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)