Saturday, November 7, 2015



THE FORCE THAT THROUGH THE GREEN FUSE


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.

~ Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, South Wales. His father was an English Literature professor at the local grammar school and would often recite Shakespeare to Thomas before he could read. He loved the sounds of nursery rhymes, foreshadowing his love for the rhythmic ballads of Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. B. Yeats, and Edgar Allan Poe. Although both of his parents spoke fluent Welsh, Thomas and his older sister never learned the language, and Thomas wrote exclusively in English.
Thomas was a neurotic, sickly child who shied away from school and preferred reading on his own. He read all of D. H. Lawrence‘s poetry, impressed by vivid descriptions of the natural world. Fascinated by language, he excelled in English and reading but neglected other subjects. He dropped out of school at sixteen to become a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post.
By December of 1932, he left his job at the Post and decided to concentrate on his poetry full-time. It was during this time, in his late teens, that Thomas wrote more than half of his collected poems.
In 1934, when Thomas was twenty, he moved to London, won the Poet’s Corner book prize, and published his first book, 18 Poems (The Fortune press), to great acclaim. The book drew from a collection of poetry notebooks that Thomas had written years earlier, as would many of his most popular books. During this period of success, Thomas also began a habit of alcohol abuse.
Unlike his contemporaries, T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, Thomas was not concerned with exhibiting themes of social and intellectual issues, and his writing, with its intense lyricism and highly charged emotion, has more in common with the Romantic tradition.
Thomas describes his technique in a letter: “I make one image—though ‘make’ is not the right word; I let, perhaps, an image be ‘made’ emotionally in me and then apply to it what intellectual & critical forces I possess—let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make, of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict.”
Two years after the publication of 18 Poems, Thomas met the dancer Caitlin Macnamara at a pub in London. At the time, she was the mistress of painter Augustus John. Macnamara and Thomas engaged in an affair and married in 1937. Despite the passionate love letters Thomas would write to her, the marriage was turbulent, with rumors of both having multiple affairs.
About Thomas’s work, Michael Schmidt writes: “There is a kind of authority to the word magic of the early poems; in the famous and popular later poems, the magic is all show. If they have a secret it is the one we all share, partly erotic, partly elegiac. The later poems arise out of personality.”
In 1940, Thomas and his wife moved to London. He had served as an anti-aircraft gunner but was rejected for more active combat due to illness. To avoid the air raids, the couple left London in 1944. They eventually settled at Laugharne, in the Boat House where Thomas would write many of his later poems.
Thomas recorded radio shows and worked as a scriptwriter for the BBC. Between 1945 and 1949, he wrote, narrated, or assisted with over a hundred radio broadcasts. In one show, “Quite Early One Morning," he experimented with the characters and ideas that would later appear in his poetic radio play Under Milk Wood (1953).
In 1947 Thomas was awarded a Traveling Scholarship from the Society of Authors. He took his family to Italy, and while in Florence, he wrote In Country Sleep, And Other Poems (Dent, 1952), which includes his most famous poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” 
When they returned to Oxfordshire, Thomas began work on three film scripts for Gainsborough Films. The company soon went bankrupt, but Thomas’s scripts, “Me and My Bike," “Rebecca’s Daughters," and “The Beach at Falesa," were made into films. They were later collected in Dylan Thomas: The Filmscripts (JM Dent & Sons, 1995).
In January 1950, at the age of thirty-five, Thomas visited America for the first time. His reading tours of the United States, which did much to popularize the poetry reading as a new medium for the art, are famous and notorious. Thomas was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination — he was flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling and a singing Welsh lilt.
Thomas toured America four times, with his last public engagement taking place at the City College of New York. A few days later, he collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel after a long drinking bout at the White Horse Tavern. On November 9, 1953, he died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at the age of thirty-nine. He had become a legendary figure, both for his work and the boisterousness of his life. He was buried in Laugharne, and almost thirty years later, a plaque to Dylan was unveiled in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.

8 comments:

  1. Dylan Thomas, always a favorite... this particular reading.

    Thanks for posting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a life, and what a great topic. Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, sir. I have found the more involved I become with material of this quality, the more it means to me, and the more I want to learn about how it is put together from a technical standpoint, and what may or may not have motivated the author to compose it. The more I learn the more I want to know, and the harder I try to unlock whatever "secrets" may be embedded the more I grow to love the material.

      What frankly started out as a lark sixty-odd years ago, ultimately developed into a passionate preoccupation, and finally a life-sustaining avocation.

      Delete
  3. Not a Dylan Thomas fan, sorry.

    As for going "gently into that good night," it sounds like something to aspire to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too bad, but that is your right and privilege.

      We all have our limitations.

      Delete
  4. Remember the procession of the old-young men
    From dole queue to corner and back again,
    From the pinched, packed streets to the peak of slag
    In the bite of the winters with shovel and bag,
    With a drooping fag and a turned up collar,
    Stamping for the cold at the ill lit corner
    Dragging through the squalor with their hearts like lead
    Staring at the hunger and the shut pit-head
    Nothing in their pockets, nothing home to eat,
    Lagging from the slag heap to the pinched, packed street.
    Remember the procession of the old-young men.
    It shall never happen again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This poem was left unfinished at Dylan Thomas' death. The first seventeen lines were untouched, but the rest was reconstructed and edited from Thomas' manuscript by his friend Vernon Watkins, who did, I must say, a magnificent job of completing it.

    Elegy on the Death of His Father

    Too proud to die; broken and blind he died
    The darkest way, and did not turn away,
    A cold kind man brave in his narrow pride

    On that darkest day, Oh, forever may
    He lie lightly, at last, on the last, crossed
    Hill, under the grass, in love, and there grow

    Young among the long flocks, and never lie lost
    Or still all the numberless days of his death, though
    Above all he longed for his mother's breast

    Which was rest and dust, and in the kind ground
    The darkest justice of death, blind and unblessed.
    Let him find no rest but be fathered and found,

    I prayed in the crouching room, by his blind bed,
    In the muted house, one minute before
    Noon, and night, and light. The rivers of the dead

    Veined his poor hand I held, and I saw
    Through his unseeing eyes to the roots of the sea.
    (An old tormented man three-quarters blind).

    I am not too proud to cry that He and he
    Will never never go out of my mind.
    All his bones crying, and poor in all but pain,

    Being innocent, he dreaded that he died
    Hating his God, but what he was was plain:
    An old kind man brave in his burning pride.

    The sticks of the house were his; his books he owned.
    Even as a baby he had never cried;
    Nor did he now, save to his secret wound.

    Out of his eyes I saw the last light glide.
    Here among the light of the lording sky
    An old man is with me where I go

    Walking in the meadows of his son's eye
    On whom a world of ills came down like snow.
    He cried as he died, fearing at last the spheres'

    Last sound, the world going out without a breath:
    Too proud to cry, too frail to check the tears,
    And caught between two nights, blindness and death.

    O deepest wound of all that he should die
    On that darkest day. oh, he could hide
    The tears out of his eyes, too proud to cry.

    Until I die he will not leave my side ...


    ~ Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

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  6. 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 that 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.


    ~ Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

    Please go back now, read it again and notice the tightly woven, highly restrictive nature of the form in which it is written. What may seem at first like a spontaneous outburst of raw emotion is in truth a disciplined, beautifully crafted work of poetic art. Yet, despite the strict schematic dictates it adheres to, it manages to SING. This is a mark of true genius.

    What Thomas has given us here is a VILLANELLE. "And what might that be?" you ask? Here is the demanding schemata which the poet followed to perfection.


    VILLANELLE - The villanelle contains 19 lines, 5 stanzas of three lines each and 1 stanza of four lines with two rhymes and two refrains. The 1st, then the 3rd lines alternate as the last lines of stanzas 2,3,and 4, and then stanza 5 (the end) as a couplet. It is usually written in tetrameter (4 feet) or pentameter. The structure is as follows
    :
    line 1 - a - 1st refrain
    
line 2 - b
    
line 3 - a - 2nd refrain

    line 4 - a
    
line 5 - b
    
line 6 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)

    line 7 - a
    
line 8 - b
    
line 9 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

    line 10 - a
    
line 11 - b
    
line 12 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)

    line 13 - a
    
line 14 - b
    
line 15 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

    line 16 - a

    line 17 - b
    
line 18 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)
    
line 19 - a - 2nd refrain

    Incredible that so much artful calculation could go into a work so powerfully expressive, but that strict discipline is applied to virtually all works of musical and poetic art. The test of greatness is to write so well that all the formal underpinnings and pure craft disappear in subservience to the beauty and power of the affect, meaning and possible social significance.

    ReplyDelete

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