Monday, 27 October 2008

Happy birthday to Sylvia and Dylan

If they were still alive today they would be celebrating their birthdays this 27th October 2008. Sylvia Plath, who stuck her head in her gas oven, would have been 76 and editing cookery books. Dylan Thomas, who drank himself into a coma in New York, would have been grand old Sir Dylan, 94, with a seat in the House of Lords and a chit in the Lord's bar. It's lovely to dream.
To celebrate this duo of birthdays Poet-in-Residence looks at one of Dylan Thomas's remarkable poems. The following was written at the ripe young age of 19. It's a poem with more wisdom in it than all the world's holy and unholy books heaped together. Poet-in-Residence considers it to be one of the best poems ever written in the English language.

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 my lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Dylan Thomas (27th October 1914 - 9th November 1953)


  1. thanks for bringing it out again Gwilym yes a great poem

  2. It's a fine birthday poem for it's not only perfectly poetic but it's also so true, true, true. I often think of it when I feel I'm being preached at.

  3. Thank you. I've just reluctantly returned from 10 days in Wales, so Dylan Thomas is just the ticket.

    I think I'll go and dig out the Collected Poems...

  4. Ah Dominic! the Land of Pubs, Poets and Puffins...
    I visit when I can; my favourite places being Angelsey, the Lleyn (Aberdaron/R S Thomas poet)and Pembroke incl. Tenby (pubs) and Skomer (puffins).
    Last year I went to Laugharne, stayed at the Mariners, visited the Boathouse. Also had a few days in Cardiff. Checked out the amazing new opera/concert house, had a nosey in Bryn Terfel's dressing room. The building is 100%Welsh; made of Welsh slate, Welsh stone etc.

  5. I had forgotten all but the first line - such a wonderful poem. I agree with you one of the best in the English Language. My favourite poet, R S Thomas, has that same fantastic command of language. One of my favourites of his is Arrival. Do you know it?
    Both poets speak from the soul.

  6. Thanks! I just read 'Arrival'. And I remembered the start of it immediately.
    But my favourite R S T poems are mainly the farming ones. Prytherch, Iago and stuff like that.
    There's quite a lot of R S T trivia on PiR. If you'd like to try a search via the box left left you might turn up a gem or two...

  7. oops, 'via search box top left' I mean

  8. A fine day dream to picture them both still alive. Thanks for the DT poem, I love to come across his work blindly like that.

  9. Thanks! Dylan's a bit like the proverbial bad penny. Turns up in your pocket just when you thought you'd got rid of it. But, by God, I luv him!


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