, in stanza two he personifies the forces that will eventually dry up rivers as a parallel to the same force that will dry up his blood stream. Through stanza three he focuses on time and how it rushes him forcefully has her personifies the wind and how its power moves along his sail. Each stanza parallels the timeline of the effects of time on a life. This progression continues with the final stages of life in the final stanza. In the final stanza he connects the forces of nature in the stars and connects it to heaven. At this point the green age of youth is long gone and what remains is the final stage of life as time has pushed us forward. He closes with a scene of a lover’s tomb and nature comes full circle as a worm eats at the sheets of the deceased who was once youthful. We are all vulnerable to time just as various aspects of nature are vulnerable to the “forces” within.

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.
All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.
And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.
And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden,
Follow him out of grace,
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Interpretation:
This poem is about reflection of the preciousness of youth and how the value in being young is only realized once we no longer have it. The setting of the poem is the foundation of Thomas’s message. It all takes place on Fern Hill. Within each stanza Thomas recounts times in his life when he was in his youth in this particular spot and the joy and pleasure he felt. From the first stanza he is youthful and innocent enjoying the fruits of the hill. As the poem develops so does he as a person, each time exploring and enjoying the hill in different ways but always happy. The mood of the poem is cheery and uplifting as he recounts his youth on the hill and all of the wonderful times he has had in this spot throughout his life. He focuses on the careless feelings he had and the lack of worry in his life as he frolicked and truly lived his life. Finally, the poem’s tone completely shifts as he expresses that the entirety of this poem was a self reflection of a time in his life that has since passed. He is no longer youthful and with the loss of his youth came the loss of his worry free days. In regret he closes by explaining how he is trapped in his aging longs for days that he can no longer return to and how he never truly appreciated them until they had passed.

Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbkdGLT8qvE