Sound and meaning in Dylan Thomas’s poetry by Murdy, Thelma Louise Baughan

Sound and meaning in Dylan Thomas’s poetry by Murdy, Thelma Louise Baughan

SOUND AND MEANING 
IN DYLAN THOMAS'S POETRY 
THELMA LOUISE BAUGHAN MURDY 
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF 
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 
IN PARTUL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE 
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY 
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 
June, 1962 
» 
Copyright by 
THELMA. LOUISE BAUGH/IN MJRDY 
1962 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
I wish to express my appreciation to the members of the 
supervisory committee, v^o read the manuscript and made valuable 
suggestions: Dr. Stephen F. Fogle, Dr. John T. Fain, Dr. T. Walter 
Herbert, and Dr. John R. Spencer. I am deeply indebted to Dr. 
Ants Oras for the combination of kindness and criticism which make 
for an outstanding research director. 
}ty other sources of assistance and encouragement were numer- 
ous and varied. I am grateful indeed to the Southern Fellowships 
Fund, for without its support I could not have undertaken the 
research project. Professor John Malcolm Brinnin, Professor Gene 
Baro, Professor Daniel G. Hoffman, Mr. Lloyd Frankenberg, Dr. Arthur 
L. Klein, Professor W. T. Weathers, Professor Clifton C. Hill, and 
Mr. James E. Hansen, among others, contributed important information 
to the study. The staff of the University of Florida Library— 
particularly those connected with the Interlibrary Loan Department — 
helped make possible the annotated bibliography. 
I am above all appreciative of lay husband's understanding, 
encouragement — and patience. 
ill 
TO MAMA. AND DADEC 
TABLE OF COLITENTS 
Page 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii 
LIST OF APPENDICES vi 
INTRODUCTION 1 
CHAPTER I 17 
CHAPTER II _ 49 
CHAPTER III 100 
CONCLUSION 126 
A THOMAS DISCOGRAPHI 170 
Record Readings by Dylan Thomas 170 
Recordings of Thomas's Work read by Others 173 
BIBLIOGRAPIII 177 
Primary Sources: Works by Dylan Thomas 177 
Secondary Sources: 
Books and Monographs 178 
Articles, Reviews, and Memoirs 185 
Special Issues and Groups of Articles 
on Dylan Thomas 203 
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 206 
LIST OF APPENDICES 
Appendix Page 
I Examination of the Problem of Pitch Analysis 132 
II Graphs of Striking Power, Tone, and Pitch, in 
"Death shall have no dominion," 
"In my Craft or Sullen Art," and 
"Do not go gentle into that good night" 138 
III Alphabetized Index of Dylan Thomas's 
Collected Poems 1934-1952 155 
IV Thomas's Reading and Recording Itinerary in America . . 159 
INTRODUCTION 
Over the years, criticism of Dylan Thomas' s poetry has generally 
emphasized either its sound or its meaning. On the one hand, critics 
■who disparage TlLomas contend that soiind dominates his poetry almost to 
the exclusion of any precise meaning. John Wain, for example, comments 
that a set of meanings can be extracted from Thomas' s poems but that it 
is doubtful whether or not Thomas really cared much about any precise 
meaning as long as the sound of the poem satisfied him. Even more 
vitriolic in his condemnation of Thomas's poetry is Robert Graves, 
who writes: 
Dylan Thomas was drunk with melody, and v*iat the words 
were he cared not. He was eloquent, and what cause he was 
pleading, he cared not. ... He kept musical control of the 
reader without troubling about the sense. ^ 
On the other hand, critics like Elder Olson and Derek Stanford, vdio 
admire and defend Thomas, attempt expositions of the meaning of his 
poems. Few studies other than the excellent articles by William T. 
Moynihan try to relate the sound and meaning in Thomas's poetry. The 
purpose of this study is to submit analyses of certain aspects of the 
sound pattern in twenty-eight selected and representative examples of 
See "Dylan Thomas: A Review of his Collected Poems ," in 
Preliminary Essays (New York, IS 57), p. 182. 
The Crowning Privilege: Collected Essays on Poetry (New York, 
1956), pp. 158-1 3S. ~ ' ~ 
Dylan Thomas' s poetry and to relate these aspects of sound to the mean- 
ing of his poetry. It is important to emphasize, however, that the 
study does not pretend to be absolutely conclusive. 
All poetry involves auditory discriminations. Whether or not 
sound is emphasized in a particular poem, still it is an integral part 
of the poem. To understand both the sound and the meaning of a poem, 
Thomas felt, it should be read silently under conditions that allow 
the full concentrated time for study and assessment and, viienever 
possible, be read orally (or at least be read silently as if one were 
hearing it). Silent reading is private reading, and oral reading is 
often public reading. In this connection, Thomas said that the printed 
page is the place in ^ich to examine the works of a poem, the plat- 
form the place in which to give the poem the works. Upon other occa- 
sions Thomas more seriously expressed his belief in the importance of 
oral reading of poetry. In a B.B.C. broadcast of 1946, he defined 
poetry as \ 
memorable words- in- cadence which move and excite me emotion- 
ally. And, once you've got the hang of it, it should always 
be better when read aloud than vdien read silently with the 
eyes. Always."^ 
Six years later, in a conference held by Thomas with students at the 
University of Utah, he commented upon the value of oral reading in 
See "Dylan Thomas on Reading his Poetry: introduction to a 
poetry reading," Mademoiselle , XLII (July, 1S56) , 37. 
" ^dem . 
^Dylan Thomas, James Stephens, and Gerald Bullett, "On poetry: 
A Discussion," Encounter, III (November, 1S54), 23. 
helping the listener to interpret the meaning of the poem. As Thomas 
further said, oral reading of poetry brings the listener closer to the 
poet. It follows, then, that a poet's reading of his own poems usu- 
ally brings one closest to the poet and to his intended emphases and 
meanings of the poems. 
As an oral reader of poetry — his own and that of others — Thomas 
was superb. In his reading as well as in his writing of poetry, Thomas 
concealed his craft in his art. Although he had an acute sense of 
timing, volume, expression, and incantatory gestures, to the listener 
his performances seemed sheer spontaneous melody. To an unusually 
high degree he was able to communicate a poem' s emotion and meaning to 
an audience. But these talents carried an inherent weakness (which he 
recognized): he was unable to read well poetry that is restrained and 
intellectual. Most of the time, however, Thomas was free to choose 
the selections he read, and he chose to read only the poets he liked. 
"And when I read aloud the poems of modern poets I like very much," 
he said, "I try to make them alive from inside. I try to get across 
what I feel, however wrongly, to be the original impetus of the poem. 
I am a practicing interpreter, however much of a flannel- tongue d 
one-night- stander." Although Thomas asserted that he disliked read- 
ing his own poems in public, his readings of them were even more an 
interpretation and re-creation than were his readings of other poets' 
works. Perhaps Thomas's hesitancy to read his own poems stemmed from 
"Eylan Thomas on Reading his Poetry: introduction to a poetry 
reading," 37. 
his realization of the dangers of a poet's reading his own works. '''^ 
In introducing a reading of his own poems he once explained: 
[But the danger] for vdiat a reader-aloud of his own 
poems so often does, is to mawken or raelodramatise them, 
making a single, simple phrase break with the fears or 
throb with the terrors from which he deludes himself the 
phrase has been born. 
There is the other reader, of course, idio manages, by- 
studious flatness, semidetachment, and an almost condescend- 
ing under saying of his poems, to give the impression that 
■vdiat he really means is: Great things, but my own.^ 
Thomias further remarked that the suspected weaknesses of a poem are 
often confirmed when the author reads his work. Despite his concern 
for the problems involved, Thomas did read well many of his own poems. 
As John Lehraann said, with Thomas "more than with any other poet of 
our time, the voice heightened and illuminated the power of the word."" 
But not only does oral reading contribute to the understand- 
ing and appreciation of poetry, it can also contribute to the actual 
7 
Thomas was certainly sensitive in his criticism of other people 
reading his poetry. Once >dien a verse- speaking choir recited "And death 
shall have no dominion" to him over the telephone, he described the 
reading to Vernon Watkins as "Picked voices picking the rhythm to bits, 
chosen elocutionists choosing their own meanings, ten virgins weeping 
slowly over a quick line, matrons mooing the refrain, a conductor with 
all his vowels planed to the last e." Letters to Vernon Watkins (New 
York, 1957), p. 50. (Hereafter this volume will be abbreviated to LVW.) 
p 
Quite Early One Zfcrnin^ (Norfolk, Conn., 1954), p. 167. 
g 
In E. W. Tedlock, I>ylan Thomas: The Legend and t he Poet 
(London, I960), p. 47. 
Thomas is one of the few modern poets to have become known 
first through his recordings and only later through his printed poems. 
Americans first acclaimed Thomas as a result of his recordings with 
Caedmon Publishers. In fact, the struggling new Caedmon compare became 
successful largely as a result of the popularity of Thomas's readings. 
By 1962 the U. S. public had bought 400,000 copies of various record- 
ings of I>ylan Thomas reading Dylan Thomas. 
creation of poetry. As he composed, Thomas read his poetry aloud to 
himself, criticized it, and altered it. Although he has been attacked 
for "an unbalanced delight in the mere sound of words," he denied 
being more interested in sound than in meaning. Thomas did not alter 
portions of a poem purely for the sake of the soimd; his best poetry 
reveals more than a mere "lovely gift of the gab." Indeed he once 
accused Vernon Watkins of making his criticisms on the basis of sound 
rather than of meaning. 
I think you are liable, in your criticism of me, to under- 
rate the value — or, rather, the integrity, the wioleness — 
of wiat I am saying or trying to make clear that I am say- 
ing, and often to suggest alterations or amendments for 
purely musical motive s.-'- 
And any careful study of the many drafts of Thomas's poems reveals 
his keen self-criticism which did not allow sound to dictate meaning. 
Although Thomas is not (like T. S. Eliot, for example) an intellectual 
poet, his poetry does have meaning. Especially in his later poetry, 
the meaning is more mood or emotion than thoxight . Within this frame- 
work, Thomas attempts to balance sound and meaning. For the ideal 
relationship between sound and meaning in poetry of the highest excel- 
lence follows Pope's famous dictum that "The sound must seem an Echo 
to the sense." In such great poetry — among v^iich Thomas's best de- 
serves place — sound is a medium of meaning. 
l^Geoffrey Bullough, The Trend of Modern Poetry (London, 1S49), 
pp. 219-220. 
■"^See Babette Deutsch, Poetry in Our Time (New York, 1956), 
p. 331. 
••-^W, p. 66. 
In order to show in greater detail the nature of Thomas' s 
craftsmanship, it is necessary to discuss Thomas' s approach to poetic 
con5)osition. His method might well be described generally as "pyro- 
technical fragmentation." He began composing most poems merely with 
a single phrase or line, usually words with a purely emotional premise. 
(A clear illustration is the line "I advance for as long as forever is," 
"vmich was the stimulus for the poem "Twenty-four years.") If the phrase 
were resonant and pregnant, it suggested another phrase, which rein- 
forced and elaborated (primarily by means of images) the original 
emotional premise. In this manner, the poem would develop. The whole 
process was rather like an explosion of fireworks— the kind that, after 
the original explosion, expands into elaborate patterns. 
The analogy should not be carried further. Thomas was a slow, 
patient craftsman, who tested each phrase over and over, both silently 
and orally. As Vernon Watkins attests 
He used separate work-sheets for individual lines, sometimes 
a page or two being devoted to a single line, while the poem 
was gradually built up, phrase by phrase. He usually had before- 
hand an exact conception of the poem' s length, and he would 
decide how many lines to allot to each part of its development. 
In spite of the care and power and symmetry of its construction, 
he recognized at all times that it was for the sake of divine 
accidents that a poem existed at all.-^^ 
Because in his working methods Thomas re-copied the entire poem whenever 
he made any revision or addition (no matter how minor or major), his 
manuscripts are surprisingly numerous for a single poem. That his 
^^VW, p. 17. 
method of composition became slower with his later poems-^ helps ex- 
plain why his poetic production declined steadily during his career. 
An example is the late poem "Fern Hill," which developed from "more 
than two hundred separate and distinct versions of the poem."-*- 
At all times Thomas had the need to feel the effectiveness of 
-I c^ 
his poetry. He wanted a poem "to do more than just to have the ap- 
17 
pearance of 'having been created'" j-^' he wanted it to be a "fresh 
imagining. "-^° He strived to achieve "the strong, inevitable pulling 
that makes a poem an event, a happening, an action perhaps, not a 
still-life or experience put down, placed, regulated."-'-^ And in his 
best poems Thomas does express incontrovertible, living truths.. 
Because this study concerns the sovmd of poetry, because 
Thomas himself stressed the importance of oral reading of poetry, and 
because an author's own reading of his poetry illuminates its meaning, 
the poems under discussion are limited to the twenty-eight poems 
■^'^Idem. 
-'-John Malcolm Brinnin, Dylan Thomas in America (New York, 
1958), p. 125. 
-^"Several examples can readily be cited from Thomas's letters 
to Vernon Watkins. In connection with Watkins's criticism of a line 
in "Twenty- four years," Thomas said: "And soriy about that bracketed 
line in the birthday poem, but, until I can think of something else 
or feel, it will have to stay." ( LW , p. 49.) In a similar instance 
concerning "Once it was the colour of saying," Thomas explained: 
"I see your argument about the error of shape, but the form was con- 
sistently emotional and I can't change it without a change of heart." 
(LVW, p. 54.) 
l^LW, p. 38. 
l ^Ibid ., p. 39. 
l^Ibid., p. 38. 
recorded by Thomas and available on commercial records or on the 
University of Florida tape. These twenty-eight poems constitute 
almost one-third of Thomas's ninety-one Collected Poems . 
Thomas' s poetic productivity was not equal throughout his 
career. The number of years which each poetic period covers is roughly 
the same: the first period covers five years, the second period six 
years, and the third period seven years. But of the poems later pub- 
lished in Collected Poems , Thomas wrote seven times as many in the 
first poetic period as he wrote in the third poetic period. More spe- 
cifically, in his early poetic period (1935-1938), he published fifty- 
four of the poems in Collected Poems ; in his middle poetic period 
(1939-1945), he published twenty-nine of these poemsj and in his late 
poetic period (1946-1953), he published only eight of these poems. 
Since Thomas was somewhat hesitant about reading his own poetry in 
public and since he chose with particular care those selections he 
did read, it is not surprising that a higher percentage of the poems 
he wrote in his middle and later poetic periods are recorded by him 
than poems he wrote in his early poetic period. Quite naturally, he 
read those works he judged his best. The poems \inder consideration in 
this study represent about one-fifth of the poems in Collected Poems 
wiich Thomas wrote in his early period, about two-fifths of those he 
wrote in his middle period, and three-fourths of those he wrote in his 
late period. 
Each of the three periods of Thomas's poetry shall be described 
in greater detail in the chapter devoted to the poems of that period. 
It is necessary here to say only that these categories, although valid 
as outlines to the development of sound and meaning in Thomas's poetry, 
are not designed as watertight compartments. The characteristics of 
adjacent periods necessarily overlap. Yet their general validity was 
20 
recognized by Thomas himself, as recorded by William York Tindall. 
The three chapters consider, respectively, Thomas's three 
poetic periods. The twenty-eight poems under examination are arranged 
chronologically by date of revision (-where applicable) or by date of 
21 
composition. The ten poems discussed in the first chapter are: 
I - "From love's first fever to her plague" 
II - "Light breaks wiere no sun shines" 
III - "If I were tickled by the rub of love" 
""IV - "Especially when the October wind"- 
V - "The hand that signed the paper" 
VI - "Should lanterns shine" 
VII - "And death shall have no dominion" 
VIII - "It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell" 
-IX - "After the Funeral" 
X - "When all ny five and country senses see" 
In the second chapter the twelve poems discussed are: 
XI - "'If n^r head hurt a hair's foot'" 
XII - "Once below a time" 
XHI - "There was a Saviour" 
XIV - "On the Marriage of a Virgin" 
XV - "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" 
XVI - "The Hunchback in the Park" 
XVH - "Ceremony After a Fire Raid" 
^^See "Burning and Crested Song," American Scholar , XXII 
(Autumn, 1953), 488-489. 
^he chronology follows the listing by Ralph N. Maud in 
"Dylan Thomas' Collected Poems ; Chronology of Composition," PMLA , 
LXXVI (June, 1961), 2S2-297. 
10 
-XVIII - "Poem in October" 
'XIX - "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, 
of a Child in London" 
-XX - "A Winter's Tale" 
XXI - "Fern Hill" 
XXII - "In my Craft or Sullen Art" 
The six poems discussed in the third chapter are: 
XXni - "In Country Sleep" 
XXIV - "Over Sir John' s hill" 
XXV - "In the ;*ite giant's thigh" 
XXVI - "Do not go gentle into that good night" 
-XXVn - "Lament" 
-XXVUI - "Poem on his Birthday" 
The poems in the first chapter are representative of Thomas's first 
poetic period, those in the second chapter, of his second period, and 
those in the third chapter, of his third period, ^^ The three periods 
show Thomas's evolution as a poet. 
Various methods of analyzing sound are possible. It was an 
original purpose of this study to analyze the twenty-eight poems in 
respect to three physical elements of sound: striking power, tone, 
and pitch. 
The striking power (the relative intensity or dynamic power) is 
the capacity of syllables or words to command auditory attention. Like 
the analyses of tone and pitch, it was calculated for each syllable of 
each poem. The procedure for striking power followed — with some in- 
evitable modifications for British English — the acoustic table of 
op 
Appendix III is an alphabetized index of Dylan Thomas's 
Collected Poems 1954-1952 which will facilitate the reader in finding 
a poem in either the Dent or the New Directions editions. It would 
be advantageous for the reader of the commentaries to refer to each 
poem as it is discussed. 
11 
striking power established by the research of Ernest Robson.^^ His 
table is based upon the striking powers of the individual sounds of 
speech, which were evaluated in syllables v*ose tone levels and time 
durations were constant. The table presents the striking power num- 
bers in numerical positions relative to the weakest sound (th), which 
is assigned the nianber 1. Thus the striking power numbers of the 
stronger sounds are solely indications of their striking power rela- 
tive to th. Each articulated vowel or consonant contributes its own 
striking power to the syllable which contains it. Naturally, the 
greater the number or density of consonants in a syllable, the greater 
its striking power. ^'^ The references in the following chapters to 
words of high striking power are to those whose striking power number 
is 40 or over. 
The tone is the innate "musical" notation of the vowel sounds, 
based upon the positions of the mouth in articulating the particular 
vowel. For Thomas's pronujiciation, the vowel scale listed below was 
used. The classification is not a strictly scientific one, but does 
arrange the vowels in a continuum (from 13 to l) , beginning with those 
pronounced high and toward the front of the mouth, progressing through 
those pronounced low to those pronounced high and toward the back of the 
mouth. In the case of vowels with a muffled quality (s, a, 3*, and ^)^^ 
'See rne Orchestra of the Language (New York, 1959), p. 156 
23 
[Table 4]. 
The account of Robson' s method of assessing striking power 
derives from the explanations in The Orchestra of the Language 
pp. 43-44. &— S_» 
25 
For the index to these phonetic symbols, see p. 14. 
12 
and of diphthongs, their arrangement depends upon the impression they 
produce on the hearer. The total effect, then, is an arrangement in 
relative order from clear, thin, bright vowels to darker, richer, more 
resonant vowels. For present purposes, it is useful to group together 
certain vowels ^ich are simlar in the impression they produce on the 
hearer. It must be pointed out, however, that technically the sounds 
are different. 
13 
i, I ,13 
12 
e 
11 
9e 
10 
ar 
g 
a 
8 
a, A , »- 
7 
or 
6 
au 
5 
ru 
4 
u 
3 
o 
2 
1 
The pitch, or relative "musical" notation of the individual 
speaker's syllables, was estimated by concentrated and repeated lis- 
tenings to each syllable of the recordings of the twenty-eight poems. 
Appendix I explains the problems—unsurmountable , in this case— in- 
volved in obtaining a more scientific analysis of the pitch patterns. 
Patterns of striking power, tone, and pitch were graphed for 
the syllables of each of the twenty-eight poems. Contrary to expec- 
tation, no distinct and significant correlation between the patterns 
26 
For the index to these phonetic symbols, see p. 14. 
13 
characterized the three poetic periods of Thomas's poetry. These sound 
patterns reflected the meaning only in a few instances, vrtiich vdll be 
pointed out in the pertinent commentaries. Because the results of the 
investigation proved mostly negative, graphs of only one poem from each 
poetic period will be reproduced (in Appendix II) in illustration of 
the method of analysis attempted. It is suggested, however, that 
similar studies be undertaken in connection with other poets. A com- 
parative analysis of the patterns of striking power, tone, and pitch 
in the poetry of contrasted pairs (for example, Thomas and Spender as 
compared with Auden and Eliot) might well illuminate the auditory 
techniques of so-called romantic and so-called intellectual poets. 
The procedure of the present study is to discuss each of the 
representative poems from Thomas's three poetic periods in respect to 
its characteristic and its unusual auditory elements. Each commentary 
takes into consideration two poetic components closely related to sound 
and meaning: 
(1) prosodic structure — syllabic patterns, stress patterns, 
paragraph or stanza formation, line-end word patterns, 
distribution of pauses 
(2) auditory repetitions and links, especially in arrange- 
ments of vowel and consonantal sounds. 
Throughout the study, references to vowel and consonantal 
sounds use the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The 
most frequently used symbols are identified as follows: 
14 
Symbol Pronmiciation Symbol Pronunciation 
Vowels 
i 
bee 
u 
fuTl 
I 
pity 
u 
tooth 
e 
rate 
y 
further 
e 
yet 
3* 
further 
ofe 
sang 
9 
above 
a 
far 
A 
above 
jaw 
o 
go 
Diphthongs 
ai 
Wiile 
01 
toy 
au 
how 
lU 
fuse 
Consonants 
P 
pie 
h 
how 
b 
bee 
ij 
watch 
t 
too 
d 
jaw 
d 
do 
m 
mow 
k 
cut 
n 
now 
g 
go 
P 
sang 
f 
full 
1 
fuTT 
V 
vision 
w 
watch 
& 
tooth 
hw 
wiile 
s 
further 
J 
yet 
s 
sang 
r 
rate 
z 
using 
S 
^ish 
3 
vTsion 
The discussion of prosodic structure and auditory repetitions 
and links reveals some of the changes in Thomas's poetic style. 
Fundamentally, the earlier poetry is staccato in its rhythm and com- 
pressed (sometimes obscxire) in its meaning; the later poetry is 
legato in its rhythm and relatively simple in its meaning. Thomas 
referred to his poetry as "the record of my individual struggle from 
27 
darkness towards some measure of light," and certainly the meaning 
27, 
Quite Early One Morning, p. 188, 
15 
of his poetry does progress from the darkness of self-concern and fear 
to the light of faith and love. (Perhaps Thomas was expressing his 
expanded vision when he wrote — in "Ceremony After a Fire Raid" — that 
"Love is the last light spoken.") This study attempts to point out 
some of the tendencies which contribute to the general contrast 
between the earlier and later poetry — for example, the shift in pho- 
netic atmosphere from a striking use of explosives to a more subtle 
use of continuants, the shift in structure from relatively end- stopped 
units to longer grammatical units, and the shift toward increasingly 
intricate and pervasive designs of auditory repetitions and of syllabic 
and stress patterns. It is further submitted that Thomas's progress 
toward simplicity and lyricism was to some extent a conscious effort. 
Tnrough oral reading of poetry on the radio and in lectures, Thomas 
came to realize that sound should not dominate one's first impression 
of a poem, but that sound and meaning should reinforce each other and 
simultaneously affect the reader. 
It is not to be thought that the study exhausts the possibil- 
ities even of the limited aspects of sound and meaning which are 
explored. A complete study would probably be so complex as to break 
down under its own machinery. Although scientific methods can be 
applied for purposes of analysis, poetry itself is no science. 
Formulas cannot dictate poetry of high excellence. When asked for the 
rules of poetry, Thomas replied that there weren't any, that a poet 
made his own rules, and that the result either was or wasn't poetry. 
^^See Caitlin Thomas, Leftover Life to Kill (New York, 1957), 
p. 69. 
16 
Some of the subtlest and loveliest auditory effects, indeed, escape 
analysis. Though Thomas was a dedicated craftsman, he believed poetry 
to be ultimately a sublime enigma: 
You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it technically 
tick, and say to yourself t^en the works are laid out 
before you, the vowels, the consonants, the rhymes and 
rhythms. Yes, this is it, this is vhj the poem moves me so. 
It is because of the craftsmanship. But you're back again 
vttiere you began. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes 
and gaps in the works of the poems so that something that is 
not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thxinder in.*^^ 
It is the purpose here to contribute to the understanding of the 
craftsmanship and the appreciation of the genius of Thomas's poetry. 
29 
"Dylan Thomas on Reading his Poetry: introduction to a 
poetry reading," 57. 
CHAPTER I 
The following chapter discusses ten of the poems from Thomas's 
most prolific and experimental period, 1933 to 1939: 
I - "From love's first fever to her plague" 
II - "Light breaks where no sun shines" 
rri - "If I were tickled by the rub of love" 
IV - "Especially when the October wind" 
V - "The hand that signed the paper" 
"VI - "Should lanterns shine" 
VII - "And death shall have no dominion" 
Vni - "It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell" 
IX - "After the Funeral" 
X - "When all my five and country senses see" 
The chief quality of these poems — in contrast to Thomas's later poems- 
is their compressed meaning. Thomas himself best explains his method 
of obtaining this impression through the use of conflicting images: 
I let an image be made emotionally in me and then apply 
to it what intellectual and critical force I possess; let 
it breed another; let that image contradict the first; make 
of the third image out of the other two together, a fourth con- 
tradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal 
limits, conflict. . . . The life in any poem of mine cannot 
move concentrically round a central image, the life must come 
out of the centre; an image must be bom and die in another; 
and any sequence of my images must be a sequence of creations, 
recreations, destructions, contradictions.-^ 
Like the images, the themes of the early poems arise from opposites — 
notably, the "womb- tomb" theme, Sound patterns frequently do not | 
correlate with meaning; vnien they do, it is most often in only a 
phrase or line. And the general auditory pattern is of a staccato 
^y 
■"■C. Day-Lewis, The Poetic Image (New York, 1947), p. 122. 
17 
18 
rhythm, enhanced by a predominance of striking explosives, by a tend- 
ency toward metrical regularity, by characteristically end-stopped 
lines, and by obvious rather than subtle auditory repetitions. In 
short, the early poems tend to be compressed and "obscure" in meaning, 
striking but obvious in sound. 
"From love's first fever to her plague" seems, at a first 
glance, as if it might be throughout rather smooth and light in 
rhythm. The syllabic pattern is quite irregular; the lines are long 
but varied (from four to thirteen syllables); the line-end word pat- 
terns reveal no significant assonance or consonance; the paragraph 
formation ranges from three to nine lines in a paragraph. In them- 
selves these characteristics could contribute to a fluid rhythm. 
Other elements, however, combine to make the rhythn predominantly 
slow, if not sometimes heavy. The speech-stress patterns generally 
tend toward the iambic and, in paragraph VI, are almost perfectly 
iambic : 
I learnt the verbs of will, and ''had my secret; 
The 'code of night ''tapped on ray ^tongue; 
What ''had been 'one was Itnany ^sounding "minded. 
The syntactical repetitions (the nvunerous phrases beginning with 
"from" and the phrases "One womb, one mind," "One breast," and "One 
sun, one manna") and the echoes ("Shone in my ears the light of 
y 
^nroughout the study the speech-stress patterns ar« based on 
Thomas's speech stresses in his recorded readings of his poetry. 
19 
soxind, / Called in my eyes the sound of light") are obvious auditory 
links. There is a high frequency of pauses: twenty- two occur witnin 
lines and thirty-eight occur at line ends. Because nearly 80 per 
cent of the lines conclude with the finality of a comma or period, it 
is not surprising that most of the lines end in weighty words, many of 
which are noims. (Indeed, most of these nouns are stressed monosyl- 
lables.) It is interesting to note that every paragraph terminates in 
a period. 
The poem concerns the evolution of a poet from the simplicity 
of innocent childhood to the complexity of bewildered adolescence to 
the simplicity- in- complexity of mature manhood. To a certain extent 
the poem's phonetics shift to reinforce the shift in meaning. That is, 
the opening paragraphs seem smooth and light •vdien compared with the 
slower, heavier, later paragraphs. In the opening paragraphs the 
voiced continuants frequently produce a soft, lingering effectj in the 
later paragraphs the explosives frequently produce a sharp, clipped 
effect. 
The apparent simplicity of infancy is reflected in the pre- 
dominant monosyllables and the simple balance and repetition of the 
lines descriptive of man's earliest years. In "All world was one, one 
windy nothing," alliteration and assonance are obvious in the five w 
"throughout the study the temi "pauses" refers to any punc- 
tuation mark in the poetry which designates an interval of silence. 
Such a cyclical theme is common in Thomas, vdio (like William 
Blake) seems to have believed that without contraries there can be no 
progression. 
20 
sounds, three n sounds, two 1 sounds, and three a sounds. The single- 
ness of a child's vision is emphasized by the repetition of the word 
"one" in his verse as well as in the closing lines of the stanza: 
And earth and sky were as one airy hill, 
The sun and moon shed one white light. 
The simple sound pattern of two internal rhymes within one line ("sun," 
"one" and "white," "light") reinforces the meaning. Part of the melodi- 
ousness of the line results from the almost continuous alternation 
between vowel (or semi-vowel) and consonant in these two lines. The 
exceptions to this alternation are climaxed by the two final stops t 
and the initial labial 1 in the strong, slow phrase "imite light." 
The final lines of stanzas I and II form closely related lines 
placed in inverted order: 
And earth and sky were as one airy hill. 
The sun and moon shed one ^ite light. 
The sun was red, the moon was grey. 
The earth and sky were as two mountains meeting, 
A noteworthy aspect of the soimd structure of these four related lines 
is that, in the speech-stressed syllables, the patterns of the strik- 
ing power and the vowel tone are relatively parallel. Since these 
patterns move in the same direction, they reinforce each other's 
audibility. For "The sun and moon shed one i^diite light" is an emotion- 
ally charged line in which the crescendo builds to two final words of 
high and almost identical power and of identical tone: "white light." 
\/ 
21 
Stanza I, lines 
8 and 9 
Stanza II, lines 
5 and 6 
Striking Power 
Vowel Tone 
In later paragraphs the complexity of adolescent and adult life 
is often echoed in the profusion of explosives, such as in the lines 
"The root of tongues ends in a spent-out _cancer, / That but a name, 
where maggots have their X [cross]." The concept of the slow, painful 
process of reaching maturity is reinforced by the assonantal wail in 
"wise to the crying thigh." The feelings of harshness of life are 
reflected in consecutive stressed monosyllables and the insistent 
alliteration of "Need no word's warmth." 
Other aspects of the poem also reveal the evolution of the 
poet's growth toward consciousness and maturity. Persona references, 
for example, are first to "nry world" in general, later to "my ears," 
"my eyes," and "n^ mother," and then directly to "I." These refer- 
ences show the poet' s progression from the outwardness of childhood to 
the inwardness and self-consciousness of adolescence. When the poet 
is unconcerned with his own identity and considers the universe as 
22 
a single entity ("one windy nothing"), his world is apparently simple; 
when he becomes self-conscious and divorces himself from the universe, 
his world is complex. Yet in the closing lines the mature poet grad- 
ually realizes the wisdom of experience, the simplicity in multiplic- 
ity: "one sun, one manna, warmed and fed." Only when he dissolves 
himself in the eternity of "the hundred seasons" does the poet recon- 
struct and comprehend the true simplicity. 
In general, then, the sound in "From love's first fever to her 
plague" reflects the meaning in that the impression of the opening 
paragraphs is of relative simplicity and the impression of the later 
paragraphs is of relative complexity. In the opening paragraphs con- 
tinuants and vowels are more prominent, and in the later paragraphs 
explosives and consonantal clusters become more conspicuous. 
II 
"Light breaks where no sun shines" is a deliberate and forceful 
poem. Its five stanzas are composed of six lines each, in regular 
syllabic verse with a sustained pattern: 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 6 10 4 10 4 10 
II 6 10 4 10 4 10 
III 6 10 4 10 4 10 
IV 6 10 4 10 4 10 
V 6 10 4 10 6 10 
Although no definite pattern of speech st resses appea rs, scattered 
occurrences of consecutive stressed monosyllables seem outstanding. 
23 
And, stressed or unstressed, the words of the poem are, in about nine 
out of ten cases, mo nosyUabl es. Another factor contributing to the 
forcefulness of "Light breaks" is that one out of every six syllables 
is of high striking power. No other poem under consideration has pro- 
portionately so m any syllable s of high striking p ower. And these syl- 
lables occur, interestingly enough, in an initial position in one out 
of every three lines and in a terminal position in one out of every 
three lines. As for the pauses in the poem, three-fourths of the lines 
are end- stopped (with all the paragraphs ending with a period) . Such 
a balanced and emphasized structure helps create an insistent rhythmic 
effect. 
As to his method of composition, Thomas might well have com- 
posed the poem aro\ind the phrase "where no sun shines." The method of 
building a poem of music and meaning from a single phrase was a practice 
not uncommon to Thomas. Witness his statements in Letters to Vernon 
Watkins concerning the following phrases: "when I woke the dawn spoke" 
(the inspiration for the poem by that title), "I advance for as long 
as forever is" (the inspiration for "Twenty-four years"), and "desire- 
less familiar" (the inspiration for "To Others than You") . Further 
evidence of the possibility that the phrase "where no sun shines" may 
have formed the nucleus for "Light breaks" is the fact that only a 
month before writing this poem Tnoraas had used similar word-order in 
%. 41. 
6 
P. 48. 
7 
P. 68. 
24 
two phrases in "From love's first fever to her plague": "T^Jhen no mouth 
stirred" (I, 5) and "vmo . . . Need no word's warmth" (V,6). 
Such a hypothesis as to Thomas's method of composition probably 
cannot be substantiated, since, according to Ralph N. Maud, the MS. 
y version for "Light breaks where no sun shines" shows few if any var- 
A-UVc^ 
iants. Nonetheless, it is indisputable that t he phra se is the syn- ^7 
tactical basis of the poem. In stanza I occur "vmere no sun shines," 
"¥ne re no sea runs ," and ">diere no flesh decks the bones." Thereafter 
the repetitions occur with diminishing frequency: in Stanza II, "Where 
no seB^ stirs: and "Where_ no wax i j" ; in stanza IV, "Where no cold is." 
These consecutive stressed monosyllables hammer a steady, strong rhythm. 
Like the syntactical repetitions, other aspects of the organ- 
ization of this poem are also more deliberate and obvious in the open- 
ing stanzas than in the succeeding ones. For example, in both stanza I 
and stanza II lines 1, 3, 4, and 6 end in a z sound; in the succeeding 
stanzas a final z or s sound at the end of the line occurs irregularly. 
Throughout the poem a large percentage of the words terminate with a 
sibilant. Indeed such a prominence of sibilants may reveal that Thomas's 
early experimentation with correlating or contrasting sound and meaning 
is not always successful.^ In an informally taped recording (made in 
Gainesville, Florida, in 1950, with only his host. Gene Baro, present) 
Thomas mars this poem with four small misreadings, all involving the 
%ne successful use of the sibilants— in conjunction with the t 
sound — is discussed below. 
25 
final s sound." Naturally such minor misreadings are insignificant 
in themselves, but they do indicate that even Thomas himself found the 
frequent occurrence of sibilants somevihat confusing. 
The variety of relationships among the line-end words merits 
attention. The predominance of final consonance (of sibilants) has 
already been discussed. Initial consonance occurs in "heart," "heads"; 
"rounds," "robes." Assonance occurs in "shines," "tides," "light"; 
"bone," "robes," "globes"; "unpin," "lids." Initial and final conso- 
nance occur in "stirs," "stars." Pull rhyme occurs in "robes," 
"globes"; "die," "eye." Of the internal auditory effects one of the 
most suggestive occurs in the line "Divining in a smile the oil of 
tears." With assonance linked with approximate rhyme, the phrase 
glides smoothly. The final word, "tears," is the only important word 
omitted from this linkage, and its isolation helps to point out the 
semantic contrast between "smile" and "tears." 
According to most interpretations, the chief concern of "Light 
breaks" i^_, sexual activity which leads to the conception of new life. \J 
The prospect of new life "where no sun shines" seems viewed with hope. 
10 
even though death is implicit in life.-^ But in the final line the 
point of emphasis shifts suddenly; Thomas refers here not to the ful-1 
filled but to the unfulfilled sexual activity — i.e., the "waste "^ 
'"Thomas reads "seas run" for Collected Poems "sea runs," 
"socket" for C.P. "sockets," "limits" for C.P. "limit," and "allot- 
ment" for C.P. "allotments." 
That line 5 — "And blood jumps in the sun" — concludes this 
main thematic development of the poem is accentuated by the fact that 
it is the only irregularity in the syllabic pattern of the poem. It 
is lengthened from four to six syllables. 
26 
allotments" or sperm which will not fertilize. Over these the sun 
(the source of life and death) will never rise; "the dawn halts." 
Because it bears the concluding and perhaps imexpected observation of 
the poem, the final line is extremely important: 
Above the waste allotments the dawn halts. 
The strong emotional effect of the lines is influenced by the skillfiil 
use of combinations of s and t. For, sound reinforces meaning as the 
line itself halts with harsh consonantal clusters: "waste," "allot- 
ments," "halts." Moreover, the spondee of the monosyllables "dawn 
halts" — especially since it follows the long, relatively fluid "allot- 
ments" — creates a marked staccato rhythm. And the sharp fall of the 
tone of the line and the assonance of the two final words ("dawn 
halts") contribute to the singular effectiveness of the poem' s con- 
clusion. 
in 
In "If I were tickled by the rub of love" the poet wonders 
what should be the ultimate consideration in his life and poetry. 
Basically the treatment of the theme revolves upon a serious pun. 
With reference to Hamlet's fifth soliloquy, the "rub" is the obstacle 
causing fear of death. But Thomas, like the Queen in Richard II, feels 
that "the world is full of rubs." He is concerned with a rub (a fric- 
tion) that will tickle one to forget, at least for the present, the 
problem of death. 
27 
In the opening stanza the phonetic atmosphere revolves aroiind 
the predominant consonant of the theraatically most important word: 
"tickle." The explosive k and its cognate sound g echo throughout the 
stanza: "rooking/' "girl," "Broke," "breaking," "cattle," "calve," 
"scratch." Other explosives emphasize the auditory links: "rub " 
"side," "bandaged," "red," "set," "apple," "flood," "bad," "blood," 
"spring." These consonants— particularly the unvoiced ones (p, t, k) — 
produce a clipped, staccato effect. 
In succeeding stanzas Thomas implies that if true love existed 
for hijti he would be able to meet the prospect of death. Since the 
world is imperfect ("half the devil's and ray own"), perfect love seems 
unattainable, and the forces of decay and death continuously worm their 
way into life. As Thomas expresses it with a brilliant and character- 
istic pun on "quick" as "life" or "living" :-'--^ 
I sit and watch the worm beneath ray nail 
Wearing the quick away.^^ 
The poet understands that this life-in-death situation is true reality, 
"the only rub that tickles." Yet his conclusion is remarkably hopeful, 
for he decides that in his life and poetry he "would be tickled by the 
rub that is: / Man be my metaphor." In this final phrase the skillful 
use of alliteration (in "Man," "ny," "metaphor") and of a polysyllable 
as a line-end word contributes to a strong and memorable closing. 
^^Such a meaning of "quick" is familiar in the phrase "the 
quick and the dead." 
12, 
A more obvious instance of Thomas's use of "quick" as "liv- 
ing" is in "A Winter's Tale," VI, 4, where he substitutes for the 
proverbial "in the dead of nig}.t," "in the quick of night." 
28 
This poem, I feel, is not among Thomas's more successful pieces. 
Although several phrases have brilliance, the depth of meaning and the 
consistency of approach throughout the poem leave something to be 
desired. There appears to be no form of definite advance or of mean- 
ingful repetition. Perhaps part of the weakness of the piece lies in 
the strict but relatively functionless regularity of the form. There 
are seven stanzas of seven lines each in syllabic verse of the follow- 
ing pattern: 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 10 10 10 10 10 10 6 
II 10 10 10 10 10 10 6 
III 11 10 10 11 10 10 6 
IV 15 10 10 10 10 10 6 
V 10 10 10 10 10 10 6 
VI 11 10 10 11 10 10 6 
VII 10 10 10 10 10 10 6 
And the seeming exceptions to the pattern — the four Instances of eleven 
syllables — are actually in identical positions in their respective 
stanzas. Further, the eleventh syllable in each case results from a 
feminine ending. Throughout the entire poem the final word of each 
line is a monosyllable except in these four cases and in the final 
line, "Man be my metaphor." Although there are few internal pauses, 
most of the lines are end-stopped, and all the paragraphs conclude with 
a period. The relationship between the line-end words, however, pre- 
vents the ends of the lines from seeming over-emphasized. The line-end 
words do not rhyme (except in the instances of "string," "spring" and 
"own," "bone") . Instead, in the first six stanzas, final consonance 
occurs in the line-end words, in the pattern of abcacbc. 
29 
I love, calve IV nib, crib 
side, flood lock, broke 
string, lirng, spring jaw_s, flie^, toes 
II c ells , heels V own, bone 
flesh, axe girl, nail 
hair, thigh, war eye, sea, away 
III fingers, hungers VI tickles, chuckle 
men, loin sex, six 
love, nerve, grave twist, breast, dust 
Exceptions occur in II b and c, in V c (wiere final vowels replace 
final consonants), and in VI a. The final stanza is quite irregular 
and contains only vestiges of the pattern of final consonance. 
"If I were tickled by the rub of love" provides an interest- 
ing study of Thomas's early craftsmanship. For in its marked use of 
end-stopped lines, of syntactical repetitions ("If I were tickled by 
the . . ."), of serious puns, and of explosives, the poem is typical 
of his early period. 
IV 
"Especially when the October wind" is one of the finest of 
Thomas's early achievements. His technique of immediacy is partially 
responsible for the poem's success. A metaphoric structure is uti- 
lized to communicate poetically the narrator' s experiences, for Thomas 
describes the poet's visual and auditory perceptions on a particular 
October day in the terminology of poetic language: "syllabic blood," 
"wordy shapes of women," "vowelled beeches," "water's speeches," 
"meadow's signs," "the signal grass," and "dark- vowelled birds." 
so 
The imagery of the poem is both visual and auditory. The 
visual image of "the rows / Of the star-gestured children in the park" 
vividly suggests the playing youngsters who, with arms and legs 
outstretched in uncontrolled abandon, momentarily resemble pointed 
stars. And the auditory image of "The spider- tongued, and the loud 
hill of VJales" is only one illustration of the "autumnal spells" 
which culminate in the final line of the poem: "By the sea' s side 
hear the dark-vowelled birds." The absence of consonantal clusters, 
the alliteration ("sea's side"), and the assonance ("By," "side") 
enhance the smooth roll of the rhythm in the final line. 
"Especially idaen the October wind" has many of the same char- 
acteristics as "If I were tickled by the rub of love." It is regular 
in form (with four stanzas of eight lines each) . It is almost regular 
13 
in syllabic pattern: 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 
II 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 11 
III 10 10 11 10 10 10 10 in 
IV 10 10 10 10 10 11 11 9 
It has syntactical repetitions (namely, "Some let me make you of . . .") 
In the line-end words the final consonance forms a definite pattern 
(abbacddc) : 
-'-^nlike "If I were tickled by the rub of love," the deviations 
from the syllabic pattern in "Especially when the October wind" do not 
in themselves form a minor pattern caused by feminine endings. 
31 
I vrmd, land III clock, co£k 
hair, fire meaning, morning 
birds, words signs, sins 
st icks , talks know, eye 
II mark, park IIT wind, land 
trees, rows spells, Wales 
be eches , spe eches words, birds 
roots, n otes scurry, fuiy 
Sometimes the similarity between the pairs is complete rhyme, as in 
"birds," "words" J "mark," "park"; "beeches," "speeches"; "clock," 
"cock." Occasionally the similarity is between the initial and final 
consonants, as in "sins" and "signs" and (with the exception of the 
medial consonant r, vdiich Thomas de-emphasized) in "meaning" and "morn- 
ing." Also like "If I were tickled by the rub of love," the poem has 
numerous end-stopped lines. But the only complete pauses in the poem 
(i.e., the period punctuation marks) occur at the ends of lines and, 
primarily, at the ends of lines 4 and 8 of a stanza. Combined with the 
line-end word pattern of final consonance, the pause pattern helps to 
link the four- line units together. 
Yet "Especially when the October wind" seems less regular and 
more subtle than most of Thomas's earlier poems. In part the difference 
arises from the more continuous and prominent visual and auditory im- 
agery and from the swifter rhythm. In general, the poem has fewer 
consonantal clusters, more semi-vowels ("wordy . . , women," "windy 
weather," "vormy winter," among others), and more effective 
Note that the first and last stanzas are linked not only by 
identical opening lines, but also by two sets of identical line-end 
words: "wind," "land," and "words," "birds." 
32 
polysyllables. (The opening word of the poem, the polysyllabic 
"Especially," blows a gusty rhythm; the similarity between "when" and 
"wind" echoes gently.) 
The sound effects in "Especially when the October wind" help 
blend harmoniously together the various experiences on an October day 
which the poet is attempting to express and simultaneously to commu- 
nicate to the reader. 
"The hand that signed the paper" is characterized by compression, 
objectivity, and clarity. Because few of Thomas's poems can be so de- 
scribed, it seems important to discuss some of the artistic devices em- 
ployed in this brief but emphatic poem. 
The subjective references common in Thomas's poetry are lacking 
in "The hand that signed the paper." Instead, Thomas is unusually 
detached from the poem. Throughout the first stanza, for example, the 
king is progressively depersonalized and fragmented. His "hand" be- 
comes "five sovereign fingers" and finally — because the fingers that 
sign the paper symbolize the king's greatest power — "five kings." 
In large part the poem' s objectivity is successful because Thomas 
presents a pitiable situation by stating only the stark facts — such 
as "And famine grew, and locusts came" — and expressing no sentiments. 
As a result, the reader's reaction is all the more sincerely sympathetic. 
The formal structure of "The hand that signed the paper" is 
tightly organized and very functional in that it contributes to the 
S3 
poem's forcefulness. The four stanzas of four lines each have the 
following pattern, -vmich is regular except in the last line of 
stanza I: 
Niunber of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 
11 8 11 8 
II 
11 8 11 6 
II 
11 8 11 6 
IV 
11 8 11 6 
The rhythm of the speech stresses in the poem is one of Thomas's closest 
approaches to regular iambic. Yet the speech-stress pattern is not 
absolutely regular, and the distribution of emphases is related sig- 
nificantly to the development of the poem. In the first stanza there 
are two instances of consecutive stressed syllables ("Five sovereign" 
and "These five kings") and in the second stanza one instance ("hand 
leads") . These early occurrences give only a suggestion of the accu- 
mulated emphases of stanza I?; the absence of such emphases in stanza 
III makes stanza IV the more forceful. The final stanza concerns 
absolute power and rule; it is thus fitting that the rhythm, reinforc- 
ing the meaning, be powerful and emphatic. The accumulation of con- 
secutive stresses — in "five kings count," "hand niles pity," "hand 
rules heaven," and "no tears" — helps lend the conclusion the desired 
effect of power and emphasis. 
The line-end word arrangement is fairly regular: the first 
and third lines of each stanza end in feminine words 'vdiich (in the un- 
stressed syllable only) rhyme; the second and fourth lines end in 
34 
monosyllables v*iich (with the exception of "brow," "flow") are full 
rhymes. Supported by generally end-stopped lines, the line-end words 
receive considerable emphasis. The position of other important words 
in the poem seems also to be carefully controlled. The initial word 
of each line is either very weak or strong. Half the lines begin 
weakly with "A" or "The"j therefore when an important word begins a 
line it is further strengthened by contrast with the initial particles 
in other lines. For example, witness the effectiveness of the con- 
cluding line — "Hands have no tears to flow" — which follows line 1 
beginning with "The," line Z with "The," and line 3 with "A," In the 
medial position in the lines, the high striking power of many of the 
words gives them forcefulness. This is the more interesting since, 
in the earlier poems studied, 36 per cent to 55 per cent of the high 
striking power words occur in initial and terminal positions; in 
"The hand that signed the paper" only 8 per cent occur in initial or 
terminal positions, and all the rest in medial positions. The emphases 
in the terminal position in this poem result from the line-end word 
arrangement and from the pauses determined by punctuation marks. Only 
three of the lines have no terminal punctuation, and only one line 
has internal pimctuation. The necessity to pause on a rhyme lends 
emphasis to the terminal words in the line. 
Auditory repetitions within the lines also form a means of 
increased emphasis. Consider the consonantal echoes in 
The hand that si gned the paper felle_d a city 
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country. 
5S 
Even more obvious are the syntactical repetitions (e.g., "felled a 
city," "taxed the breath," "Doubled the globe," "halved a country"; 
"And famine grew," "and locusts came"). 
"The hand that signed the paper" is, then, a noteworthy early 
example of Thomas's correlating sound and sense throughout a poem. 
The poem concerns power, and the elements of sound enhance emphatic 
auditory effects. 
VI 
"Should lanterns shine" is a brief, nineteen-line poem about 
the youthful narrator's attempts to find a valid guide in life. In 
structure the poem is looser than any of the poems previously consid- 
ered, all of which — except "From love's first fever to her plague" — 
are in regular stanzas of more or less strictly patterned verse. 
"Should lanterns shine" consists of two long paragraphs followed by 
two very short paragraphs. The syllabic structure is irregular, with 
fewer syllables in the lines of the last two paragraphs than in those 
of the first paragraphs: 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 8 12 10 8 8 10 10 10 
II 10 8 10 11 10 14 8 
III 9 8 
IV 10 6 
The line-end words form no pattern, although one instance of rhyme 
occurs and three instances of initial consonance occur. The metrical 
36 
stress pattern tends toward iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, 
but the speech stress is diverse. 
In its auditory elements as well as in its prosodic structure 
the poem shows less obvious patterning than most of Thomas's earlier 
pieces. Further, the tempo of the first two paragraphs is some-v^at 
faster than that of the last two paragraphs. In the opening ones, the 
comparatively long poetic statements, the several polysyllables, and 
the predominance of vowel soxinds over consonantal sounds tend to pro- 
duce a swift rhythm. A main auditory element of the opening paragraphs, 
for example, is the rather high frequency of a vowel sound as the ini- 
tial or final syllable of a word, as in 
Caught in an octagon of unaccustomed light 
The mummy clothes expose an ancient breast 
And, ■v^en it quickens, alter the actions pace. 
The emphasis in the poem upon vowel sounds and the sparseness of conso- 
nantal clusters make particularly prominent any repetition of consonants; 
witness the use in 
Till field and roof lie level and the same. 
The prolonged effect of the continuant 1 — especially since it is 
repeated five times within a single line — makes the rhythm smoothly 
reinforce the meaning. 
In sound and meaning "Should lanterns shine" provides a con- 
trast between the diversity of the first two paragraphs and the suc- 
cinctness of the last tv7o. In the first two paragraphs of the poem, 
the narrator considers various guides in life. But he believes that 
57 
conventional religions are satisfactory guides only -when one accepts 
unquestioningly the basic assxmiptions5 i.e., religions are valid only 
"in their private dark." The rituals (clothes) of conventional reli- 
gions are, he thinks, outdated, ancient, mummied. Other guides are 
equally faulty. Both the heart and the mind are helpless guides, the 
narrator feels, and instinct is an unreliable guide. In the final two 
paragraphs he muses upon the fact that for years he has been trying 
the suggested guides, "And many years should see some change." But 
his years' long search for a valid guide is still incomplete: 
The ball I threw while playing in the park 
Has not yet reached the ground. 
These cryptic, symbolic final two lines climax the poem and are dis- 
tinctive in large part because of the contrast with the earlier para- 
graphs. The longer lines and paragraphs of the opening, its swifter 
tempo and its unobtrusive patterning set apart and emphasize the poem' s 
succinct conclusion. 
VII 
"And death shall have no dominion," one of Thomas's best-known 
poems, concerns immortality viewed from spiritual and physical focuses. 
As Thomas E. Connolly has observed, stanza I depicts heaven, stanza II 
depicts hell, and stanza III treats of the physical indestructibility 
of man.l^ 
See "Thomas' 'And Death Shall Have No Dominion,'" Explicator , 
XIV (January, 1S56) , item 35. 
38 
Each of the three stanzas is of nine lines, but the pattern of 
the syllabic verse is irregular: 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 8 8 10 11 9 8 11 8 8 
II 8 8 10 9 S 8 10 7 8 
III 8 8 8 11 9 8 11 9 8 
Speech stresses vary considerably. Over half the lines open with a 
stressed syllable, and many lines contain both anapests and iambs. 
Occasional consecutive stressed syllables stand out clearly and under- 
score heavily the meaning of the word, as in the staccato phrases 
"Dead men naked," "clean bones "gone," and "split all ends up." Un- 
pattemed, too, is the use of assonance and final consonance in the 
terminal words of the lines. However, not only do most of the line-end 
words end in a punctuated pause, but they also end in an n sound. 
Thereby the thematically important word "doradnion" is emphasized. The 
poem is linked structurally, though, less by patterns of stresses, of 
line-end words, and of pauses than by syntactical repetitions. For 
example, consecutive lines in stanza I begin respectively with "They," 
"Though they," "Though they," "Though," and the first and last lines 
of each stanza repeat the theme- statement, "And death shall have no 
dominion . " 
In certain lines the vowel and consonantal arrangements com- 
plement the meaning. Two of the key words in the line "And death shall 
have no dominion" are related by alliteration of the sound d: "death" 
and "dominion." The short vowel a«. occurs in three unstressed words 
59 
("And," "shall," "have"). The only other word ir. the line ("no") has 
its consonant echoed twice in the succeeding word, "dominion." The 
assonance and consonance in the statement of the theme do, then, help 
it to ring with conviction. Other lines also have interesting auditory 
affinities. One line from each stanza will be selected for comment. 
In stanza I the transposition of the well-known phrases "the man in 
the moon" and "the west wind" into 
With the man in the wind and the west moon 
creates an intricate, melodious auditory pattern. "Wind" and "west" 
are linked by alliteration, and "wind" is further related to three un- 
stressed words (to "with" by alliteration and assonance, to "in" by 
assonance, and to "and" by final consonance) . "Man" and "moon" are 
linked by both initial and final consonance. Moreover, the graphs of 
the striking power and vowel tone for this line are closely parallel. 
Stanza I, line 3 
Striking Power 
Vowel Tone 
40 
In stanza H in the line "Twisting on racks when sinews give way," all 
the stressed vowels are short and high (reflecting the fitfulness and 
intensity of the pain of the damned) till the swift tempo and increasing 
pressure are relieved by the long e sound (reflecting the contrast in 
meaning here, the physical giving way of the tortured sinews) . There 
is a marked contrast also between the consonants at the beginning and 
the end of the line. The unvoiced sibilants and explosives of the 
beginning give the impression of abruptness and effort, and the semi- 
vowel of "way" gives the impression of soft continuity and auditory 
"giving way." Yet, as the later lines signify, those in hell never 
die J they live in eternal punishment. In stanza HI the theme is ex- 
pressed by the image of vegetable life renewing itself and popping up: 
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies. 
The line is quite rapid, because no heavy syllables slow down the 
rhythm. The strong, pulsating dactylic meter further suggests the 
meaning of the entire poem — the corollary of "death shall have no 
dominion" — life is triumphant. 
VIII 
"It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell," one of Thomas's so- 
called marriage poems, is in five stanzas of six lines each. The 
syllabic pattern, however, is quite irregular, although lines 3 and 6 
are always shorter and have fewer stresses than the other lines. 
41 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 13 12 8 13 12 8 
II 11 14 8 13 12 8 
III 15 12 8 13 15 8 
IV 14 13 7 13 15 7 
V 15 14 8 15 14 8 
The speech stresses are also irregular, except in that lines 3 and 6 
usually have fewer stresses than the other lines. The metrical pattern 
varies, often to suit the meaning of the individual line. Note the 
contrast in meter and meaning between the following lines. On the one 
hand, the sets of consecutive stressed monosyllables in "Time marks 
a 'black aisle" stalks slowly, reinforcing the mearing. On the other 
hand, the two anapests separated by an iamb in "In a holy room in a 
wave" flow smoothly and— supported by the unobtrusive continuants and 
semi- vowel — veiy quietly. 
But -wiat gives the stanzas their most common and specific organ- 
ization is the pattern of final consonance in the line-end words. This 
consonance links lines 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6, so that the pattern 
is abcabc . The only variations in the scheme are in pairing the ks 
sound of "fireworks" with the jc sound of "weather-cock," the voice- 
less s soiind of "house" with the voiced z sound of "prays," and the 
voiced V sound of "wave" with the voiceless f sound of "grief." 
Not only the vertical patterning of consonance in the terminal 
syllables of lines, but also the horizontal patterning of vowels and 
consonants make "It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell" interesting in 
the study of Thomas's development of auditory techniques. In one line, 
for instance, explosives predominate: 
42 
Hear by death's accident the clocked and dashed-_down spires. 
The poet accentuates the harsh, sharp effect of these thirteen explo- 
sives by introducing the line with the imperative "Hear." The slow 
tempo of the phrase "and dashed-down" stems in part from the device of 
juxtaposing, at the end of one word and the beginning of the next word, 
the same sound. The sheer physical necessity to pause and repeat the 
explosive d retards the tempo of the end of the line. Through such 
techniques Thomas helps sound reinforce sense, in this case the harsh, 
insistent striking of the spire's clock. 
In contrast to his use of sharp explosives is his use of 
voiced continuants to produce a sensation of calm. Tne phrase "the 
emerald, still bell" is an illustration. Each of the three occur- 
rences of the 1 sound seems more sustained than the preceding one. 
The melodic effect is also evident from the analysis of the patterns 
of striking power and vowel tone, which are essentially parallel: 
Stanza III, line 5, syllables iii-vii 
Striking Power 
Vowel Tone 
"^^All the other occurrences of the phenomenon in the poem are 
similar in retarding the rhythm and reinforcing the meaning of the 
words: "dust-tongued," "Tiine marks," "mute turrets," and (except for 
the difference between the unvoiced and voiced quality) "love's sinners." 
43 
"It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell," like "And death shall 
have no dominion," demonstrates, in selected and individual lines, 
contrasting sounds and meanings: staccato rhythms and compressed 
meanings, and (less frequently) more sustained rhythms and simpler 
meaning. 
II 
"After the Funeral" ("In Memory of Ann Jones") is, according 
to Thomas, the only poem he wrote directly about the life and death of 
17 
a particular person he knew. Thomas composed the poem in February, 
1933, in a short form consisting of the first fifteen lines, ending 
with: "Round the parched worlds of Wales and drowned each sun." He 
later criticized this original version as "feeble"; in particular he 
1 R 
felt the ending was "too facile &, almost, grandiosely sentimental." 
In March, 1938, he revised and greatly lengthened the poem. Even after 
carefully reworking the poem, Thomas felt dissatisfied with it in cer- 
tain respects. To Vernon Watkins he wrote: "I think there are some 
19 
good lines, but don't know abt the thing as a whole." And Theodore 
17 
See Quite Early One Morning (Norfolk, Conn., 1954), p. 174. 
Rayner Heppenstall says — in The Four Absentees (London, 1960), 
pp. 174-175 — that he substituted for Thomas in a lecture at Oxford when 
Thomas gave the excuse that an aunt had died. Heppenstall suggests 
that perhaps the funeral was that of Ann Jones. If, however, the lec- 
ture date is 1949, the hypothesis is implausible, for the poem on Ann 
Jones was written in 1933 and revised in 1958. 
^^LW, p. 57. 
1° 
^Ibid., p. 58. 
44 
Roethke remembers that Thomas thought the opening lines "creaked a bit" 
OQ 
and believed he had not worked hard enough on them. 
Despite Thomas's doubts, "After the Funeral" is a brilliant — 
though somevmat uncharacteristic — poem. It is an elegy for a little- 
21 
known but devout and "ancient peasant" woman whose death meant deso- 
lation to the young boy from vmose point of view the poem is written. 
The poem is one long paragraph of forty lines, each with ten, eleven, 
or twelve syllables of which four, five, or sijc receive speech stresses. 
The line-end words reveal no definite scheme, but occasional initial 
sound similarities occur (as in "sleeves," "sleep," "leaves") and fre- 
quent final consonantal similarities occur (as in "thick," "black"; 
"fern," "alone," "Ann"; "virtue," "statue"; "window," "hollow," to 
present only a few) . Because of the nature of the line-end words and 
because most of the lines are run-on, the lines flow relatively freely 
from one to another. 
Thomas's original fifteen-line version, the first of the two 
main sections of the poem, is a description of Ann's burial. The open- 
ing lines reflect the insincerity of the mourners' tributes, tears, 
and hand-shaking: "mule praises, brays, / Windshake of sailshaped 
ears. ..." Tne proximity of the near-rhyme in "praises, brays" — . 
note the startling contrast in meaning — and of the alliteration and 
assonance in "Windshake of sailshaped" helps create the desired effect 
20 
"Dylan Thomas: Memories and Appreciations," Engcunter, II 
(January, 1954), 11, 
^^LW, p. 58, 
45 
of the monotony of hypocritical funeral- formalities. The muffled 
pegging down of the coffin is aptly described by the phrase "muffled- 
toed tap / Tap happily," with its strong rhythm and its alliteration, 
repetition, and rhyme. When these hollow, slightly comical sights 
and sounds culminate in the final funeral ceremony of shovelling dirt 
over the coffin ("smack[ing] . . . the spade that wakes up sleep"), the 
boy suddenly realizes his great loss. Alone in Ann's room with its 
stuffed fox and stale fern, he recalls Ann's humility and goodness. 
In his loneliness he remembers her overflowing love, her 
. . . hooded, fountain heart [wiich] once fell in puddles 
Round the parched worlds of Wales and drowned each sun. 
In parenthetical thoughts the narrator discharges himself of 
any sentimentality in his tribute to Ann's infinite love, by criti- 
izing it as "a monstrous image blindly / Magnified out of praise," 
idiich Ann would have considered pretentious and unnecessary. 
Although Ann needs no priest of praise ("no druid"), the 
narrator says he must sing of her virtues to diminish his own grief. 
And lines 21-40 form the second portion of the poem, the boy's hom- 
age to the deceased. Sound echoes become more frequent and obvious 
in this part of the poem. For example, internal rhyme is closely 
juxtaposed in "call all," "sing and swing," and "breast and blessed." 
The poem becomes a hymnic — and "sculptured" because many of the conso- 
nantal clusters produce abrupt, staccato effects — crescendo. The 
narrator demands that Ann' s natural virtues be recognized in the 
hymning heads, the woods, the chapel, and that her spirit be blessed 
by a symbolic "four, crossing birds." Again the narrator mentions 
46 
Ann's meekness and excuses his praise (i.e., his "skyvard statue") 
of her on the ground that otherwise his grief would be insufferable. 
But his final efforts to depict her realistically only sculpture 
her virtues: 
I know her scrubbed and sour humble hands 
Lie with religion in their cramp, her threadbare 
¥nisper in a damp word, her wits drilled hollow. 
Her fist of a face died clenched on a round pain. 
These four lines — perhaps the best in the poem — reveal that such de- 
vices as assonance ("scrubbed," "humble"), alliteration ("humble 
hands"), and occasional rhyme ("cramp" "damp"), obvious as they are, 
seem far less important than the contrapuntal imagery in the poem 
(which refers to Ann as the actual peasant woman and as the monumental 
figure the narrator envisions her) . And the poem concludes with the 
fervent hope that Ann's virtues "storm" the narrator "forever," until 
the stuffed fox comes alive with love and the stale fern lays seeds 
on the windowsill. 
"¥nen all my five and country senses see" is a quasi-sonnet 
with ten-plus- four lines but without a prescribed rhyme scheme. Some 
full rhyme does exist (in "eye," "by," "cry" and in "awake," "break"), 
but more often the relationship between line-end words is less well- 
defined (for instance, the final consonance in "mark," "zodiac"). 
^^See C. Day-Lewis's The Poetic Image , pp. 125-127, for a 
discussion of the contrapuntal imagery in "Ifter the Funeral." 
47 
Yet, with two exceptions, the poem has ten syllables in each line and, 
sonnet-like, its metrical pattern is iambic pentameter. 
In the first ten lines, the poet presents his argument that 
certain sensations belonging to one sense or mode attach to certain 
sensations of another sense or mode. When all the five natural 
("country") senses see, he says, they will become cross-modal and see 
the destruction of their province of love. Thus the fingers will 
forget their role in love and fertility and see how love is subser- 
vient to time and death; the ears will see how love is drummed away in 
discord; the tongue will see and lament that the "fond wounds" of love 
are mended; the nostrils will see that the breath of love burns and is 
consumed by its own fire. In the last four lines the poet presents 
an emphatic conclusion. The heart, he believes, has agents in all the 
provinces of love. These are emotional energies which will become 
effective ("grope awake") when the five senses sleep or perish. The 
heart, then, is sensual and knowing; even vixen all else fails, it can 
rekindle man's responsiveness to the world about him. 
A basic aspect of Thomas's thought seems revealed in this poem. 
The five senses, Thomas believes, are elements that contribute to the 
sovereign part of man— "ir^ one and noble heart," the repository of feel- 
ing and knowledge. On this axiom Tnomas' s poetic theory seems to be 
based, for sound and meaning in his poetry are both usually employed 
to elicit from the reader an emotional—as opposed to an intellectual- 
response. It is significant, perhaps, that this poem vdiich postulates 
Thomas's fundamental concept of the importance of the sensual heart 
48 
contains few of Thomas's usual devices for auditory correlation. The 
lack of internal arrangements of vowel and consonant sounds, for example, 
is noteworthy. Probably Thomas realized that since he is writing 
directly about the senses, it is more effective not to appeal to the 
senses through elaborate auditory links. 
CHAPTER II 
Thomas's second poetic period extends from 193S to 1945, the 
years of World War II. Nineteen hundred thirty-nine was not only 
important to Thomas for the outbreak of the war, but also for the 
birth (on January 30) of Llewelyn, his first child. Tnese two events 
seem to have influenced significantly Thomas's poetic approach, for 
both caused him to look beyond himself. As a result, Tnomas's poetry 
of the war years is less subjective and more concerned with others 
than is his earlier poetry. This concern for others is expressed in 
three poems written at the close of his first poetic period: "I make 
this in a warring absence" (a poem, written in November, 1937, to his 
wife, Caitlin) ; "After the Funeral" (a poem, revised in March, 1938, 
about a dead avmt) ; "A saint about to fall" (a poem, written in Octo- 
ber, 1936, about Thomas's unborn son, Llewelyn). Between 1939 and 1945 
Tnomas wrote poems about his son ("This Side of Truth — for Llewelyn") 
and about victims of air raids ("Among those killed in the Dawn Raid 
was a Man Aged a Hundred," "Ceremony After a Fire Raid," and "A Refusal 
to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London") . 
Even the war work in which Tnomas participated had beneficial 
influences upon his poetry. As a script -tnriter for the British Broad- 
casting Company, Thomas developed a sense of unity and of theme, which 
he applied to his poetry. Unlike the "obscure" poetry of his first 
poetic period, most of the later poetry of his second period is sustained 
49 
50 
by a unifying mood or idea. Much of it is grave and formal ceremonial 
or hymnic poetry ("There was a Saviour," "On the Marriage of a Virgin," 
"Ceremony After a Fire Raid," "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, 
of a Child in London" ) . 
His war work influenced not only the theme, but also the rhythm 
of the poetry. As a close observation of Thomas' s prose--especially 
"A Child's Christmas in Wales"— will indicate conclusively, his prose 
and poetry rhythms are essentially similar. Stephen Spender wrote in 
1S46, after listening to Thomas read on the radio his childhood mem- 
ories of Christmas, "I understood at once the patterns of his recent 
poetry, which are essentially patterns of speech, the music of rhet- 
oric." The poems of his second period loosen up rhythmically; the 
numerous metrical irregularities contrast with the frequent tendencies 
toward iambic in the earlier poems. 
Thomas's second poetic period is fundamentally one of poetic 
transition. The early poems of the period (e.g., "'If my head hurt 
a hair's foot'") are similar to those of the first poetic period; the 
very late poems of the period ("Poem in October," "Fern Hill," and 
"In my Craft or Sullen Art") are similar to those of the third poetic 
period. Yet the second period does have general characteristics of 
its own. Primarily, it reveals the development toward a more expan- 
sive, open-worked poetry, and it reveals part of the basis for this 
development, the influence upon Thomas of his work during World War II 
"Poetry for Poetry's Sake and Poetry Beyond Poetry," Horizon, 
XIII (April, 1946), 254. 
51 
and of the birth of his first child. 
The twelve poems analyzed in the following commentaries are 
representative of the variety of poetry in Thomas's second, transi- 
tional period: 
XI - "'If my head hurt a hair's foot'" 
XII - "Once below a time" 
XIII - "There was a Saviour" 
XIV - "On the Marriage of a Virgin" 
XV - "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" 
XVI - "The Hiinchback in the Park" 
XVII - "Ceremony After a Fire Raid" 
XVIII - "Poem in October" 
XIX - "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, • 
of a Child in London" 
XX - "A Winter's Tale" 
XXI - "Fern Hill" 
XXII - "In my Craft or Sullen Art" 
XL 
"'If my head hurt a hair's foot'" is a dialogue between an 
unborn child (who speaks in the first three stanzas) and its mother 
(who speaks in the last three stanzas) . The form of the poem is 
stanzaic, with five lines in each of the six stanzas. The syllabic, 
metrical, and speech-stressed patterns are irregular. However, in 
the first three stanzas the lines are generally shorter and yet usually 
have more speech stresses than in the last three stanzas. In respect 
to line-end word arrangement, the first three stanzas contain only 
scattered assonance and final consonance, but the last three stanzas 
contain instances of full rhyme ("bed," "head" and "cave," "grave") 
and a concentration, in stanza VI, of final consonance ("grain," 
"return," "stone," "open"). 
52 
With its arbitrary, verbal conceits and its obvious consonantal 
patterns, the first part of "'If my head hurt a hair* s foot'" is remi- 
niscent of Thomas's style in many of the poems of his early period. 
The opening lines, for instance, have multiple occurrences of the 
similar- sounding labial stops b and £: 
"If hqt head hurt a hair's foot 
Pack back the downed bone. If the unpricked ball of my breath 
"Bump on a s£out let the bubbles jump out." 
The bouncing alliterative bi_s in "back," "bone," "ball," "breath," 
"bump," "bubbles" are in initial positions. Tne £|_s in "unpricked," 
"bump," "spout," "jump" are in internal or final positions. Combined 
with this cacophony of consonantal arrangement are the closely juxta- 
posed internal rhymes in "Pack back," "Bump," "jump," and "spout," 
"out," and the approximate rhyme in "downed bone." To make the rhythm 
even more abrupt, almost every word in these lines is a monosyllable. 
The harsh staccato effect seems, then, to be carefully worked out. 
But whether or not such an effect is appropriate here is another matter. 
It is important to distinguish between sound patterns and poetic values 
and not, as Henry Treece does, simply dismiss these opening lines as 
2 
a "humourless plethora of sound and deafness." Even Thomas was aware 
of an unresolved problem in the lines; he wrote to Vernon Watkins, 
"I haven't been able to alter the first part, & will have to leave it 
unsuccessful."*-^ 
^Dylan Tnomas; 'Dog Among the Fairies' (London, 1957), p. 83, 
^LW, p. 60. 
53 
In the third stanza, the child in the womb makes a more effec- 
tive plea to his mother than in the introductory lines. He makes the 
startling suggestion that 
"If my bunched, monkey , coming is cruel 
Rage me back to the making house. ..." 
Here sound correlates with meaning. For example, the repetition of 
the explosive k sound ("monkey coming is cruel," "back," "making") 
and the repetition of the A vowel followed by the nasal ra or n (in 
"bunched monkey coming") creates a pronounced and insistent rhythm 
which reinforces the implied situation of the new mother in labor. 
In the second section of the poem, the mother expresses her 
awareness that the anguish she and her child must experience in life 
is inescapable and comments that once life begins, suffering must be 
endured. In contrast to the child's staccato speech, the mother's 
speech is relatively flowing. Whereas the child often uses consecu- 
tively stressed monosyllables with short vowels (such as "Peck, sprint, 
dance"), the mother uses few accumulations of stresses and thus creates 
a looser rhythm; whereas the child uses compressed, obvious consonan- 
tal arrangements, the mother uses expanded, echoic consonantal arrange- 
ments. Among the most subtle auditory links in the second section of 
the poem is the repetition, in stanza V, of the same long vowel or 
diphthong in a stressed position both near the beginniJig and near the 
end of a line: 
"Now to awake husked of gestures and my joy like a cave 
my lost love bounced from a good home; 
The grain that hurries this way from the rim of the grave^ 
Has a vcir-e and a house, and there and here you must couch 
and crv." 
54 
This artistic device is echoed and intensified in the final stanza, 
where the words are linked not simply by assonance, but (as in "grain" 
and "grave" in stanza V) by approximate rhyme: 
"Through the waves of the fat streets nor the skeleton's thin ways." 
The stylistic contrast between the two sections of the poem— the more 
staccato first section and the more legato second section— helps to set 
in relief the child's and mother's attitude toward life. In the final 
analysis, that attitude is (as Thomas phrased it) the "unreconciled 
acceptance of suffering.""^ This idea Thomas attempted to indicate in 
the final line, which he originally vn'ote as 
"And the endless tremendous beginning suffers open." 
He felt deep concern for this line— "Is the last line too bad, too 
comic, or does it just work?"— and asked Vernon Watkins for criticism, 
especially of the adjective.^ A few weeks later Thomas had, appar- 
ently to his satisfaction, reworked the line to 
"And the endless beginning of prodigies suffers open." 
Tnomas's revision is illuminating. Although only the central portion 
of the line was altered, the effect is considerably changed. In the 
original version, internal rhyming of syllables ("end-" and "-mind-," 
"tre-" and "be-") weakens the line with a slightly sing-song effect.^ 
' ^uite Early One Morning (Norfolk, Conn., 1954), p. 129, 
^LW , p. 58. 
That Thomas was acutely conscious of such weak internal rhymes 
is illustrated in a letter to Vernon v;atkins in which Thomas chooses 
"formed" instead of "made" (in the following lines from "There was a 
Saviour") to avoid "the too-pretty internal rhyme of 'laidi & >made> 
[which] . . . stops the too-easy flow, or thin conceited stream": 
And laid your cheek against a cloud-formed shell, 
(LW, p. 83) 
55 
In the final version the word "tremendous" (which is responsible for 
the internal rhymes and, in addition, is an overworked word in the 
English vocabulary) has been deleted. Although the new line has only 
one more syllable than the original, the meter is now a strong, almost 
regvilar anapest. The new word, "prodigies," deepens the meaning of 
the entire poem; for its associations with wonders and marvels conclude 
the poem on a note of awe, if not of hope. 
HI 
"Once below a time" describes the poet*s attitude toward the 
human situation, with particular reference to his poetic career. As 
a poet past his prime (i.e., "now shown and mostly bare"), the persona 
reflects on his pre-natal existence, childhood, and early creative life. 
Part I consists of two paragraphs, one of twelve lines, the 
other of sixteen lines. The number of syllables in the lines varies 
(in no regular pattern) from five to twelve. The first paragraph 
describes the poet in his pre-natal existence of 
. . . pinned-around- the- spirit 
Cut-to-measure flesh bit, 
Suit for a serial sum. 
The short lines, short vowels, clipped explosives, and predominant 
trochaic meter create an effect of the staccato, pulsating tempo of 
new life. The line-end word arrangements reinforce this impression, 
for most of the related line-end words of the first paragraph end in 
final consonance of explosives: "spirit," "fleshbit," "jacket," 
"ashpit." The second paragraph, continuing the tour de force style. 
56 
celebrates the poet's birth. The poet sees his early self as violent 
and somewhat arrogant and deceitful. From the beginning, the poet 
says, he adopted lavish disguises, even though he was actually robed 
in "common clay clothes." (The harsh alliterative k' s stick together 
as clay itself does.) In this paragraph the proximity of diverse 
auditory effects suggests the protean aspects of childhood. For exam- 
ple, " Hopp ing hot leaved," with its initial consonance of a spirant, 
its assonance, and its use of explosives (p,t,d) creates a clipped 
rhythm; sound and meaning here suggest the child in action. Two lines 
later, "the chill, silent centre," with its repetition of the contin- 
uant 1, its alliteration of the sibilant _s, and its approximate rhyme 
in "s ilent cen tre" creates the impression of stillness; sound and mean- 
ing here suggest the child in quiet thought. As an imaginative and 
ambitious child, the boy "rocketed to astonish" not just V/ales, but 
the world itself with his exciting, unrestrained poetic language. 
Part II consists of three paragraphs with, respectively, six, 
six, and eleven lines. The line-end word arrangement is irregular, 
but does contain several instances of full rhyme: "rotten," "cotton" 
(which are close together, but in different paragraphs and help link 
together the first two paragraphs); "head," "thread," "bed"; "stone," 
"bone," (and the near-rhyme "down"). In this section the poem is less 
flamboyant and more sustained and bardic in tone. The mature poet 
sees his early scales and mask pierced through to reveal 
. . . the boy of common thread. 
The bright pretender, the ridiculous sea dandy 
who, like all mortals, is simply "dry flesh and earth." Now, although 
57 
the poet criticizes his immature self, he feels nostalgic toward the 
lost innocence of childhood when he felt firmly convinced of the 
triumph of his poetry, when he felt he "Never never oh never [would] 
. . . regret the bugle [he] . . . wore." Abruptly, the tone shifts, 
and the final three lines are markedly calm. Thomas here reveals the 
persona from which the poem has been written. The mature poet is 
resigned, humbled, and saddened: 
Now shown and mostly bare I would lie down. 
Lie down, lie down and live 
As quiet as a bone. 
Originally the poet's childhood attitude was expressed by the line 
"I do not regret the bugle I wore." Thomas revised the line to 
Never never oh never to regret the bugle I wore, 
so that "the repetition, the pacific repetition, of 'I would lie down, 
7 
lie down, lie down and live' is loudly and swingingly balanced." 
In the last three lines, the extensive use of voiced contin- 
uants (e.g., the n of "Now, shown," "down," "bone" and the 1 of 
"mostly," "lie," and "live") and the repetition of long vowels (e.g., 
the of "shown," "mostly," "bone" and the ai of "I," "lie," "quiet") 
contribute to the lyrical effect of the concluding passage. This 
lyricism differs sharply from the staccato effects of many of the 
earlier portions of the poem; thus the contrast in sound patterns 
reinforces the contrast in meaning between the attitudes of the imma- 
ture and the mature poet. Thomas's reading of this poem (on tape at 
"^LW, pp. 79-80, 
58 
the University of Florida) further points up this contrast between the 
optimism of childhood and the resignation of later life, for he reads 
most of the poem loudly and energetically, but these final lines, very 
quietly and evenly till the word "bone" resounds hollowly. 
nil 
Although Thomas usually experiments with an original stanzaic 
pattern (and seldom uses that pattern twice), "rnere was a Saviour" is 
a lyrical poem based on the stanza of Milton's "On the Morning of 
Christ's Nativity."® But Thomas's stanzaic form is considerably shorter 
and looser than Milton's. "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" con- 
tains a four-stanza Invocation— with seven lines to a stanza and the 
rhyme scheme of ababbcc — which has no equivalent in "There was a Sav- 
iour." It is "The Hymn" (the body) of the poem on which Thomas pat- 
terned his piece. Milton's twenty-seven stanzas contain eight lines 
each and use a syllabic pattern— sometimes slightly varied— of 6 6 10 
6 6 10 8 12. rnomas's pattern in "There was a Saviour" is quite 
similar: 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 6 6 11 6 6 10 9 11 
II 6 6 11 6 6 10 10 12 
III 6 7 11 6 8 11 10 13 
IV 6 6 10 6 6 10 10 12 
V 6 6 10 6 6 10 9 12 
®In writing to Vernon Watkins, Thomas referred to "There was a 
Saviour" as his "austere poem in Milton measure." (LVW, p. 82.) It is 
perhaps noteworthy that Kathleen Raine says she has been told that 
59 
In respect to line-end rhyme, Milton's scheme is aabccbdd . Thomas uses 
the same scheme, but instead of full rhyme he employs assonance in the 
final syllables. With two exceptions ("Saviour," "radium," and "year," 
"neighbor") the assonance is perfectly regular throughout the poem. 
Certainly Thomas's and Hilton's poems bear little resemblance 
other than in general stanzaic form. The setting for the "Nativity 
Ode" is the "happy morn" of Christ's birth, and the mood is deeply 
reverent; the setting for "There was a Saviour" is the present age of 
science, doubt, and sin, and the emphasis in the poem is on "There was 
a Saviour," 
Throughout his poetry Tnomas frequently employs striking intro- 
ductory phrases. Sometimes these revolve around a paradox such as 
"Friend by enemy I call you out" and "Light breaks where no sun shines," 
or a revitalized familiar phrase, such as "A grief ago" and "Once below 
a time." None is, however, more arresting or utilizes more appropriate 
artistic devices than 
There was a Saviour 
Rarer than radium 
Commoner than water, crueller than truth, 
which is a network of alliteration and assonance. The r sound is found 
in most of the important words of the passage. In the third line, the 
k sound lends emphasis to the words "Commoner" and "crueller." Such 
euphony of consonants is complemented by the euphony of vowels. The 
line-end word relationship between "Saviour" and "radium" is partic- 
ularly interesting because it is a tri-s;/llabic near- rhyme. This, 
Milton's "Nativity Ode" was Thomas's favorite poem. ("Dylan Thomas," 
New Statesman and Nation , XL VI [November 14, 1S53], 594.) 
60 
in addition to the internal rhyme in "There," "rarer" strongly inten- 
sifies the echo effect. That Thomas was conscious of subtle internal 
patterns of sound is evident from his comment on the internal pattern 
of consonance in stanza I, lines 1 and 2. Of the passage 
Two proud, blacked brothers cry, 
VJinter-locked side by side, 
he said: "I like the word 'blacked' ... in spite of its, in the con- 
9 
text, jarring dissonance with 'locked.'" 
"There was a Saviour," in its looser stanzaic form, more subtle 
artistic devices, and relatively lyrical mood approaches Thomas's style 
in his third poetic period. It is the meaning in this poem which, in 
its general compression, links "Tnere was a Saviour" to Thomas's early 
period. The poet seems to say that Christ is available to men of true 
humility but that most of us crucified Christ and now cry in the dark 
of self-pity 
. . . for the little known fall, 
For the dropping of homes 
That did not nurse our bones 
Brave deaths of only ones but never found. 
Concluding hopefully, the poet suggests that, through the terrible 
realization of our sins, we may see 
Exiled in us . . . the soft. 
Unclenched, armless, silk and rough love that breaks all rocks. 
^LW, p. 82. 
61 
XIV 
"On the Marriage of a Virgin" is a fourteen-line poem origi- 
nally written in 1933, but revised and first published in 1941. Inter- 
pretations of the poem vary. David Daiches and Derek Stanford believe 
the poem contrasts the state of virginity with the state of marriage; 
S. F. Johnson believes it contrasts supernatural and physical, human 
love; Bernard Kneiger believes it describes the conception of the 
birth of Christ. Whatever the specific meaning, the theme of the poem- 
like that of many of Thomas's prose tales— concerns something which can 
never again be recaptured and implies a contrast between the past and 
the present. It is not impossible that in this poem Thomas intended 
that the exact nature of the contrast be ambiguous and thus generalized. 
Throughout, the poem is stately in rhythm, resonant in tone, 
and solemn in mood. In part, the majestic but melancholy quality stems 
from the use of the long vowel o, iriiich occurs in sixteen per cent of 
the speech-stressed syllables: "alone," "morning," "opening," 
"golden," "old," "loaves," "moment," "alone," "golden ghost," "bone," 
"golden," and 'boursing." The frequency of this vowel is particularly 
impressive since, according to Godfrey Dewey, the o vowel in normal 
speech represents only 1.6 per cent of the vowels and consonants. 
Two other vowels in "On the Marriage of a Virgin" each form 15 per cent 
of the speech-stressed syllables: ai and a_. Three vowels, then, form 
nearly half the vowels in the speech-stressed syllables. Because of 
the predominance of the vowel sounds, the avoidance of harsh conso- 
nantal clusters, and the use of voiced continuants (primarily 1> £J> £) , 
62 
the rhythm is flowing and sustained. The even cadence is, signif- 
icantly, seldom interrupted by words of high striking power; of all 
the poems under consideration, "On the Marriage of a Virgin" has pro- 
portionately the fewest words of high striking power (one out of every 
eighteen words) . 
Although the poem has fourteen lines, it has little else of 
prosodic structure in common with a conventional sonnet. The organi- 
zation is two seven- line stanzas, the syllabic pattern is irregular — 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 15 12 13 12 16 15 16 
II 14 12 13 15 16 14 15 
— and the metrical pattern is varied. Further, the poem lacks a rhyme 
pattern characteristic of the sonnet. In fact, the only full rhyme 
occurs in lines 2 and 4 of each stanza: "eyes," "thighs"; "alone," 
"bone." The other line-end words are linked, in no regular scheme, 
mainly by assonance or by final consonance. 
"On the Marriage of a Virgin" is one of Thomas's first poems 
entirely in a sustained legato rhythm. The serious treatment of the 
theme, the provocative imagery, and the stately rhythm (influenced 
mainly by careful combinations of low or middle vowels with voiced 
continuants) make the poem consistently majestic and solemn in both 
sound and meaning. 
63 
XV 
In respect to its poetic value, probably the most controversial 
of Thomas's poems is his longest one, "The Ballad of the Long-legged 
Bait." On the one hand, Henry Treece condemns its length (fifty- four 
stanzas of four lines each) as "tiring" and its total effect as "little 
more than a technical exercise.""^ On the other hand, Elder Olson 
considers the poem one of Thomas's best. The true evaluation of the 
poem almost certainly lies between these extremes. But it is undeni- 
able that the poem contains characteristics of Thomas's best and most 
visionary poems. 
Of all Thomas's works, "Tne Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" is 
most enhanced by Thomas's reading of it. The reader of the printed 
page bogs down in the long and complicated allegory,- the listener to 
Thomas's reading soars into a new world of words. Because "The Ballad 
of the Long-legged Bait" is a poem of music with an intensely personal 
vision, the sound and emotional contexts of the words are usually 
effective only when the poem is heard. In describing this poem, Thomas 
might have echoed Hamlet, "rne word's the thing." It is a fact that 
he told Alastair Reid that "When I experience anything, I experience it 
as a thing and a word at the same time, both equally amazing.""'"^ With 
respect to "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait," Thomas was especially 
-^ ^lylan Thomas: ' Dog Among the Fairies, ' p. 97. 
-^^See The Poetry of Dylan Thomas (Chicago, 1954), p. 24, 
1^"A First Word," Yale Literary Magazine , CXXII (November, 1954) 
Reprinted in John Malcolm Brinnin, A Caseboo k on Dylan Thomas (New York, 
1960), p. 255. 
64 
conscious of words: he said the writing of the poem was "like carry- 
ing a huge armful of words to a table he thought was upstairs and 
wondering if he could reach it in time, or if it would still be 
there . " 
The structure of "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" is a 
loose ballad stanza. The poem always has four lines to a stanza, but 
the stresses are not often in the regular ballad meter of 4 3 4 _3. 
Further, the typical ballad handles casually an abcb rhyme scheme, 
but in Thomas's poem the line-end word relationships vary and the pat- 
tern of relationship is also flexible. Only in one-third of the stan- 
zas is the pattern of relationship abcb . In about 40 per cent of the 
stanzas the pattern is abab; in about 28 per cent of the stanzas other 
patterns occur. The type of line-end word relationship runs the gamut 
from no similar sounds to eye rhyme and full rhyme. No similarity 
in sound occurs in ZO per cent of the paired line-end words; some 
degree of final consonance appears in over 50 per cent; full rhyme 
occurs in about 15 per cent; other line-end word relationships occur 
in about 15 per cent. The progression in the poem is from an acciiimi- 
lation of more obvious relationships — for instance, in the first third 
of the poem half the full rhymes occur— to less obvious and more com- 
plex echoes. Such a progression in the sound structure is fitting 
for a poem whose meaning glides from an apparently simple ballad style 
to an increasingly complex allegorical style. 
Analysis reveals that the rich, seemingly spontaneous overflow 
of evocative and musically haunting words in the poem results largely 
^^dem. 
65 
from numerous and involved internal vowel and consonant patterns. 
Although these patterns permeate "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait," 
they seem concentrated in the passages of greatest importance to the 
meaning of the allegory. The following discussion will attempt to 
relate the sound and meaning of several of these passages. 
With a hooked bride as bait, a fisherman sails away from the 
land. Thinking that he is escaping the monotonous commonplaceness of 
life, he is oblivious even to religious portents and is concerned only 
with his adventure in sexuality. 
Good-bye to chimneys and funnels, 
Old wives that spin in the smoke, 
He was blind to the eyes of candles 
In the praying windows of waves 
But heard his bait buck in the wake 
And tussle in a shoal of loves. 
The first four lines contain vertical echoes ("chim-," "spin in," and 
"win-"), assonance ("-bye," "wives," "blind," and "eyes"; "pray-" and 
"waves"), and approximate rhyme ("wives," "waves"). The flowing rhythm 
contrasts sharply with the bucking rhythm of the opening line of the 
succeeding stanza. Several elements contribute to the clipped, jerky 
effect of this line: the series of eight short monosyllables, the 
presence of numerous explosives (b, t, d, and k) , and the patterned 
interlocking of the dominant consonants and vowels. The line "And 
tussle in a shoal of loves," with its prominent continuants (s and l) , 
provides a marked contrast to the previous line. It contains only one 
explosive (the t, which occurs early in the line), and its unvoiced 
sounds disappear toward the end. Thus the sounds of these lines grad- 
ually soften, till the conclusion itself is quite fluid. 
66 
After the fisherman has cast his long-legged bait as a symbolic 
sacrifice to a watery grave, the sympathetic creatures of the world 
Sing and howl through sand and anemone 
Valley and sahara in a shell, 
Oh all the wanting flesh his enemy 
Thrown to the sea in the shell of a girl. 
The ringing quality of the lines can be attributed to such phenomena as 
the voiced consonants (l, m, n, r) , the alliteration of the _s sound 
("sing," "sand," "sahara," and "sea"), the internal rhyme ("sand" and 
three occurrences of "and") . But the most subtle sound effect in this 
haunting stanza is the tantalizingly approximate rhyme of "anemone" and 
"enemy." 
Through the death of the girl, the fisherman is freed from 
erotic dreams of "Mast-high moon-white women naked / Walking in wishes 
and lovely for shame" and from actual sins of the flesh. But, since he 
has cast his bait, he must wind the reel. He does so "VJith no more 
desire than a ghost." (The long, melancholy o' s seem to emphasize his 
slowness and reluctance.) Hauling in the unwelcome catch, the fisher- 
man discovers a child, for "Time [has born] . . . another son." He 
realizes that, ironically enough, he has not escaped the monotonous 
commonplaceness of physical existence, but is inextricably involved in 
the cycle of birth and death. For the first time, he begins to under- 
stand that both the cause and the result of his passion is the inescap- 
able flesh. 
From stanza XL on, Thomas universalizes the fisherman' s problem 
of a quest for experience above and beyond the physical. The stanzas 
skillfully evoke images of disparate civilizations and eras. Worksheets 
67 
for "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" indicate that Thomas con- 
sciously merged time and space, ages and places, because the manuscript 
shows he made specific notations to hijnself of "times and places"— a 
14 
phrase he actually uses in stanza XLIV— and of "history dirge." His 
successful fusion of contrasting images is perhaps best illustrated in 
the resounding line 
Rome and Sodom To-morrow and London. 
As the poem itself reveals, Thomas intended this line to suggest both 
Sodom and Gomorrah. Since the narrative in Genesis 18 is well known, 
Thomas follows "Sodom" by the meaningful rhyme for "Gomorrah," "To- 
morrow." Thus the word "To-morrow" links the past to the future through 
denotation and verbal association. Euphonious and soaring, the line is 
complex in its inter-locking auditory arrangements. Two vowel sounds 
are used two and three times, respectively, within the line: j^ in 
"and," "and"; o in "0 Rome," "To-morrow." Tne predominant consonantal 
patterns are voiced continuants: r and 1 for initial sounds in syllables, 
m and n for terminal sounds in syllables: 
Rome and Sodom To-morrow and London, 
Such facets of Thomas' s technique in these lines help to make it rever- 
berate with sound and meaning. 
In the closing lines, the fisherman returns home, only to find 
himself 
I'^Lita Homick, The Intricate Image: A Study of Bylan Thomas . 
Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation (.Columbia University, 1258), p. 213. 
68 
. . . lost on the land. 
He stands alone at the door of his home, 
With his long-legged heart in his hand. 
Through his experience, the fisherman gained a cosmic insight and 
a private conscience. Now, though he is "lost on the land," he has 
been redeemed through his bride* s sacrifice. 
XVI 
"The Hunchback in the Park," originally written in 1932, was 
not published until 1941. Like "The hand that signed the paper" (first 
composed in 1933), this poem is distinguished by its objectivity and 
clarity." But "The Hunchback in the Park" is, for Thomas, remarkable 
too in its direct narrative basis. 
The structure of the poem is seven stanzas of six lines each 
with a rather irregular syllabic pattern: 
Number of Syllables 
nza 
in Each Line 
I 
6 7 7 10 9 10 
II 
8 8 8 11 R 7 
III 
8 7 8 7 9 4 
IV 
6 8 6 9 6 7 
V 
6 8 8 9 8 8 
VI 
7 8 5 8 7 6 
VII 
7 9 8 11 6 7 
Like the syllabic pattern, the speech-stress pattern is irregular; yet 
the two do not r\in exactly parallel. Many lines are fairly regular 
iambic verse; others have truncated or inverted beginnings with, some- 
times, anapestic measures within the line. Occasionally — as in 
stanza II, lines 6 and 7 — the stress pattern is common ballad meter. 
But such a regular pattern is seldom sustained. The beginnings of 
certain lines deserve special comment. Stanzas II, III, and IV are 
linked by several syntactical repetitions in initial positions. That 
is, present participles open several lines: "Eating," "Drinking," 
"Running," "Laughing," and "Dodging." The emphasis on these words is 
increased by their initial position, by their similar meter (usually , 
trochaic), and by their acciimulative effect. 
The relationships of final words in the lines of the poem vary. 
Five stanzas have one instance each of full rhyme: in stanza I, "cup" 
and "up"; in stanza III, "down" and "town"; in stanza IV, "rockery" 
and "mockery"; in stanzas I and VII — binding the beginning and end of 
the poem together — "park" and "dark." Other line-end words are approx- 
imate rhymes: "lock" with "park" and "dark"; "early" and "clearly"; and 
the very arresting off- rhyme "shrubberies" and "strawberries." Most of - 
the other words are related by final consonance.^ 
Coming early, when the park is opened, and staying late, till ' 
it is closed, a solitary hunchback seeks to enioy the natural beauty 
of the gardens. The melancholy calmness the hunchback experiences in 
the park is reflected in the frequency (in stressed positions in the 
stanza) of the dark, open vowels a and o : "park," "solitary," "propped," 
"garden," "lock," "sombre," and "dark." In the park he feels as one 
with the birds, the trees, and the water, until the taunts and mimicry 
of the town boys interrupt his musings. The following lines show how 
the natural, subtle rhythm of the poem corresponds to the meaning. 
The deformed man, teased and chased by the boys, begins 
70 
Running when he had heard them clearly 
On out of sound. 
The smooth, fast-moving tempo of the first line is created mainly by 
the quality of the consonants — most of the important consonants are 
voiced continuants—and by the ratio of unstressed to stressed speech 
syllables (2:1). The rhythm, like the boys and the hunchback, runs 
swiftly on. In the second line--the shortest in the poem— the heavily 
stressed first s^/llable ("On") is followed by the assonantal echo of 
"out" and "sound." Here the ratio of unstressed to stressed speech 
syllables is 1:4, and the rhythm seems to signify the stressed foot- 
falls, which fade away like echoes. 
Dodging the park keeper and threading his lonely way among the 
nurses and swans of the park, he creates a fantasy image of a young 
woman who is tall and straight as the trees and vAo is free to remain 
always among the beauties of the park. Tne hunchback's daydream is 
first described by the quiet, slow, and lyrical music of the passage 
Made all day until bell time 
A woman figure without fault. 
In the first line, the long, lonely day of dreaming is suggested by 
the slow rhythm of five speech-stressed syllables out of seven syllables, 
by the long vowels (e, ai) , and by the patterned consonants which empha- 
size the voiced continuant 1: 
Made all day until bell time. 
And the second line is tightly organised in its cross-alliteration of 
w, f, w, f sounds: "A woman figure without fault." The dominant 1 
71 
sound of the opening line — which is associated with the hunchback' s 
dream — is echoed later in this stanza ("elm," "tall," "locks") and 
in the final stanza ("All," "railings," "lake," "wild," "followed," 
"kennel") . The perfectly formed woman is, however, only a vision, 
an ideal counterpart for the man's crooked shape. And in the final 
line of the poem the continuant 1, like the vision itself, fades away.. 
Reality closes in, as the park shuts the hunchback out and the boys j 
chase him to his kennel abode. The harshness of real life seems 
enhanced by the frequent use of the explosive k in "hunchback," 
"kennel," and "dark." 
Throughout the poem, the idea of the restless wandering of , 
the hunchback is supported by the long, meandering poetic statements 
which continue through several lines and even several stanzas. 
Internally, not a single punctuation mark interrupts the rhythmic flow 
of the poem. Stanzas I, II, V, and VI have no punctuated pauses at 
all; stanzas II, IV, and VII have, respectively, only a period at the 
end of the last line of the stanza. 
The h\inchback' s solitary, miserable plight is presented starkly 
and quietly, but insistently, and the poem is devoid of sentimentality 
and flamboyant tone. Moreover, the contrasting sound patterns seem to 
highlight the fundamental difference between the hunchback' s ideal and 
real existence. 
72 
XVII 
"Ceremony After a Fire Raid" is a melodic dirge (for a newborn 
infant who was "burned to tireless death" in a fire raid) and a ritual- 
istic celebration of renewal of life. The form of the poem, although 
loose, has, within each of the first two parts — the third part has 
only one section—, a relatively regular syllabic count: 
Stanza Number of Syllables in Each Line 
Part I I 2319658 10 
II 2 3 1 10 7 5 8 12 
III 2 3 - 10 7 5 8 11 
IV 281 9768 11 
Part II I 5 11564759585S67 
II 5 12 664758586967 
The expanding form of the entire poem compares roughly to musical cre- 
scendos, A glance at the printed text of the poem makes that state- 
ment obvious. For in the first part each stanza begins with lines of 
a few syllables and builds up to a line of ten to tvrelve syllables; 
in the second part the lines of each stanza are longer than most of 
those in the first part; in the third part the lines are longer than 
most of those in the second part. 
As an opening phrase, "Jfyselves / The grievers / Grieve" is 
singularly arresting. The coinage "Myselves" immediately binds the 
reader, Tnomas, and other grievers together in a communal yet deeply 
personal lament for an innocent child's death. Part of the musical 
effectiveness of the phrase can be explained by the fact that the 
graphs of the striking power, vowel tone, and pitch are parallel: 
73 
Striking Power 
Vowel Tone 
Pitch 
Each stanza in part I opens with two or three short lines that 
include a repetition of a key word in the thematic development of that 
stanza: "grieve" (stanza I), "sing" (stanza II), "forgive" (stanza 
III), "cry" (stanza IV). It is interesting to note that when the word 
is repeated, it is also varied by slightly altering its form or by 
changing its metrical position in the line. For example, in stanza III 
the first line is the single word "Forgive," and the speech stress is 
iambic; the same word is repeated in the second line, "Us forgive," 
but the speech stress now is the converse of an amphibrach. (This 
stress pattern is the more meaningful since the first two lines of 
stanzas I, II, and IV are an iamb followed by an amphibrach.) Because 
the word "Us" is stressed and is in an initial position in both lines 
2 and 3, the reader's involvement in the "ceremony" is secured. The 
conclusion of line 3 of this stanza forms an ingenious link with the 
poem' s opening lines, in that "myselves the believers" echoes the 
74 
earlier "Myselves / The grievers." Such echoes unify and intensify 
the poem's strong musical qualities. 
Neither grieving nor singing, though — the poem asserts — can 
bring life out of death. And even if a miracle could do so, the "Dark- 
ness kindled back into beginning" would not atone for the child's 
death. All tha:t can now be done is to beg the child's forgiveness of 
the sin committed against it and to believe that "Love is the last 
light spoken." Part II deepens the sacrificial aspect of the child's 
death, tmich was suggested early in the poem with the symbolism of the 
child's "arms full of fires." The child's burning is, in the second 
part, associated with all deaths and sacrificial ceremonies since Adam 
and Lve. And the idyllic, ancient garden of Eden is contrasted with 
the sinful, modern "garden of wilderness," in which "Beginning crumbled 
back to darkness." Not only is this line forceful in its repetition 
of the explosive b sound and its approximate rhyme of "back" and 
"dark-," but it is also meaningful in its inversion of the prayerful 
chant of the mourners in stanza II: "Darkness kindled back into 
beginning." Moreover, the verb in each line, though different in mean- 
ing, is similar in sound ("kindled" and "crumbled"). The subtle rela- 
tionship of these lines and their overtones of Genesis 1:1-5 make it 
clear that Thomas probably intended a double and implied antithesis of 
light and darkness, of beginning and end, in each line. Tnus the 
symbolism of life and death is underscored. 
In commenting on the poem to Vernon Watkins, Thomas said, "It 
really is a Ceremony, and the third part of the poem is the music at 
75 
the end. Would it be called a voluntary, or is that only music at 
the beginning?" His query about a voluntary— which is especially 
associated vri.th an organ solo in a church service— and the reference 
in the first line of part III to "organpipes" lead one to suspect that 
Thomas consciously vrrote this stanza as a poetry of full organ tones. 
The sheer evocativeness of this passage, particularly when spoken aloud, 
is hardly matched in contemporary literature. The alliterative phrases 
at the ends of the lines are very impressive: "molten mouths," "ditch 
of daybreak," "burning like brandy." The entire stanza does seem to be 
one uninterrupted organ postlude, hinting- -through the allusions to the 
bread and wine of Holy Communion-- at purification and redemption for 
all, through the child's sacrifice. The finale is climaxed by the hope 
that man can 
Erupt, fountain, and enter to utter for ever 
Glory glory glory 
The sundering ultimate kingdom of genesis' thunder. 
With its five occurrences of the explosive t sound, the first line is 
extremely expressive and forceful. The concluding phrase, "enter to 
utter for ever," sets in relief the five explosives, because all the 
stressed words begin with a vowel. Further, the three instances of 
vrords ending in the final -er sound ("enter," "utter," "for ever") 
evoke the idea of repetition. In the second line the resounding 
"Glory glory glory" corresponds to the "Holy holy holy" of the Christian 
church service. Like those of the phrase "and enter to utter for ever," 
-^^Consider, for example, other words with final -er sounds 
wiich indicate repetition: "jabber," "chatter," "whisperT^ "clatter," 
"mutter," "sputter," "flicker," "shimmer," etc. 
76 
the speech stresses of the final line are in perfectly regular amphi- 
brachs. The suggestions of infinite repetitions (in the -er sound of 
"siinder-" and "thunder") and the assonance of the solid _a_ sound (in 
"siindering ultimate" and "thunder") contribute to the powerful, majes- 
tic organ chords of the line. The rhyme, which is both internal and 
line-end— "The masses of the sea under " and "The sunder ing . . . thun- 
der"~help make the concluding passage one long, glorious reverber- 
ation. Thus a dirge for a newborn infant has resolved magnificently 
into a paean of hope for 
The simdering ultimate kingdom of genesis' thunder. 
r/in 
Over a span of twelve years, Thomas wrote three poems cele- 
brating, respectively, his twenty- fourth, thirtieth, and thirty-fifth 
birthdays: "Twenty- four years remind the tears of ray eyes," "Poem in 
October," and "Poem on his Birthday," The first poem is representative 
of Thomas's best poetry in his first poetic period, the second in his 
second poetic period, and the third in his third poetic period. 
"Poem in October" is an elegiac reminiscence of the lost inno- 
cence and joy of childhood. Appropriately enough, the stanzas are 
long and complex, usually consisting of a single sentence; this form 
corresponds to the leisurely drift of a reverie of the past. There are 
■""^f a recording of Thomas reading "Twenty-four years" had been 
available, a comparative study would have been made of the three birth- 
day poems as representatives of tneir respective poetic periods. 
77 
seven stanzas of ten lines each. The poem is, moreover, beautifully 
patterned in its syllabic line: 
Stanza Number of Syllables in Each Line 
I 10 12 9 3 5 12 12 5 3 9 
II ~9 12 9 3 5 12 12 5 3 9 
III S 12 9 3 5 12 12 5 3 9 
IV 9 12 9 3 5 12 12 5 3 9 
V 9 12 9 3 5 12 12 5 3 9 
VI 9 12 9 3 5 13 12 5 3 9 
VII 9 12 9 3 6 TS 12 5 3 9 
The pattern of speech stresses is varied. One aspect of the 
pattern should, however, be discussed. The line-end words form a 
special rhythmic pattern. In the following table, m represents the 
masculine line-end words, f represents the feminine line-end words, 
and d represents the dactylic line-end words. 
— no 
stanza Rhythm of the Line-end Words 
I fmfmframrafm 
II fmfmfmmfmm 
III fffdfdffrad 
IV fmfmfmmffm 
V fmfffrafdff 
VI dmmmdmmdram 
VII frafmdmmmmf 
The initial and final assonance and the simlar rhythm of the three 
dactylic line-end words in stanza III closely bind them together: 
l^Ralph N. Maud shows— in Language and Meaning i^J^^e Poetry 
of Dylan Thomas, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation Uiarvard University, _ 
1C58T — p. 151--the syllabic count to reveal only one irregularity [tne 
one iA stanza VI). But since Thomas pronounces the word "thirtietn" 
on the recording as three rather than two syllables, there is also an 
irregularity in stanzas I and VII, where that word occurs. 
l%ote that when the line-end word is not heavily stressed— 
as in line 10, stanza III and in line 9, stanza V— the final phrase 
is taken into consideration in order to determine tne rnytnm. 
In line 10, stanza VI, the line-end word, "singmgbirds, 
hovers between masculine and dactylic rhythm, but Thomas' s reading 
does slightly accent the final syllable and thus makes tne word 
masculine . 
78 
"Suitimery," "suddenly," and "under me." The entire stanza seems espe- 
cially light and airy, because— in contrast to the comparatively heavy 
masculine line-end words which dominate the first two stanzas — the line- 
end words, with one exception, are all fluid feminine or dactylic words. 
For three years before he finished it, Thomas contemplated 
"Poem in October." VJhen he mailed a copy to Vernon V/atkins he said, 
"I do hope you like it, & wd like very much to read it aloud to you. 
VJill you read it aloud too? It's got, I think, a lovely slow lyrical 
movement." Thomas was right. The poem demands oral reading. And, 
fortunately, a superb reading by Thomas is preserved on a commercial 
recording. Listening to it, one can best realize the slow, lyrical 
rhythm vmich Thomas achieved in the poem. 
In the airy opening stanza to "Poem in October" — 
It was my thirtieth year to heaven 
Moke to my hearing from harbour and neighbor wood 
And the mussel pooled and the heron 
Priested shore 
The morning beckon 
VJith water praying and call of seagull and rook 
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall 
Myself to set foot 
That second 
In the still sleeping town and set forth. 
— the poet is enveloped in the sights and sounds of the October day, 
which are described in an inimitable word magic. Witness the subtle, 
interlocking repetitions in the line 
l^LW, pp. 115-116. 
79 
or the net of auditory arrangements in "net webbed wall." In the line- 
end viords of four of the ten lines, the intricate sound relationships 
reflect more than simple assonance: "heaven" and "heron" are identical 
in all except the medial consonant; "heron" and "beckon" are identical 
in all except the initial and medial consonants; "beckon" and "second" 
are identical except for the initial and final consonants. Notice also 
the internal full rhymes ("year," "hear-" and "net," "set") and approx- 
imate rhymes ("call," "-gull" and "rook," "knock") and assonance ("wood," 
"rook," and "foot"). 
Rising early on the rainy autumn morning of his thirtieth birth- 
day, the poet sets out on a walk "in a shower of all my days" (in a 
reverie of his past) . The gates of the present close behind him as he 
crosses the border into the past: 
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road 
Over the border 
And the gates 
Of the town closed as the town awoke. 
The musical effect of the opening phrase in ingenious. In addition to 
the assonance of the ai sound in "High," "tide," and "dived," there is 
consonance in "High" and "heron," "ti^e" and "dived," And the last 
three lines — echoing the earlier assonance of "water," "horses," "rose," 
and "road" — close the passage slowly, because of the concentrated accu- 
mulations of the long vowel o in "Over," "border," "closed," and 
" awoke . " 
In stanzas III and IV the poet ascends the summit of happy 
childhood memories, -ymere the October weather has, in his imagination, 
turned to the summer of sun and rolling clouds, of birds and blooming 
80 
gardens. Yet below him remains the brown and autumnal present, with 
. . . the rain wringing 
Wind blow[ing] cold 
In the wood faraway under me. 
The phrase "rain wringing / Wind" is saturated with phonetic echoes: 
the alliteration of the continuant r ("rain wringing"); the frequency 
of the nasals n and ("rain wringing / VJind"); the internal rhyme 
("-inging"); the assonance of the clear vowel x ("\^inging / VJind") . 
Tiie impression here of a gentle, oven patter of an autumnal shower is 
created by the repeated use of the short, clear vowel i. In striking 
contrast is the phrase which follows it, "blow cold," with its repeti- 
tion of the prolongable, dark vowel o. Combined with the use of the 
explosive b and k sounds, this phrase correlates with the idea of cold 
gusts of wind . 
As the poet muses, his reverie seems for the moment to become 
reality. For the "weather turned around," and he is able once again 
to feel "the other air" and to see "the blue altered sky" of the golden 
days of his youth. In this "wonder of summer" he re-lives the 
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother 
Through the parables 
Of sun light 
And the legends of the green chapels. 
The prodigiously involved vowel and consonantal arrangements of this 
stanza — and, indeed, of the entire poem — complement its deepest 
emotional meaning, harmony . Exceedingly delicate relationships between 
words permeate the poem. For example, the closely juxtaposed words 
"wonder" and "summer" are related through assonance and through rhymed 
unstressed final syllables. Further, the widely separated line-end 
81 
words "apples" and "chapels" are related by full rhyme, and both words, 
by approximate rhyme, are linked to another line-end word, "parables." 
(In turn, "parables" is associated by assonance and initial consonance 
to "pears.") The sounds, then, are harmoniously interrelated. Simi- 
larly, the poet and the spirit of the child become as one: "his tears 
burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine." The poet realizes that 
"the long dead child" is a part of the wonder of nature and that his 
spirit communicates "the truth of his joy" to trees, stones, and fish. 
The effect of unity is heightened by such auditory echoes as the rhym- 
ing of the initial syllables in "listening," " whisp ered," and "n^stery." 
Everywhere the wonder of nature is evident, for 
. , . the mystery- 
Sang alive 
Still in the water and singingbirds. 
In the final stanza the poet, still feeling the child's joy "burning 
in the sun," prays for his future ability to recapture and respond to 
the lost innocence and joy of childhood, to experience again unparal- 
leled unity and harmony: 
may my heart' s truth 
Still be sung 
On this high hill in a year's turning. 
XIX 
"A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London" 
is a short, twenty- four-line poem of four stanzas of six lines each. 
The syllabic count reveals an irregular pattern: 
82 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 9- 5 S 9 5 10 
II 9 7 10 10 5 10 
III 11 5 11 10 5 9 
IV 10 5 10 9 5 10 
The rhyme scheme, however, is one of Thomas's most regular, for it 
follows the pattern abcabc . (Note that the short lines in the stanza 
rhyme bb.) In the first stanza all the rhyme words are feminine (since 
Tnomas pronounces "flower" and "hour" each as two syllables) . In the 
second stanza all the rhyme words are masculine. In stanzas III and IV 
all the feminine rhymes are words ending in -er. Only three pairs of 
rhymes are approximate: "darkness," "harness"; "murder," "further"; 
"friends," "Thames." AH the rest are full rhymes. Notwithstanding 
such regularity and repetition, the rhymes are not immediately appar- 
ent upon a first reading or first listening. In contrast to most of 
the poems in Thomas's early poetic period (in which the lines are 
mainly end-stopped and sense-determined), this poem is characterized 
by enjambment, which naturally de-emphasizes the rhyme words. As to 
internal rhyme, two instances occur: " humbling darkness" and "tum- 
bling in harness," vdiich makes up for the only approximate quality 
of the end-rhyme in these lines; and "grains" and "veins," whose 
long vowels contribute to the slow, melancholy effect of 
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother. 
The pattern of speech-stressed syllables in "A Refusal to 
Mourn" is varied. Yet in each stanza a complex pattern is repeated in 
similar portions of different lines. In stanza I the phrases "mankind 
*^ ■''■■^•■'^- 
85 
making" and "last light breaking" form a spondee followed by a trochee; 
the identical rhythm, in addition to the assonance in "kind" and "light," 
reinforces the full rhyme. In stanza II, lines 1 and 4 are rhythmically 
identical — except for an initial (and extra) unstressed syllable in 
line 4 — in forming an iamb followed by an amphibrach followed by two 
iambs: 
And I must enter again the round 
And the synagogue of the ear of corn. 
In stanza III, lines 1 and 3, the concluding phrases are identical in 
rhythm: "burning of the child's death" and "going with a grave truth." 
Line 4 lacks the extra stressed syllable with -sdiich lines 1 and 5 con- 
clude, but otherwise it, too, has the same rhythm: "stations of the 
breath." In stanza IV the first and last lines are metrically identical, 
with a dactyl followed by a spondee followed by two iambs plus an 
unstressed final syllable: 
Deep with the first dead lies London's daughter 
After the first death, there is no other. 
In regard to the speech stresses, however, only the first seven syl- 
lables are rhythmically the same, since on the recording Thomas accents 
the word "no." In several cases in which the rhythmic pattern is sim- 
ilar, the phrases also bear similar syntactical constr^ictions (e.g., 
"burning of the child's death" and "going with a grave truth") or 
auditory repetitions (e.g., "first dead" and "first death"). Such 
parallelisms further help to bind parts of the poem intricately 
together. 
84 
Especially the first three stanzas of "A Refusal to Mourn" con- 
tain few punctuated pauses. Instead, these stanzas form a series of 
long rhetorical units, as in the opening lines: 
Never until the mankind making 
Bird beast and flower 
Fathering and all humbling darkness 
Although this swiftly-flowing introduction is interesting in the cross- 
alliteration of ra and k sounds and in the scattered assonance, it is in 
the lines following that some of the most intriguing and complex conso- 
nantal arrangements in the poem appear: 
T ells with silen_ce the last light breaking 
And the still hour. 
Aside from the assonance in "silence" and "light," the variations upon 
the sounds _s, t, and 1 singly or in combination are remarkable. The 
concentration of these sounds culminates in the adjective "still," 
vmich (because of the frequency, in the preceding line, of its three 
consonantal sounds) is heavily emphasized. Since by uttering the word 
"silence," silence is broken and by uttering the word "still," still- 
ness is broken, auditory effects cannot really correlate with these 
concepts, but can only indicate related concepts. Usually silence and 
stillness are related to softness and slowness. And here the sugges- 
tion of silence and stillness is conveyed by the softness and slowness 
created by the combinations of sounds used in these lines. 
Throughout the lyric, the poet elaborates upon a general theme: 
that he will not mourn needlessly the death of those who are absorbed 
into the nystery of Nature. In particular, he will not make an elegy 
85 
for the innocent youth who died in a London fire, for she has escaped 
the deaths-in-life which the long-lived experience; she will die only 
the one time. The poet expresses this conclusion in the closing line, 
"After the first death, there is no other, " which is memorable for at 
least two reasons. First, it is a succinct statement complete within 
one line. Since the poem is, for the most part, composed of long, rhe- 
torical units spanning as much as thirteen lines, the clarity and com- 
pression of this final line is, by contrast, enhanced. Secondly, the 
literal clarity of the line veils an ambiguous implication. Specif- 
ically, does "After the first death, there is no other" imply a pessi- 
mistic philosophy of mortality, or a Christian philosophy of immortality? 
XX 
"A Winter' s Tale" is considered by several critics, including 
David Daiches and W. S. Merwin, to be one of Thomas's most magnificent 
poems. Probably greater restraint would make for more enduring criti- 
cism. For, in all likelihood, "A V'inter' s Tale" is simply Thomas's 
most beautifully sustained and unified long narrative poem. A compar- 
ison between "A Winter's Tale" and "The Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" 
illuminates this qualified praise of the poem. On the one hand, the 
narrative of "A Winter's Tale" — which may well be based upon myth — 
lends itself to a single symbolic interpretation (i.e., a winter 
ceremony of the rebirth of man and nature) better than does the narra- 
tive of the mysterious voyage of a fisherman whose bride is his bait. 
The imagery of "A Winter's Tale" is more precisely handled and its rich 
86 
and sustained musical texture more pervasive than in "The Ballad," 
On the other hand, "The Ballad" seems superior in the interesting vari- 
ety of its rhymes (e.g., "anemone" and "enemy") and in the exquisite 
lyricism of individual passages (e.g., "0 Rome and Sodom To-morrow and 
London"). At its best, portions of "The Ballad" surpass the beauty of 
"A Winter's Tale," but in its total unity and sustained lyricism, "A 
Winter' s Tale" is the more perfect poem. Thomas struggled long to 
achieve unity in "A Winter' s Tale" and, in vrriting to Vernon Watkins, 
expressed his feeling that, after all, he had fallen short of his aim: 
"I'm sending you some new poems. The long one ["A V/inter's Tale"] 
doesn>t, I think, come off, but 1 like it all in spite of that. It 
isn't really one piece, though, God, I tried to make it one and have 
20 
been working on it for months." 
As to structure, "A Winter's Tale" has twenty-six stanzas of 
five lines each. Only the first lines of each stanza have the same 
syllabic count; that is, each of them except the one in the twenty- 
sixth stanza has six syllables. But throughout the poem, even in the 
six-syllable first lines of the stanzas, the speech stresses vary 
considerably. The line-end word scheme, though, is in a strict pattern 
of ababa . Over half the rhymes are full rhymes and, up to the thir- 
teenth stanza, the approximate rhymes all involve the addition or omis- 
sion of a z sound: 
^°LVW, p. 126. 
87 
Stanza Stanza 
I tale, sail, vales VII stones, bones, alone_ 
lakes, flakes sky, stie_s 
II cold, hold, told VIII prayers, lairs, air_ 
owl, cowl cloud, bowed 
III old, unrolled, fold IX strung, tongues, among 
bread, head tossed, lost 
IV then, hen, men X night, white, light 
snow, crov; caught, sought 
V spades, milkmaids, trades XI cried, bride, astride 
shy, sky need, seed 
VI prayed, shade, afraid XII sing, wing_s, spring 
light, night nightingale, tale 
In the remainder of the poem, the addition or omission of a _z soiind is 
never responsible for the approximate rhymes. It is as if the poem 
more or less progressed from regularity in rhyme to greater and more 
frequent irregularities (such as the approximate rhymes like "look" 
linked with "rock" and "flock"). Repetition of the same rhyme-base 
occurs throughout the poem. For example, two rhyme-bases are each used 
four times: the rhyme-base "light," in stanzas VI, X, XV, XVIII and 
the rhyme base "bride," in stanzas XT, XIV, XXI, XXV. Other rhyme- 
bases are also repeated: "old" in stanzas II, III, and XVI; "snow" 
in stanzas IV, XIX, and XXVI; "bread" in stanzas III and XXIII; "lakes" 
in stanzas I and XX; "tale" in stanzas I and XII; "sky" in stanzas V 
and VII. The recurrence of these particular rhymes — many of which are 
words concerned with nature — contributes to the pastoral qualities of 
the poem. 
The narrative of "A Winter's Tale" opens with a quiet but vivid 
description of snow falling over the countryside and of a man at his 
88 
farrohouse fireside watching the out.ioor wintry scene. In his record- 
ing, Thomas reads the first three stanzas softly; but even without the 
benefit of his reading, a sensitive reader of the printed passage knows 
that its music somehow falls almost as softly as the snow itself. The 
few consonantal clusters in the first three stanzas involve primarily 
continuants. Tne occurrences in the passage of the rather intense f 
sound are softened by the many 1 sounds: "tale," "blind," "twilight," 
"lakes," "floating fields," "vales," "Gliding windless," "folded flakes," 
"pale," "cattle," "stealthy sail," to list only those in the first 
stanza. The quiet effect of the passage is enhanced, too, by the 
almost effortless initial semi- vowels in some words (for instance, 
"vales," "windless," "Warning," "wended vales," and "world") and the 
almost effortless final vowel sounds in other words (for instance, 
"snow," "th rough ," "hay," and "snow"). These varied facets of Thomas's 
auditory technique account largely for the sound echoing the meaning 
in the opening three stanzas. 
In marked contrast is the passage in stanza VI: 
He knelt, he wept, he prayed. 
By the spit and the black pot in the log bright light 
And the cup and the cut bread. . . . 
Here the final consonants in all the important words are explosives 
("knelt," "wept," "prayed," "spit," "black pot," "log bright light," 
"cu£," and "cut bread"). The fact that the twenty-five words of the 
passage are all monosyllables further contributes to the staccato 
effect. By the clipped sounds in the line "By the spit and the black 
pot in the log bright light," Thomas must have intended to evoke the 
89 
idea of a crackling, cozy fireside, for in stanza XVIII he repeats the 
phrase, again against a background of more legato sounds describing 
the serene wintry scene. 
The follovn.ng stanza (XIV) is selected to illustrate the typ- 
ical complexity of vowel and consonantal arrangements in "A V/inter' s 
Tale." 
It was a hand or sound 
In the long ago land that glided the dark door wide 
And there outside on the bread of the ground 
A she bird rose and rayed like a burning bride. 
A she bird dawned, and her breast with snow and scarlet downed. 
In addition to the full end rhyme ("sound," "ground," "downed" and 
"wide," "bride"), there is internal rhyme ("hand," "land" and "glided," 
"wide," "outside," "bride"). Further, final consonance of the d sound 
permeates the stanza: "hand," "sound," "land," "glided," "wide," "out- 
side," "bread," "ground," "bird," "rayed," "bride," "bird," "dawned," 
and "downe^." All these words (except "glided" and "outside") are 
monosyllables. Many of them are linked by other means than simply 
final consonance — for example, "rayed" and "bride" as well as "dawned" 
and "downed." A concentration of the consonants b and r near the end- 
rhyme "bride" heightens its semantic importance: "bread," "bird," 
"burning," "bird," and "breast." Internal elements and line-end words 
weave a web of assonance and alliteration. Moreover, stanza XIV is 
representative of the poem as a whole in its harmony of sound and 
meaning. 
Thus "A Winter's Tale" is to a great degree a unified and sus- 
tained poem because of its rich musical texture, achieved through 
90 
ingenious repetitions of consonants, vowels, and even entire rhyme- 
bases. In this poem phonetic devices seem employed more extensively, 
if less strikingly, than in most of Thomas's poetry. 
XXI 
Like "Poem in October," the lyric "Fern Hill" laments the loss 
of childhood Joy and innocence by recreating childhood spontaneity and 
implying both its transience and its contrast with the poet's adult 
existence. 
Thomas's craft in "Fern Hill" is intricate. Not only is the 
poem well-patterned in its structure (six stanzas of nine lines each), 
but it is also well-patterned in its syllabic covint. The first, sec- 
ond, third, and fifth stanzas are perfectly regular; the fourth, sixth, 
and seventh have one irregularity each; and the eighth and ninth con- 
21 
tain, in identical positions, two different syllabic counts. 
Number of Syllables 
Stanza in Each Line 
I 14 14 9 6 9 15 14 7 9 
II 14 14 9 6 9 1% 14 7 9 
III 14 14 9 5 9 14 14 9_6 
IV 14 14 9 6 9 14 14 9_6 
V 14 14 9 6 9 14 14 9_6 
VI 14 14 9 6 9 14 15 7 9 
The rhythm of the poem flows with the long, lilting lines, which are 
associated primarily with the lightheartedness of youth, and ebbs with 
the short, slower lines, which are associated primarily with the 
In effect, then, the second very short line in each stanza 
is simply placed as line 9, rather than line 8, in stanzas III, IV, 
and V. 
91 
sinister presence of time. More specifically, although the patterns 
of the speech stresses vary widely throughout the poem, certain tend- 
encies characterize the long lines as compared to the short lines. For 
the most part, the long lines have less than a 1: 2 ratio of stressed 
to unstressed syllables, whereas the short lines — line 4 of each stanza 
and line 8 of stanzas I, II, and VI and line 9 of stanzas III, IV, 
and V— usually have a 1:2 ratio. The lilting quality of the long lines 
is further heightened by the frequent anapestic beginnings; the more 
somber quality of the short lines, by the frequent heavily stressed 
beginnings. 
The assonance of the stressed syllables of the line-end words 
in the poem helps to produce a singing, chanting effect. The asso- 
nantal arrangements are in the pattern abcddabcd ; 
Stanza Stanza 
I boughs, town IV white, light 
green, leaves all, warm 
starry, barley maiden, stable 
climb, eyes, light again, day, praise 
II bams, calves V house, allows 
home, cold long, songs 
only, slowly over, golden 
be, means, streams ways, hay, grace 
III hay, away VI me, means 
air, night- jars hand, land 
watery, horses rising, dying 
grass, stars, dark sleep, fields, sea 
There are only three types of departures from the abcddabcd pattern of 
assonance: (l) one instance of only approximate assonance, in "air" 
and "night-jars"; (2) one instance of Thomas's pronunciation (on the 
recording) making approximate assonance of what can be pronounced in 
92 
British English as full assonance, in "again" — vdiich Thomas reads with 
a stressed _e vowel — with "day" and "praise"; (3) one instance of a 
change in the assonantal pattern, in stanza VI, where it becomes 
abcddbacd. The rhythm of the line-end words forms a very distinctive 
scheme. With the exception of the final phrase ("take me") in stanza 
VI, line 1, all line-end words in lines 3 and 8 are feminine and in 
the other lines, masculine. 
A very important but seldom mentioned factor in the lilt of 
the lines in "Fern Hill" is the high frequency of vowels. An examina- 
tion reveals that there is often a fairly continuous alternation of 
vowel and consonantal sounds and that when consonants are juxtaposed, 
they are in several instances lightly breathed h' s (as in "hay / Fields 
high as the house" or "happy as the heart was long") or semi- vowels 
(as in "the sun that is young _once only" or "the spellbound horses 
walking warm"). In the opening lines of stanza II, many of the words 
begin or end in a vowel sound: 
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns 
llbouT tHe happy yar"d and singing as the Tarm was~home. 
In the sun that is young once only, 
~ Time let me p lay and be 
Golden in the merc^ of his means. 
(Note that a nasal — mostly preceded by the a vowel — links the seman- 
tically important words in the line "In the sun that is young once 
only.") 
So superbly constructed is "Fern Hill" that the symbolic 
imagery and the sound patterns in every line contribute to the bal- 
anced and unified whole. Consider, for example, the first stanza. 
S3 
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. 
The opening words, "Now as I was young and easy," hint (through the use 
of the past tense) of the loss of youthful bliss, and the phrase "Time 
let me hail and climb" suggests that time rules even the child's life. 
Moreover, the phrase "once below a time" (used to less advantage in a 
poem by that title) not only evokes the familiar fairy-tale introduc- 
tion, but also poignantly underscores the fact that the child is sub- 
ject to the laws of time. In the light of these ominous suggestions 
(which are made more explicit in the later stanzas), the child's sover- 
eignty, as the "prince of the apple towns" who "lordly had the trees," 
is charged with irony. Yet for the moment, all seems green and golden, 
and the child is an integral part of his environment. Throughout the 
stanza, alliteration (such as "grass was green"), assonance (such as 
"trees and leaves"), and internal rhyme (such as "apple," "happy" and 
"Time," "climb") create a euphony which aptly reinforces the emotional 
meaning of the harmony between the child and nature. 
In the second stanza the rhythmical swing of the long lines 
describes further the happy, carefree childhood on the farm; the slower 
pace of the short lines again emphasizes the somber, inevitable changes. 
Especially effective is the syntactical repetition beginning in the 
fourth line ("Time let me be / Golden . . .") which balances the phrase 
94 
beginning in the fourth line of the first stanza ("Time let me hail 
and climb / Ciolden ..."). In stanza III the opening tempo runs fast 
with lightly stressed rhythms, syntactical repetitions, and consonance 
of the smooth continuant 1 ("it was lovely ... it was air / And play- 
ing, lovely and watery") . But the succeeding lines foreshadow the con- 
clusion of the poem, when the delights of childhood are lost forever; 
for here the delights of childhood are temporarily borne away during 
the night. This portentous event is, fittingly enough, described with 
dark vowels (in "rode," "owls," "moon long," and "horses"). In stanza 
IV the farm has returned with the dew, and the flowing phrase of 
stanza III is echoed in "it was all / Shining, it was Adam and maiden." 
So joyous and so innocent" were those youthful days that the poet com- 
pares them to the first days of Creation: 
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 vjhinnying green stable 
On to the fields of praise. 
Of the many phonetic echoes in these lyrical lines, only two shall be 
mentioned: the excitingly approximate internal rhyme in "spinning" and 
"whinnying"; the consecutive and vertical assonance of stressed syl- 
lables in "green stable" and "fields of praise." Similarly interest- 
ing echoes permeate the final stanzas (witness the internal rhyme in 
stanza VI, line 5, of "I," "fly," "high"). The facts of time become 
more insistent in the conclusion, but the child is still heedless. 
The poet makes no moral judgment on the child's attitude; instead, he 
implies his sorrow that such joy and innocence are transient and his 
wonder that such beauty and spontaneity ever existed at all: 
95 
Time held me green and dying 
Though I sang in my chains like the sea. 
The undeniable magic in "Fern Hill" can never be even partially 
analyzed. Only Thomas's intricate craft can be. For poetic magic is 
elusive and, as Thomas himself commented, it is "always accidental. 
No poet," he continued, "would labour intensively upon the intricate 
craft of poetry unless he hoped that, suddenly, the accident of magic 
would occur. He has to agree with Chesterton that the miraculous thing 
about miracles is that they do sometimes happen. Ajnd the best poem is 
that whose worked-upon unmagical passages come closest, in texture and 
intensity, to those moments of magical accident. "^^ Since Thomas spoke 
these words in a B.B.C. broadcast in Jime of 1946 and since "Fern Hill" 
was probably composed sometime the year before, Thomas may have had 
this poem in mind. That he worked extensively on the poem is attested 
by the fact that he wrote over two hundred "separate and distinct ver- 
23 
sions" of it. By his own standard, then, "Fern Hill" is a "best 
poem." For its "worked-upon unmagical passages" have been transformed 
nrysteriously into a unified poem which is one of the few "moments of 
magical accident" in contemporary poetry. 
22 
"On Poetry: A Discussion," Encounter , III (November, 1954), 25. 
23 
John Malcolm Brinnin, Eylan Thomas in America (New York 
1958), p. 125. ■ ' 
96 
XXII 
"In ray Craft or Sullen Art" is a twenty-line lyric with eleven 
lines in the first stanza and nine lines in the second stanza. That 
the second stanza is shorter by two lines has interesting ramifica- 
tions in respect to the balanced structural patterns of the two stanzas. 
If the patterns of syllables, of speech stresses, of line-end rhymes, 
and of line-end rhythms are studied, it becomes obvious that only two 
lines upset the parallelism between the stanzas. Close observation of 
the rhyme scheme does, though, make a solution obvious: if, instead 
of assuming that the two extra lines in stanza I correspond to the last 
two lines of stanza II, one considers them as the sixth and seventh 
lines of stanza II, then the pattern appears quite uniform. In the 
light of this adjustment, the balanced structure of the syllabic pat- 
tern, as well as of the speech stresses, becomes evident: 
Number of Syllables Number of Speech- Stresses 
Stanza in Each Line Stanza in Each Line 
I 77777777776 I 43333333233 
II 77677--7776 II 33433--3233 
But an even greater uniformity exists in the rhyme scheme. In all, 
there are only five rhyme-bases in the poem, since the second stanza 
uses the same rhyme-bases (and in parallel positions) as the first 
stanza. And the rhyme schemes of the two stanzas are — with the excep- 
tion of the omitted lines — identical: 
Stanza I abcdebdecca 
II abode — ecca 
Even though the lines are very short, the rhymes do not create a sing- 
song effect, because most lines are run-on, and each stanza is one long 
97 
sentence. Since the same rhyme-bases are used in parallel positions in 
both stanzas, it follows that the pattern of masculine and feminine 
rhymes is necessarily identical in both stanzas: 
Stanza I mmfmmmmmffm 
II mmfram--mffm 
Syntactical and phrasal repetitions contribute to the structural 
unity of "In my Craft or Sullen Art." In stanza I occur the introduc- 
tory words "Not for" (line 7) and "But for" (line lO) ; in stanza II 
occiir the introductory words "Not for" (line l) , "Nor for" (line 4), 
"But for" (line 6), and "Nor" (line 9). It is noteworthy that four of 
these six lines have identical metrical patterns: a trochee followed 
by an amphibrach followed by an iamb. The line "But for the common 
wages" differs only in that the rhyme word is a trochee instead of an 
iamb. The final line of the poem ("Nor heed my craft or art") differs 
markedly from the other five related lines in its continuous iambic 
pattern. 
Assonance and consonance form an important part of the lyricism 
of "In my Craft or Sullen Art." In the opening line, for example, the 
assonance — in Thomas' s pronunciation — and the final consonance of the 
words "craft" and "art" link them in sound and meaning. Other effec- 
tive sound patterns might be pointed out: the consonance of the _s 
sound in "sullen," "Exercised," and "still" and of the n sound in 
"sullen," "in," "night," "When only," and "moon"; the assonance in 
"exercised" and "night"; the alliteration of "lovers lie," which is 
echoed in "all" in the succeeding line; the use of _s, t, and r sounds 
in "the strut and trade of charms / On the ivory stages," vrfiich (by 
98 
binding together "strut," "trade," and "stages") stresses the sugges- 
tion of Shakespeare's "poor player," who "struts and frets his hour 
upon the stage / And then is heard no more." But the most euphonious 
and lyrical line in the first stanza is: "I labour by singing light." 
Here the first, middle, and last syllables of the line (i.e., "I," 
"by," and "light") are related by assonance of the long diphthong ai. 
Consonance of 1 and b sounds is prominent in "labour by . . . light." 
The word "singing," with its repetition of "-ing," reinforces the 
effect of the meaning suggested by the first syllable of the word. 
Moreover, ioio is very light, voiced throughout, and composed entirely 
of continuants. In the second stanza fewer sound patterns are obvious, 
so that the three occurrences of the long vowel e in "Who pay no praise 
nor wages" are the more emphatic. Part of the musical effectiveness of 
the phrase can be explained by the fact that the graphs of the vowel 
tone and pitch are parallel. Indeed the parallelism continues into the 
final line and thus connects the closing thoughts of the poem. 
Vowel Tone 
Pitch 
A lyrical ars poetica , "In my Craft or Sullen Art" agrees with 
Thomas's prose statements on his method of composition and his purpose 
in writing poetry. His poetic craft is a "sullen art" which results 
99 
not from divine inspiration but from constant practice and labor. Yet 
he feels his craft must be closely related to the inmost heart of real 
life, i.e., the intense joys and sorrows of 
. . . the lovers [who] lie abed 
With all their griefs in their arms. 
His art, the poem says, is for the lovers, even though they ignore it. 
In a prose statement defending the usefulness of his poetry, Thomas had 
earlier said: 
My poetry is . . . the record of my individual struggle 
from darkness towards some measure of light. . . . I^ poetry is, 
or should be, useful to others for its individual recording of 
that same struggle with vrfaich they are necessarily acquainted. 
The lovers, however, "pay no praise or wages / Nor heed my craft or 
art." Even so, Thomas's poetry is written for them; both his art and 
the lovers' actions reflect the essential experiences of life. 
^^uite Early One Morning, p. 188. 
CHAPTER III 
In Thomas's third and final period, 1946 till his death in 1953, 
he wrote only eight poems, six of which are analyzed in the following 
chapter: 
XXIII - "In Country Sleep" 
XXIV - "Over Sir John' s hill" 
XXV - "In the white giant's thigh" 
XXVI - "Do not go gentle into that good night" 
XXVII - "Lament" 
XXVIII - "Poem on his Birthday" 
Tnese poems are characterized by simpler meanings and more com- 
plex auditory patterns than in the early poetry. The structure is more 
flexible, the rhythm more flowing, and the verbal and visual patterning 
more complex yet more pervasive. The influence upon Thomas of oral 
reading accounts in large part for the differences between the early 
and late poetry. His first extensive oral reading of poetry was on 
the B. B.C. ^ As Roy Campbell said, Thomas's discovery that he could 
read poetry on the radio transformed his later poems for tne better. 
As a result of this discovery— which was reinforced by his public read- 
ings in England and (on four different visits) in the United States- 
Thomas projected into his later poetry some of the dynamic, lyrical 
%oy Campbell says that "Dylan was the best all-round reader 
of verse that I ever produced . . . [though] he was best at the 'wild 
and wooly' poets." ("Memories of Dylan Thomas at the B.B.C.," Poetry , 
LXXXVII [November, IS 55], 112.) 
deferred to by Herbert Marshall McLuhan, "Sight, Sound, and 
the Fury," Commonweal , IX (April 9, 1954), 7. 
100 
101 
qualities of his own rich, resonant voice. Equally important, from his 
new relationship with the public, he was forced to recognize the need 
for simplification of meaning in any poetry which a person is to \inder- 
stand and appreciate upon first hearing rather than seeing . Such 
poetry is more effective, too, if the meaning is universalized rather 
than merely personalized. And sound, he realized, should assist rather 
than dominate the meaning in poetry of high excellence. At a confer- 
ence with students at the University of Utah in 1852, Tnomas indicated 
clearly that his new approach is tovrard simplification and lyricism 
and that this re-direction is inextricably related to his oral reading. 
At first I thought it enough to have an impression of 
sound and feeling and let the meaning seep in later, but 
since I've been giving these broadcasts and reading other 
men' s poetry as well as my own, I find it better to have 
more meaning at first reading. 
It appears, then, that Thomas' s progress toward simplicity and lyricism 
was to some extent a conscious effort. Through oral reading of poetry 
on the radio and in lectures, Thomas came to realize that sound and 
meaning should correlate and should simultaneously affect the reader. 
XXIII 
Thomas originally intended that "In Country Sleep," "Over Sir 
John's hill," and "In the white giant's thigh" should someday form 
separate parts of a long poem. In 1950 he said of the projected poem 
that "some [of it] . . . is written down on paper, some of it is in a 
rough draft in the head, and the rest of it radiantly unworded in ambi- 
tious conjecture." Tnis "poem in preparation" was to be on a "grand 
102 
and simple" plan and was to be called "In Country Heaven." The three 
separate poems are, unfortunately, the only extant completed portions 
of the long poem and can give no accurate idea of the form and content 
it might have had. "I do not yet know myself," Thomas further commented, 
"their relevance to the whole, hypothetical structure. But I do know 
they belong to it." Thus it seems valid to treat the three poems 
almost as separate works in respect to their sound and meaning. 
The first section of "In Country Sleep" contains nine stanzas 
of seven lines each, and the second section, eight stanzas of six lines 
each. The pattern of total number of syllables varies from eleven to 
fourteen syllables in the long lines, but is always four syllables in 
the short lines (i.e., line 5 of part 1 and line 4 of part 2). Although 
most of the lines have either five or six strong speech stresses, there 
is some variation which correlates with the emotional impact of the par- 
ticular line. For instance, the following two lines differ greatly in 
their rhythmic impression and their number of speech stresses. On the 
one hand, "Sleep, good, for ever slow and deep, spelled rare and wise" 
(part 1, stanza II) , with its many consecutive, heavily stressed mono- 
syllables is slow and lingering in effect. On the other hand, "Night 
and the reindeer on the clouds above the haycocks" (part 2, stanza I) 
has one more syllable but only half as many speech stresses, and pro- 
duces a quick, light effect. 
It is the taut rhyme scheme which most formally organizes the 
structure of the poem. The fhyme scheme for part 1 is abcbaac and for 
^Quite Early One Morning (Norfolk, Conn., 1954), p. 180. 
103 
part Z, abbcca. All except five of the fifty-one rhyme-word patterns 
are masculine. Few of the rhymes are approximate and almost half of 
the stanzas have two of the three rhymes identical in vowel sound, as 
in the repetition of the i sound in part 1, stanza I: 
near, dear, year 
asleep, leap 
hood, wood. 
Moreover, seven different rhyme-bases which appear in the first six 
stanzas recur later in the poem. In part 1, stanza I, for example, 
the "near" rhyme is used in stanza IV and again in stanza VIII, the 
"asleep" rhyme is used in stanza III, and the "hood" rhyme is used in 
stanza V. Both the assonance-link within many of the stanzas' rhymes 
and the rhyme-link between many of the stanzas contribute to the inter- 
locking nature of the poem's structure. 
"In Country Sleep" abounds in internal rhymes, many of them 
adjacent to each other or rhyming with the end words. These internal 
rhymes include: 
Part 1 Part Z 
Stanza Stanza 
I near, Fear, dear, dear, year I fair, prayer, there, hare- 
asleep, sheepwhite, leap cocks, fox 
II Sleep, deep II 
hobnail tales 
III sleep, keep III tale, pail 
IV Bell, spell IV black-backed 
fear, near, clear 
ride wide 
dell, well, cell 
V tree, three V blue, true, dew 
telling, knelling 
fables, lord's-table 
104 
Part 1 Part 2 
Stanza Stanza 
VI gay may VI 
VII spelled at rest, held and blessed VII tide, riding 
vast night, last night 
VII - VIII seek, meek VIII grieve, believe 
fear, dear, dear 
IX falls, stalls, falls, falls, falls 
hail, vale 
Several of the internal rhyme-word patterns, such as the "fear" rhyme 
and the "sleep" rhyme, recur as internal rhymes. Notice that these two 
words themselves emphasize ideas basic to the poem's theme — that is, 
the father's fear that his daughter may not be protected in life as she 
is in sleep . 
Although the stanzas are well-defined as to their arrangement 
of lines, syllables, and rhymes, they are seldom end-stopped, which 
makes for a rapid, fluid movement. The various parts of the poem are 
related frequently by repetition and echoes of phrases. Several 
examples may be cited: "Never and never, ray girl" (part 1, stanza I) 
and "Never, my girl" (part 1, stanza III); "you are shielded by fern / 
And flower" (part 1, stanza III) and "Be shielded by chant and flower" 
(part 1, stanza VI); "This night and each vast night," "This night and 
each night" (part 1, stanza VIII) and "The leaping saga of prayer'." 
(part 2, stanza I), "But her faith that each vast night and the saga 
of prayer / . . . Her faith that this last night," (part 2, stanza VII), 
"this night he comes and night without end," "this dawn and each first 
dawn" (part 2, stanza VIII ) . Other echoes are fainter and further 
apart, like "Night and the reindeer" (part 2, stanza I) and "Night and 
105 
the vein of birds" (part 2, stanza II) or "sly as snow" (part 1, 
stanza VIII), and "Slyly, slowly" (part Z, stanza VI). Yet all the 
repetitions and echoes seem to contribute to a chanting effect which 
characterizes the poet's plea for protection for his child. 
Of the numerous and extensive patterns of assonance and conso- 
nance in the poem only a few of the most interesting can be pointed out. 
For instance, sometimes — as in the numerous i sounds of part 1, stanza 
I — the assonance reinforces the vowel sound of the predominant end rhyme, 
Sometimes words in identical vertical positions of adjacent lines are 
subtly and intricately related. Part 1, stanza II, lines 1 and Z con- 
clude, respectively, with the phrases "rare and wise" and "rose and 
shire." "Rare" and "rose" are linked by alliteration, "wise" and 
"shire" by assonance, "rare" and "shire" by final consonance, "wise" 
and "rose" by final consonance. Such lattice-work in sound is skill- 
fully unobtrusive, but helps to create the general impression of a har- 
mony which can lull the poet's little girl to sleep. Similarly, in 
part 1, stanza III the phrase "until tolled to sleep" is interlocked 
by the initial and final consonance in "-til" and "tolled." In the 
following stanza the end-rhyme and internal rhyme of "Bell" and "spell" 
and later of "dell," "well," and "cell" is twice softly echoed in the 
lyrical statement, "A hill touches an angel." In part 1, stanza II 
the consonance of t and 1 sounds binds together the words "tolls," 
"stall," and "tales." Cross-alliteration of the voiced continuants 1 
and m is evident in the relationship between the phrases "Illumina- 
tion of musici" and "Music of elements," -vmich are placed in initial 
positions in lines 1 and 5, respectively, of part 1, stanza IV. 
106 
In large part the lullaby, lyrical effect of the poetry of 
"In Country Sleep" results from the extensive use, throughout the poem, 
of the voiced continuant 1. Part 1, stanza IX serves as a good illus- 
tration; here the twenty-one occurrences of the sound 1 (including rep- 
etitions of the word "fall") retard and punctuate the rhythm. The mean- 
ing of several of these words creates the impression of falling ("falls," 
"hail," "glides"). Frequently the 1 sound appears in conjunction with 
the voiced continuant s, as in "spelled asleep." Indeed the emphasis 
(throughout part l) on the consonants in "spelled asleep" extends the 
literal meaning associated with these key words of the poem. In part 
1, stanza VII, the voiced continuants and the internal rhyme in the 
first five lines contrast strikingly with the explosives in the final 
two lines, just as the father's hope for his child's peaceful rest (in 
the opening lines) contrasts with his fears for her safety (in the clos- 
ing two lines), rne entire poem is a father's prayerful hope that his 
daughter be protected in life, as in sleep. 
xnv 
"Over Sir John' s hill" concerns a hawk that kills young birds 
above the River Towy while a heron and a poet watch. The elegiac nature 
of the poem makes appropriate its relatively slow, lyrical rhythm. The 
line lengths of a single stanza vary from one to fourteen or fifteen 
syllables. A discernible regularity exists, however, in the syllabic 
count of the respective lines of the five stanzas. As Ralph N. Maud 
notes, the work sheets of "Over Sir John's hill" reveal that Thomas 
107 
counted syllables at a certain stage in developing the poem, but later 
abandoned absolute regularity of syllabic count in order to include 
4 
certain phrases. The result is: 
Stanza Number of Syllables in Each Line 
I 5 6 14 15 5 1 15 5 14 5 14 14 
II 5 6 13 14 5 1 13 6 13 4 13 14 
III 5 6 13 14 4 1 14 4 15 5 14 13 
IV 5 6 14 14 5 1 14 4 14 4 13 13 
V 5 6 14 14 6 1 13 5 14 6 14 13 
A notable phenomenon in "Over Sir John' s hill" is the almost 
complete avoidance of polysyllables and the verj'- emphatic nature of 
closely juxtaposed monosyllables, which are reinforced by all kinds of 
phonetic echoes, sometimes so crowded as to make enunciation difficult 
unless one reads the poem slowly. This parading of emphatic monosyl- 
labism culminates in the one-syllable links in the midcle of each 
stanza. Each one- syllable line appears as a pivot around which the 
stanza turns. Before the pivot the flow seems to be narrowing and 
slowing down, vmereas after it the flow seems to be expanding and accel- 
erating. In particular, the long line after the monosyllabic one usu- 
ally has a number of disyllabic words — in stanza II there is even one 
of four syllables ("elegiac") — which quicken and smooth the pace. 
Bius the total rhythmic pattern in each stanza is one of contraction 
and expansion. 
In the relationships between the end-words of the lines, "Over 
Sir John' s hill" is complex. The comments made by Gilbert Highet 
See Language and Meaning in the Poetry of I)ylan Thomas . Unpub- 
lished Ph.D. dissertation (Harvard University, 1958), pp. 152-153. 
108 
concerning the rhyme scheme of the poem are some'what over-simplified," 
for the relationships between the line-end words run the gamut from 
full- rhyme to varieties of consonantal and assonantal similarities. 
Stanza End-Word Line 
I hill, still, until 
claws. Wars 
bay, play 
hedges, heron, headstone 
squawk, hawk 
II crack, jack-, hawk 
hare. There 
fins, wind 
paddles, passage, prancing 
dab- filled, killed 
III shell, bell, elm 
sung, Young 
brand , shall 
dilly, dingle, distant 
die, I 
IV vale, sail, hail 
stilt, Guilt 
elmed, knelled 
whistles, windows, idiispering 
on, song 
V go, snow, slow 
owl. Shout 
elms, hens 
scaly, shaken, sailing 
waves, graves 
Close observation of these sets of end-words reveals a distinct progres- 
sion from a predominance of full-rhyme in the first stanza ("hill," 
"still," "until"; "bay," "play"; "squawk," "hawk") to a predominance 
1 
(C, ^ 
3 
6 
4 
5 
V 
11, 12 
8, 
10 
1 
Z, 9 
3 
6 
4 
5 
7 
11, 12 
8^ 
10 
1 
2 Q 
3 
6 
4 
5 
7 
11, 12 
8 
10 
1 
2, 9 
3 
6 
4 
5 
7 
11, 12 
8 
10 
1 
2, 9 
3 
6 
4 
, 5 
7 
11, 12 
8 
, 10 
In saying that "Ihe seventh and ninth lines have no corre- 
sponding rhymes," Highet overlooks the relationships vdiich the end-words 
of these lines usually bear to, respectively, the eleventh and twelfth 
lines, and the first and second lines. ("The Great Welsh Poet: Dylan 
Thomas," excerpt from Tne Powers of Poetry- , in Vogue , CXXXV [March 15, 
1960], 152.) 
109 
of assonance in the final stanza ("owl," "Shout"; "elms," "hens"; 
"scaly," "waves," "grave," "shaken," "sailing"). Yet, interestingly 
enough, the scheme for the relationship between the end-words is the 
same in all stanzas — aabccbdeaedd — no matter whether the relationship 
itself is mainly that of full-rhyme, consonance, or assonance. In 
stanza V assonance of the same vowel occurs in lines 7, 8, 10, 11, and 
12, but the line- end words in 7, 11, and 12 are more closely linked with 
each other — through similar initial consonants — than with the line-end 
words in lines 8 and 10. 
A number of line-end words in "Over Sir John' s hill" rhyme with 
words within the line. In stanza I, "shrill" (line 5) rhymes with "hill" 
and "still," and "rays" (line 4) echoes "bay" and "play." In stanza II, 
"black" (line 2) rhymes with "crack" and "jack-" in the lines 
Flash, and the plumes crack. 
And a black cap of jack- 
The proximity of these three rhymes, the assonance linking them with 
two of the three other stressed syllables of the lines ("Flash" and 
"cap"), the punctuation marks (including the hyphenation of an end- 
word) , and the predominance of explosives (_£, b, and k) , all tend to 
create a forcefiil and staccato tempo which reinforces the meaning of 
these lines. 
Internal rhyme and approximate rhyme are relatively frequent 
throughout the poem, as in "slowly" and "holy" (stanza I, line 11), 
"There / Where" (stanza II, lines 6 and 7) , "stabs" and "dab-" (stanza 
II, lines 7 and 8), "paddles" and "pebbly" (stanza III, lines 7 and 8), 
110 
"'dilly dilly"' (stanza II, line 9 and stanza III, line 7), "grieve" 
and "leave" (stanza III, line 2), and "hoot" and "looted" (stanza V, 
lines 3 and 4) . Alliteration pervades the poem and is especially effec- 
tive when used subtly, as in the case of the cross-alliterated pairs of 
words, "Shallow and and sedge" and "psalms and shadows" (stanza II, 
lines S and 12) . Consonance and assonance are skillfully interwoven 
in numerous instances. In the phrase "Sir John's elmed / llill, tell- 
tale the knelled / Guilt," the frequency of the vowels e and i and of 
the voiced continuant 1 emphasizes the key phrase "knelled / Guilt" and 
(by their close juxtaposition) enforces a slow reading of the passage. 
In the concluding stanza the poet comments on the natural sounds 
vdiich he hears on Sir John's hill; these sounds remind him of the once- 
familiar sounds of the young birds now dead. The staccato rhythms of 
the explosives in these opening lines (e.g., "snapt," "cupt," and 
"Shout") echo the meaning, the sharp sounds of the hoot owl and the 
blown grassblade. By contrast, the conclusion is the more effective, 
for its long vowels (o and e) and voiced consonants ( s and l) reinforce 
the solemn and slow music of the elegy. That is, in the closing line 
the poet laments not simply the death of young birds but mortality 
itself, when he grieves "for the sake of the souls of the slain birds 
sailing . " 
XXV 
"In the vrfiite giant's thigh" is a romantic poem in vdiich long 
dead women, vho in life were childless, reveal to the poet their long- 
ing, even in death, to bear children. Although "In the white giant's 
Ill 
thigh" contains ambiguous, erotic imagery (such as the "white giant's 
thigh," which is a Welsh landmark as well as a sexual image), it is 
actually as devoid of bawdry as "Lament" is full of it. The beauty of 
the poem lies chiefly in "the general feel and sound of it," as Thomas 
- ., 6 
expressea it. 
The complex verbal and visual patterning of "In the -vdiite giant's 
thigh" is relatively unobtrusive, Tne rhyme scheme, for instance, falls 
neatly into the abab pattern repeated fifteen times, and each of the 
thirty rhymes except two is a full rhyme and each of the sixty rhyme 
words except five is a monosyllable. Yet the obviousness of this 
scheme is disguised, since the poem consists of paragraphs of various 
lengths (rather than regular quatrain stanzas), since less than half 
the lines are retarded by any punctuation mark (wiich lessens the 
emphasis on the rhymes), and since the same rhyme words almost never 
7 
recur. ' 
In the first portion of the poem the paragraphs are shorter 
than in the last portion, and the early, short paragraphs seem partic- 
ularly cohesive because of the internal rhjine, idiich appears seldom in 
the later, longer paragraphs. Internal rhymes flow thickly in the 
opening lines of the poem: "high" and "lie" with line-end rhymes "cry" 
and "thigh"; "night," "white" j "there," "Vfliere"; "though," "ago"; 
Quite Early One Morning , p. 183. 
7 
The notable exception is the rhyme words "hill" and "still," 
idiich occur both at the beginning and end of the poem. The repetition 
serves to stress the importance of the meaning of these words to the 
poem as a whole. 
112 
"they lay" and "bay" with line-end rhymes "pray" and "away"; "Pleading," 
"seed," "weed"; "Though" with line-end rhymes "ago" and "flow." 
Many of the poetic devices utilized in the first portion of the 
poem seem concentrated in the description of the long-ago love scenes 
of the passionate, dead country women, 
. . . Who once in gooseskin winter loved all ice leaved 
In the courters' lanes, or twined in the ox roasting sun 
In the wains tonned so high that the wisps of the hay 
Clung to the pitching clouds, or gay with any one 
Young as they in the after milking moonlight lay. 
The lushness of the lines evokes the sense of physical longing which is 
expressed in terms of the creative urge of nature. Internal full or 
approximate rhymes occur in "gooseskin winter"; "lanes," "wains"; "sun," 
"tonned"; "Clung," "Yoiing"; "gay" and "they" (^ich are linked with the 
line-end rhymes "hay" and "lay"). Alliteration of the voiced contin- 
uants 1 and m in "milking moonlight lay" produces a restful and smooth 
effect which is in keeping with the sensual meaning. A more intricate 
relationship occurs in the phrase "loved all ice leaved," in v^ich 
"loved" and "leaved" are identical in initial and final consonants and 
the voiced continuant 1 is echoed in the intervening word "all." 
Two consecutive lines, forming a single paragraph, offer a 
striking contrast in sound effects: 
Or rippling soft in the spinney moon as the silk 
And ducked and draked white lake that harps to a hail stone. 
The lines continue the recollection of the women' s love-making by 
describing the flesh quivering in the act of love like a lake that 
ripples in response to a hailstone. The smooth, voiced continuants 
(_s, r, 1, m, and n) and the repetition of the short vowel i in the 
113 
first line contrast with the explosives (predominantly the consonants 
d, k, and t) and the repetition of the long vowel e in the second line. 
The stress patterns further contribute to the emotional impact of the 
lines. Beginning similarly with two iambs, the lines then differ 
sharply in stress pattern: to help create the legato effect of the 
first line, unstressed syllables occur more frequently than stressed 
syllables; to help create the staccato effect of the second line, con- 
secutive stressed monosyllables occur in "draked white lake" and "hail 
stone." Within the context, these two lines are superb examples of 
correlation of sound and meaning. 
In other passages, too, sound reflects meaning. Tne tumbling 
rhythm and clipped explosives of "butter fat goosegirls, bounced in a 
gambo bed" reinforce the meaning. It is perhaps noteworthy that the 
word "gambo" (vriiich denotes a simple farm cart) has special connota- 
tions in this context. Since the word "goose" occurs near the vrord 
"gambo," there is a verbal association with the gambo goose (an Afri- 
can spur-winged goose); more significantly, there is a verbal associa- 
tion between "gambo" and "gambol" (a skipping or leaping about in 
frolic) which reinforces the literal meaning of the bouncing girls in 
the cart. A second interesting passage concerns the barrenness of the 
women, wio 
. . nothing bore, no mouthing babe to the veined hives 
Hugged, and barren and bare on Mother Goose's ground. 
Here the words "bore, no," "barren," and "bare on" all hollowly echo 
each other and enhance the meaning. 
114 
Although in life the women's love bore no fruit, in death their 
love can be influential. The poet pleads that the women will 
Teach rae the love that is evergreen after the fall leaved 
Grave, after Beloved on the grass gulfed cross is scrubbed 
Off by the sun. 
The first line here is smooth and flowing, with repetition of the 
stressed i vowel ("Teach," "green," "leaved") and of continuants (l and 
r) . In contrast is the more forceful and dynamic phrase in the second 
line, which uses different arrangements of similar explosives (g and k)- 
usually in combination with the continuant r — "grass gulfed cross is 
scrubbed." And within these women (the poet says) love lives on, "Love 
for ever meridian." The concluding line symbolizes this all-consuming 
yet deathless love: 
And the daughters of darkness flame like Fawkes fires still. 
This flaring image alludes to the country custom of lighting bonfires 
on each November 5, Guy Fawkes Day. Thomas, who considered Thomas 
Hardy his favorite twentieth- century poet, may even have associated 
the lines with the dark and passionate Eustacia Vye who, in a climactic 
early chapter of The Return of the Native , uses her "Fawkes fire" as a 
signal for her lover, Damon Wildeve. Certainly the consonance of _d, f, 
and 1, and the repetition of the s sibilant (which suggests the hissing 
flames of bonfires) help create a haunting line. The tempo, beginning 
relatively swiftly with two anapests, concludes with slowness and final- 
ity, on three consecutive stressed monosyllables. 
115 
XXVI 
"Do not go gentle into that good night" is perhaps too often 
considered lightly as only simple iteration. Cid Gorman even believes 
Q 
that "the set form of the villanelle treads Thomas's feet." By defin- 
ition the villanelle is restrictive, because it demands nineteen lines 
on two rhymes in six stanzas, the first and third lines of the opening 
tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets, and both 
repeated at the end of the concluding quatrain. Within this structure, 
though, Thomas creates a poem of great force, beauty, and tenderness, 
in vniich sound and sense are exquisitely blended. 
Thomas's villanelle is a plea to his ill and aging father to 
die as wise men, good men, wild men, grave men die, and as the father 
himself has lived — struggling, "[raging] against the d^^'ing of the 
light." The structure of the poem involves two uses of the repeated 
lines with some functional change. In the opening stanza, "Do not go 
gentle into that good night" and "Rage, rage against the dying of the 
light" are imperatives directed to an unidentified person. In the next 
four stanzas one or the other of these repeated phrases forms the pred- 
icate to statements about, respectively, wise men, good men, wild men, 
and grave men. In the concluding stanza, the poet directly addresses 
his father, and the repeated lines thus become significant imperatives 
— first the negative command to his father, "Do not go gentle into that 
good night"; then the positive command to him to assert his individual- 
ity, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." 
""Dylan Thomas: Rhetorician in Mid-Career," Accent, XIII 
(Winter, 1953), 58. 
116 
Numerous other devices contribute to the subtle variations 
within the pattern of the villanelle. Though the meter is generally 
iambic pentameter, the speech stresses in a line vary from five (the 
"Rage, rage" line) to eight (the "Do not go gentle" line) and save the 
poem from a monotonous, "sing-song" rhythm. The simplicity of the 
vocabulary and the scarcity of polysyllables aid in the lyrical smooth- 
ness of the rhythm. (Six: of the nineteen lines—almost one-third— are 
composed of monosyllables only.) The full, resonant effect of the poem 
is intensified by the fact that the two rhyme-bases involve long vowels 
(e and ai) . Especially in stanzas III and V, the rhymes are emphasized 
by a concentration of internal assonance of e and _ai: 
Good men, the last wave b^, crying how bright 
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green ba^;, 
Rage, rage against the d^ing of the light. 
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight 
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors anl be gay. 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 
Both stanzas have at least four uses of each of the rhyme vowels, 
excluding the rhyme words themselves. The repetition of vowel sounds 
focuses attention upon the meaningful words of these stanzas; it helps 
to indicate an important theme underlying the poem— the discrepancy 
between what the good and grave men have done in life (frail deeds) 
and what they mi git have done (blazing, meteoric deeds) . 
Part of the powerfulness of the poem results from the intensity 
of striking power of the words used. One out of every eight syllables 
is of very high striking power (ten syllables have a striking power of 
39, thirteen have a striking power of 40 to 44). Tnus Thomas's language 
117 
is exhortative in both sound and meaning; the words rage as he desires 
his father to rage. 
In the final stanza lies the core of the poem' s meaning. More 
quiet, calm, and tender than the preceding lines, this stanza directly 
addresses the poet's father on his precipice of death (i.e., "on the 
sad height") , Then in the second line Tnomas urges his father to 
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. 
This line of ten monosyllables is strong, deliberate, and slow in tempo. 
Closely juxtaposed repetitions of the same sound usually produce an 
effect of retarding the rhythm. Such is the case here, where the s 
sound (introduced by the word "sad" in the first line of the stanza) 
is repeated. The three most important words end in the sound s — "curse," 
"bless," and "fierce" — and "tears" ends in the closely related z sound. 
Thomas's use of punctuation also retards the rhythm, in particular the 
non- grammatical use in "curse^ bless_^ me now." Indeed, the oxymoron*, 
effect of "curse, bless" reflects the dichotomy and poignancy of 
Thomas's plea to his father. The poet prays that his father will, 
with fierce tears, curse and bless him — as his final and ultimate pro- 
test against death. 
XXVII 
In "Lament" an unrepentant old sinner recalls the sensual 
pleasures of his adolescence, manhood, and prime (in stanzas I, II, 
and III, respectively) and laments the physical deterioration of his 
old age and "all the deadly virtues" that attend his deathbed hours 
(in stanzas IV and V, respectively). 
118 
Structurally, "Lament" consists of five stanzas of twelve lines 
each. The total number of syllables in each line is always either nine 
or ten. 
Stanza Niomber of Syllables in Each Line 
I 10 9 10 10 S 10 9 S 10 10 9 9 
II 10 9 10 9 10 10 9 10 10 10 9 9 
III 10 9 10 9 9 10 10 S 9 9 9 9 
IV 10 9 10 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 10 9 
V 9 10 10 9 10 9 10 9 10 9 9 10 
The number of speech-stressed syllables in each line, however, varies 
from three to seven. 
Various sound patterns in "Lament" correspond generally with 
the poem's meaning. The first three stanzas, which concern the nar- 
rator's wild, lusty past existence, mark a general contrast with the 
last two stanzas, vmich concern his subdued, impotent present exist- 
ence. Two elements of sound vdiich reinforce meaning might be dis- 
cussed in this connection: the contrast in types of consonants and 
the contrast in metrical patterns. First, many of the consonants in 
the opening stanzas are explosives. Especially effective clusters of 
explosives occur in 
Not a boy and a bit in the wick- 
Dipping moon and drunk as a new dropped calf 
and in 
Brandy and ripe in my bright, bass prime, 
No springtailed torn in the red hot town. 
In the second example, the cognate alliteration of the p-b explosives 
and the assonance of ai link closely the words "Brandy," " bri ght, " 
" pri me," and " spring- . " In the last stanza, continuants seem more 
significant than explosives, as in "Now I am a man no more no more." 
119 
Secondly, in the first four stanzas of the poem a great variety of 
metrical patterns appears, and the same pattern scarcely ever recurs 
in the same stanza. At the close of "Lament," however, more regular 
metrical patterns (to be analyzed later) occur. It seems fitting that 
metrical irregularity should characterize the opening passages of the 
poem, which concern the narrator' s former irregular and uncontrolled 
life and that metrical regularity should characterize the passages 
which concern his present, more regular and controlled life. 
As to the rhyme scheme of "Lament," six rhymes occur, in the 
pattern abcdabcdefef . Off- rhyme (usually in the form of final conso- 
nance without assonance) is rather equally distributed throughout the 
stanzas. In stanza V, a complicated rhyme relationship occurs between 
lines 1 (with its line-end word "more"), 5 (with its line-end words 
"bells jaw") and 7 (with its line-end words "bore angels") . For "more" 
and "bore," "bells" and "angels" rhyme. Internal rhyme occurs in 
several instances, among the most notable being "blind," "rind," "find" 
(stanza IV) and "more," "roaring," and "bore" (stanza V) . 
"Lament" utilizes incremental repetition of phrases in the 
first three lines of each of the five stanzas. In the first line, the 
phrase "¥nen I was a . . ."is repeated in four stanzas, with varia- 
tions to designate the narrator's youth, manhood, prime, and middle 
age. Stanza V advances the phrase to the present--"Now I am a . . ." — 
to designate the narrator's old age. In the second line the phrase 
"And the black ... of the ..." occurs in stanzas I, II, and III, 
and (with substitutions) in stanzas IV and V. Tne third line offers 
the fullest incremental repetition: "(Sighed the old ram rod, 
120 
dying of . . .)." Stanza I completes this line with "women," stanza 
II with "bitches," stanza III with "welcome," stanza IV with "down- 
fall," and stanza V with "strangers." The repetitions of these three 
lines throughout the poem give structural unity to the piece, and the 
variations throughout the poem advance or deepen its meaning. 
"Lament" follows a general ballad style in both its heavily 
accented and alliterated verse and in its incremental repetitions. 
As previously mentioned, the number of speech-stressed syllables in 
the lines varies greatly as compared to the total number of syllables 
in the lines. For the most part, these heavy stresses fall toward the 
end of the line; in seventeen lines three or more consecutively stressed 
syllables conclude the line. Perhaps the most arresting of these is the 
line "Oh, time enough when the blood creeps cold," where the use of 
monosyllables, explosives, and consecutively stressed syllables forces 
a slow tempo vmich enhances the literal meaning of the slow flow of 
blood in the old and dying. The metrical irregularities in the early 
stanzas only accentuate the strong metrical regularities in the con- 
cluding lines (8-12) of the final stanza of the poem: 
Harpies around me out of her womb'. 
Chastity prays for me, piety sings, 
Innocence sweetens my last black breath. 
Modesty hides my thighs in her wings. 
And all the deadly virtues plague my death'. 
Here lines 8, 9, 10, and 11 are identical in the metrical pattern of 
the first five syllables (a trochee followed by an amphibrach); indeed, 
lines 8 and 11 are throughout identical metrically. Line S, except 
for the addition of a final stressed syllable, is dactylic, and line 
12 is completely iambic. Thus the ending provides a fitting climax 
121 
for the correlation between sound and meaning in "Lament," for in the 
concluding line, expressing the old man's resignation — unwilling though 
it may be — to death, the rhythmic pattern yields to complete regularity 
and flowing smoothness. 
XXVIII 
"Poem on his Birthday," the last of Thomas's three birthday 
poems, first appeared in October, 1951, in V7orld Review (New Series) . 
This early version consisted of only nine stanzas of nine lines each. 
Later Thomas revised the poem, adding three new stanzas, and in this 
form it appeared in In Country Sleep and ultimately in the Collected 
Poems . 
In structure "Poem on his Birthd^" is extremely elaborate. 
The twelve stanzas contain nine lines each. As in "Lament," the verse 
is rather strictly patterned in regard to the numoer of syllables in 
each line, but the arrangement of speech-stressed syllables is quite 
irregular. The odd-numbered lines have six syllables and the even- 
numbered lines, nine syllables. There are only two departures from 
this arrangement — stanza I, line 9, which lacks one syllable, and 
stanza XI, line 5, vrfiich contains an extra syllable. 
122 
Number of Syllables 
iza 
in Each Line 
I 
69696S695 
II 
6S69696S6 
II 
696969696 
lY 
696969696 
V 
696969696 
VI 
6 9 6 9 6 9 6 9 6 
TI 
696969696 
VIII 696969696 
IX 696969696 
X 696969696 
XI 696979696 
XII 696969696 
In contrast to this regularity, the number of speech-stressed syllables 
varies (in no established pattern) from two to seven to the line. 
"Poem on his Birthday" uses no rigid rhyme scheme, but, in 
addition to scattered initial consonance and final consonance in the 
line-end words, assonance occurs in a definite pattern, ababcdcdc. 
Stanza 
I sun, scud 
sea, beaks 
birds, spurns, spear 
grave , age 
II go, told 
trails, waves 
death, bell, bless 
room, wounds 
III fall, hawks 
fly, glide 
drowned, house, shroud 
He, perceives 
IV robe, knows 
prayer, end 
cloud, down, mouth 
dust, blood 
Stanza 
V swung, struck 
knells, wrecked 
stars, apart, dark 
cage, flame 
VI lost 
great, place 
God, was 
true, woods 
void, ,ioy 
VII bare, dead 
bay, whales 
geese, priest, peace 
ghost, fold 
VIII way, prays 
alone, blow 
hills, kick. Him 
last, stars 
123 
Stanza Stanza 
IX old, foam XI move, blooms 
wild, shrined hulks, exults 
vows, aground, aloud way, faith, praise 
run, tongue then, said 
X five, slime XII hills, sing 
love, come brown, how 
domes, bones, most ride, eyes, die 
selves, flesh Oh, alone 
Exceptions occur in the c rhyme of stanza I, in the b rhyme of stanza 
IV, in the a rhyme of stanza VII, and throughout stanza \1. And the 
overall pattern of assonance in the line-end words is unobtrusive and 
intricate. 
Like most of Thomas's late poems, "Poem on his Birthday" is 
studded with internal full-rhymes or approximate rhymes. In many 
instances, one of the linked words is a line- end word: "cold," "told," 
(II, 2, 3) J "Waves," "ways " (II, 4, 5); "fly," "sky" (ill, 2, 4); 
"drowned," "toras" (ill, 5, 6); "knells," "bells," "skull" (V, 2, 3, 
4); "aground," "tumbledown" (IX, 7, 8); "kingdom come" (X, 4); "I," 
"die" (XII, S) . 
In part the slow, lyrical effect of "Poem on his Birthday" 
results from the general absence of sustained clusters of consonants 
and from the frequency of words which begin or end in vowel sounds. 
Numerous examples might be cited, such as 
And far at sea he knows. 
Who slaves to his crouched, £ternal end 
Under a serpent cloud 
124 
Dark is a way and light is a place, 
Heaven that never was 
Nor will be ever is always true 
But dark is a long way, 
He, on the aarth of the night, alone 
~ With all the living, prays. 
As in much of Thomas' s most lyrical poetry, the ingenious use of explo- 
sives and continuants is highly effective. Perhaps the most illumi- 
nating passage in this respect in "Poem on his Birthday" is the stanza 
describing the poet's ultimate and final blessing. 
That the closer I move 
To death, one man through his sundered hulks. 
The louder the sun blooms 
And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults; 
And every wave of the way 
And gale I tackle, the whole world then, 
With more triumphant faith 
Than ever was since the world was said, 
Spins its morning of praise. 
Continuants dominate most of the semantically important words of the 
opening lines. Then sound and meaning provide a direct contrast: 
clipped, pulsating explosives suggest the meaning of a vibrant, tri- 
umphant life force in line 4, "And the tusked, ramshackling sea 
exults." Assonance pervades the stanza, for the middle vowel a occurs 
in "one," "sundered," "hulks," "sun," "tusked," "exults," and the high 
vowel e occurs in "wave," "way," "gale," and "faith," Internal full 
rhyme and approximate rhyme occur occasionally, as in "one," "sun," and 
"ramshackling," "tackle," Such phonetic devices help create the beauty 
of stanza XI. 
125 
Yet the unified effect of the eleventh stanza stems largely 
from its total organization. In the stanza the odd-numbered lines 
are shorter (usually containing two anapests or three iambs), and the 
even-numbered lines are longer (usually containing four recognizable 
metrical stresses) . Except for the addition of a short line at the 
beginning, the stanza organization here — and throughout "Poem on his 
Birthday" — approaches that of the ballad stanza. The alternation 
between short and long lines produces a smooth cadence, partially 
because the shorter lines are run-on. Stanza XI is, moreover, only 
a section of a long poetic statement whose effect is that of one con- 
tinuous, powerful crescendo. The meter accentuates the crescendo 
because most lines begin smoothly and swiftly with an unstressed and 
semantically unimportant word, till the surging ninth line opens 
emphatically with an important, stressed expression: "Spins its morn- 
ing of praise." 
Following the climactic eleventh stanza, -.he conclusion sub- 
sides into comparative simplicity and calm. In the final lines the 
assonance of the dark vowel o and of the diphthong _3i dominate the 
melodic element: 
More spanned with angels ride 
The mansouled fiery islands'. Oh, 
Holier then their eyes. 
And my shining men no more alone 
As I sail out to die. 
CONCLUGION 
In the light of the preceding chapters, it is apparent that 
Thomas developed in auditory techniques from the staccato nature of 
the early poetry to the legato nature of the later poetry. He 
achieved an orchestration in three general ways: (l) by his arrange- 
ment of stresses; (2) by his choice of sounds; (3) by his arrangement 
of soiinds. 
In its arrangement of stresses, Tnomas's poetry reveals a pro- 
gression from a poetry of rather strong metrical stress, to a poetry 
of flowing cadence. In the early poetry the metrical pattern is rela- 
tively regular; "From love's first fever to her plague," "The hand 
that signed the paper," "Should lanterns shine," and "When all my five 
and country senses see" (for example) all tend toward an iambic pat- 
tern. Other factors also contribute to the strongly stressed rhythm 
in the early poems — the widespread use of words with high striking 
power, of monosyllables, and of end-stopped lines. In the later 
poetry the patterns of metrical stress are more diverse and irregular. 
In general, the ratio of stressed to unstressed words is smaller than 
in the early period. Further, the structure of the later poems is 
more fluid, especially in that the lines (and frequently the para- 
graphs or stanzas themselves) are run-on. 
In the choice of sounds, Thomas' s poetry reveals a distinct 
progression toward a phonetic "symbolism." To varying degrees the 
126 
127 
sound echoes the meaning in his poetry. In the early period sound 
usually enhances meaning only in a phrase or line. In a poem of the 
middle period, frequently two sections i^ich contrast in meaning will 
also contrast in predominant sounds. (In '"If my head hurt a hair's 
foot'" the child's speech is characterized more by explosives, the 
mother's speech, more by continuants; in "Once below a time" the 
description of the immature poet is characterized more by explosives, 
the description of the mature poet, more by continuants.) In the 
late poetry, sound and meaning are more frequently integrated; passages 
in which sound echoes meaning are often sustained. Since Thomas's 
choice of sounds becomes increasingly selective and increasingly 
related to the emotional meaning of the poetry, and since the tone of 
his poetry becomes increasingly hymnic and expansive, it is not sur- 
prising that the types of sounds predominant in Thomas's poetry change. 
Generally, the early poetiy is marked by its frequency of effective 
consonantal clusters, particularly of explosives (p, t, k, b, d, and 
g) . In contrast, the later poetry is marked by its frequency of effec- 
tive vowels, its avoidance of any very continuous use of harsh conso- 
nantal clusters, and the prevalence of continuants (especially _s, 1, 
m, and r) . That a correlation between particular consonants and emo- 
tional effects is a valid assumption can be supported by Charles W. 
Fox's research in this area of experimental psychology. His studies 
See "An Experimental Study of Naming," American Journal of 
Psychology, XL VII (October, 1935), 545-579. 
128 
indicate that — vri.thout any formal instructions suggesting this partic- 
ular scale of attributes — his subjects associated certain soiinds with 
dominant and salient characteristics. Such sounds as i , z, and k 
were designated as sharp or angular, and such sounds as m, u, 1, and b 
were designated as round, smooth, or voluminous. 
Thomas' s development is, however, more pronounced in the 
arrangement of sounds than in the arrangement of stresses or even in 
the choice of sounds. Many early poems resort to glaring repetitions, 
such as phrasal or syntactical repetitions which fail to broaden or 
deepen significantly the poem's meaning (like the repetitions based 
on the phrase "vmere no sun shines" in "Light breaks where no sun 
shines"), or even sometimes mere "self-plagiarism" (like the repeti- 
tion of certain vague words, only seldom justified) , Gradually, how- 
ever, the arrangements of sound become more subtle, varied, and per- 
vasive. The complex and diffused auditory patterns in these later 
poems prove that assonance, alliteration, full and approximate rhyme 
(both internally and at line-end) form the basis of Thomas's distinc- 
tive instrumentation. Thomas strove consciously for unobtrusive yet 
rich verbal effects and came to distrust obvious and easy sound pat- 
terns. Speaking of rhyme words, Thomas once commented, "Rhymes are 
coming to me naturally, too, which I distrust; I like looking for 
p 
connections, not finding them tabulated in stations." Such a pre- 
occupation with words is understandable. From an early age, Thomas 
was interested in "the shapes of sounds," as Daniel Jones (his 
^LW, p. 36. 
129 
boyhood companion) substantiates in his accounts of their games of 
"serious play" involving collaboration in prose and poetry. And in 
the later poetry it is as if Thomas were dealing in verbal alchemy, 
so complex and effective are the auditory patterns. "Fern Hill" and 
"Poem in October" — to mention only two — are radiant lyrics abounding 
in haunting melodic reverberations. Indeed in most of the later poetry, 
Thomas's artistic devices reveal greater refinement and his total 
structure shows greater organic unity than in the early pieces. 
Thomas' s manipulation of affinitive sound patterns in the late 
poems is intricate and meaningful; it transcends a merely felicitous 
combination of words. Tnomas's oral reading, on the radio and in 
poetry lectures, helped him realize the necessity for correlating 
sound and meaning. By his own assertion, his later poetry attempts to 
achieve simplicity and lyricism by harmonizing sound and meaning. 
Proof that his late poetry is more successfvil than his early poetry- 
lies in the fact that in the lyrics Thomas does often communicate imme- 
diately to the listener or reader the synthesis between sound and mean- 
ing which he tried to achieve. At such a poetic level, sound and mean- 
ing are inseparable in creating a memorable emotional experience. 
Thomas's progression in the relationship in his poetry between 
sound and meaning is, then, quite clear: the early poems are rela- 
tively complex and obscure in meaning and relatively simple and obvious 
in auditory patterns; the later poems are relatively simple in meaning 
3 
See "Dylan Thomas: Memories and Appreciations," Encounter, 
II (January, 1954), 9-10. 
130 
and relatively complex in auditory patterns. Further, the later 
poetry — in contrast to the earlier — reveals a more sustained balance 
between sound and meaning. 
This study has attempted to illuminate certain aspects of the 
sound and meaning in Thomas's poetry. It could not, of course, be 
definitive or altogether conclusive. Since poetry is an emotional, 
not a rational procedure, analysis of some of the subtlest and loveli- 
est auditory effects is impossible. As Thomas said, "You can struggle 
4 
ifri-th rhyme and metre and style and still not have a poem." Yet a 
poem of high excellence necessarily involves auditory techniques, 
rhythm, and style, and an understanding of these elements at least 
contribute s to an appreciation of "moments of magical accident" 
in poetry. 
T-Iarjorie Adix, "Dylan Thomas: Memories and Appreciations," 
Encounter, II (January, 1954), 13. 
APPENDIX I 
M EXAMIMTION OF THE PROBLEM OF PITCH ANALYSIS 
I am particularly indebted to Professor Clifton C. Hill and 
Mr. James E. Hansen for help in examining the problem of pitch analysis. 
It was an original purpose of this dissertation to play all 
available tapes and records of Dylan Thomas reading his own poems to 
an instrument which would record graphically the relative variations 
of the frequencies in his own voice versus time. By analyzing the 
graphs of audio-frequency, one might throw light upon such problems 
in Thomas's poetry as the degree of consistency in his readings of a 
particular poem and the relations between the patterns of audio- 
frequencies, consonants, vowels, and striking power, as well as the 
total relation of these four aspects of sound to meaning. 
Because of the interesting and valuable literary studies which 
such an instrument of pitch analysis could make possible, it seems 
appropriate to present here iirformation on this subject. 
Conferences with numerous authorities and communication with 
various laboratories concerned with acoustical problems led to the 
conclusion that three methods could be used. 
So tediously difficult is the first method that a student of 
literature unfamiliar with the physics of sound could hardly hope to 
make use of it. It involves the analysis of the oscillographic repre- 
sentation of the spoken word. This process, called Fourier series, 
represents any wave form in terms of sine and cosine functions— i.e., 
132 
133 
fundamental and harmonic pitches of the human voice. Tne approach 
toward this method :i s the half-range rule of expansions, which enables 
one to examine the nonperiodic wave-form by defining any portion of 
the wave form into a period. This method would also give only sine or 
cosine terras, depending on choice of reference. The limitation to 
sine or cosine terms simplifies the solution in that only half the 
calculations are reouired. The following is the Fourier series. 
f(t) = the wave form of the spoken word over some finite interval 
f(t) r. — ■*" ^1 ^°^ ^"^^ ■*■ ^2 "^^^ ^"^ "*" ^n ^'^^ ""^ "*" ■'' 
b-| cos luit + bp cos Z^t + b cos nwt + ... 
In this analysis — - represents the constant portion of intensity of 
speech, and, as already mentioned, one set of sine or cosine terms can 
be eliminated through the proper choice of a suitable axis. The problem 
encountered is thus the evaluation of the coefficients a^^ or b^^, for 
when these constants are evaluated the analysis is complete. These 
constants are defined as below: 
n P 
a^ = — y f(t) cos nut d ( lot) 
" 
-, P 
b„ = — /• f(t) sin ncot d ( <ot) 
n TT "^ 
^The recording of the complete poem would be a nonperiodic 
function — i.e., the 'lound patterns would not recur in cycles. 
134 
to p (the limits of integration— i.e. , the interval of periodicity) 
define the period chosen. Because of the character of the wave form 
to be analyzed, the wave form or its derivatives may exhibit sharp 
discontinuities. It will be necessary, therefore, to carry n to high 
values to obtain convergence of the series. And, too, each value of n 
requires a complete evaluation of the above equation (and will range 
from 1 to values in the order of thousands) . Yet this complex method 
of half -range expansions is necessary, because the wave form of human 
speech is a nonperiodic function. It is obvious in the above equa- 
tions that the function f(t) is not readily defined in an algebraic 
expression. Therefore the numerical solution will be obligatory. 
The process will involve integrating small segments of the wave form— 
i.e., one millisecond per segment — numerically, as explained in 
Electrical Engineering Circuits , Chapter 14. Because of the amount 
of data (the wave-form— e.g. , one side of a record— may be as long as 
half an hour), this numerical integration process will be most for- 
midable and time-consuming and should be expeditiously evaluated on 
the IBM type 650 digital computer. If the computer is used, however, 
it will have to be programmed for the problem--a time-consuming pro- 
cess in itself. 
Secondly, a less accurate but perhaps quicker method (the suc- 
cess of which is likely to remain doubtful) is a visual examination 
of the oscillographic representation of the poem. Since fragments 
^Hugh Hildreth Skilling, Electrical Engineering Circuits 
(New York: Johr Wiley & Sons, 1961), pp. 403-449. 
13i 
of the output will contain readily definable oscillations, their fre- 
quencies might be determined with the aid of accurate time-reference 
signals simultaneously imposed with the speech on the recording. These 
time-reference marks will enable one to check the time duration between 
successive crossings, of the time-reference axis, by the wave form. 
Rather elaborate electronic equipment will be necessary to supply these 
reference-marks, in addition to highly developed techniques for such 
a recording. From the data obtained about the crossings, one could 
then possibly make a relatively accurate conclusion about the funda- 
mental pitch present at that time. This method will enable one only 
to spot check the wave form where the wave form is most regular. These 
regularities will occur primarily when simple-toned sounds, such as 
the vowels, are repeated. Although the method will give only spot 
checks, it is possible that it might supply a great deal of informa- 
tion. But very expensive oscillographic instruments and many hours 
of laborious examination of wave forms would be needed. 
The third method is to use the Sona-Graph designed by Bell 
Laboratories and manufactured by Kay Electric Company, Maple Avenue, 
Pine Brook, New Jersey. This instrument, widely used in measurements 
of speech, records frequency and intensity versus time. It may be 
ideally suited for the needs of literary studies, but it was not avail- 
able to the author. Moreover, the Sona-Graph sells for about ^2,000, 
and G. G. Conn, Ltd. asserts that its Sona-Graph has proved a "trou- 
3 
blesorae instrument" and has had to be almost completely rebuilt. 
2ln a letter of March 4, 1959, from Mr. Paul M. Gazlay (Chair- 
man of the Board) . 
136 
The Sona-Graph also requires a conpiderable amount of maintenance. 
In view of the expensiveness and questionable performance of the 
Sona-Graph, it would hardly be advisable to purchase it for any exact- 
ing literary study. If, however, one were readily accessible, the 
instrument might prove useful. 
Because the necessary apparatus and skills were not available 
to the author, it was impossible to carry out any of these three 
methods. The project involves basically the problem of presenting 
and recording visual detail that corresponds closely with auditory- 
detail. But with adequate electronic equipment, with a liberal budget 
(including funds for film for the oscillograph or Sona-Graph), and 
with the full cooperation of a department of electrical engineering, 
a future researcher may be successful in analysing the audio-frequen- 
cies of the recorded human voice and in making a valuable contribution 
to literary studies. 
APPENDIX II 
138 
A.ND DEATH SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION 
And death shall have no dominion. 
Dead men naked they shall be one 
With the man in the wind and the west moon; 
¥nen 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; 
Tnough 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. 
139 
/ 
^^■^.-y^A/^^^^w 
AncJ o/eor//? sha/l >7cy\^e tno olotminion" — S^'-essec/ c^nal 'VAri^'z-esseo/ Su/lath/r.t 
140 
141 
ft 
-^v^^^^^^/^•vA.7^'-^vv^■^■•-./v>^vv..^.^^v-.^.^^^.^^ 
142 
y^nd d<zcLth shcx/Z have, no dominion - SyoeecA-^ /"r-^sseo/ sy//a-6/es 
143 
144 
IN m CRAPT OR SULLEN ART 
In my craft or sullen art 
Exercised in the still night 
When only the moon rages 
And the lovers lie abed 
With all their griefs in their arms, 
I labour by singing light 
■ Not for ambition or bread 
Or the strut and trade of charms 
On the ivor>' stages 
But for the common wages 
Of their most secret heart. 
Not for the proud man apart 
From the raging moon I vrrite 
On these spindrift pages 
Nor for the towering dead 
With their nightingales and psalms 
But for the lovers, their arms 
Ro\md the griefs of the ages, 
Who pay no praise or wages 
Nor heed my craft or art. 
145 
ift or So'/c/^ ^/-A — Si'fK.ftiv.d ai/->ai '-/'^^ -/-r-^&saa/ 
/ /ex in /«S 
146 
147 
^ 
k^ 
/n _ \ 
4- - 
I 
r> 
\ i M 
r\ ; N A A '' 
ij 'f 
/^. r I /v \ ; 
/ ! V J 
1 / ; V- 
/ : ii / 
/ I / 
\i 11 / 
1 
1/ 
1/ 
If 
3 H 
/ 
v-^ 
^'^ 
V 
-JX 
K\^< 
•^•t^ 
I'n '■ri--, Cr :> r r oa- Sulle.ri /\f-r' — Sjc,^<z.ch - ^rr-'^.^^iz.d sy// '»''">/<£6 
148 
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT 
s((} Do not go gentle into that good night, 
\S I ' 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 
^%)W*^ Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay. 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 
And you, ray 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. 
14£ 
hi 
/3 
7 - 
4 - 
A 
/v >A'W / 
,\/ l."./U 
V 
r 
y 
1/ 
\ 
^ ^ 
n 
.1 
II 
I'l' 
',/ 
IJ 
1 
t ^ 
r 
-''V^ 
v^v^« 
y^^^v - ^ v-v-v vT^v/vV^vs 
v^ 
"Oo nc^/- . 
oo ae^'^'<d /nto truyt qood mat-it ' 3/-^ vi ii<r V >^;r /'; jT^^iS.' ■> : y 
150 
151 
iT 
yj: 
v/v" v-^'\ /^y-^y^ 
152 
Co not po ae.nf/^ it-ito that- ^aoci n/aht-"— 5/3<zec>? -^f r-«5sco/ sy//arife/«s. 
153 
APPENDIX III 
ALPHABETIZED INDEX OF DYLAN THOMAS'S 
COLLECTED POEMS 1954-1952 
T^tlel pgge 
New Directions 
Dent Edition Edition^ 
After the funeral (In memory of Ann Jones) . . 87 96 
All all and all the dry worlds lever 33 53 
Altarwise by owl-light 71 go 
Among those Killed in the Dawn Raid was 
a Man Aged a Hundred I35 3_5g 
And death shall have no dominion 68 77 
Author's Prologue vii yii 
Ballad of the Long-legged Bait 149 166 
Because the pleasure-bird whistles 77 86 
Before I knocked 7 g 
Ceremony After a Fire Raid 129 145 
Conversation of Prayer, The 100 ixi 
Deaths and Entrances II7 igg 
Do not go gentle into that good night .... 116 igg 
Do you not father me 46 ' 54" 
Ears in the turrets hear 58 67 
^legy 179 200 
Especially when the October wind 16 ig 
Fern Hill 159 
Find meat on bones 65 
force that through the green fuse drives 
the flower, The 9 
Foster the light 60 69 
From love's first fever to her plague .... 20 24 
grief ago, A 54 gg 
Grief thief of time 67 76 
hand that signed the paper, The 62 
Here in this spring 45 
178 
74 
10 
71 
53 
TThe form of the titles is that which appears before the 
respective poems in the Dent edition. 
2 
It is necessary to inform the unwary reader that the New 
Directions edition— though caUed the Augmented Edition on the paper 
jacket— adds no new material to the Dent edition and differs only in 
frontispiece and pagination. 
155 
156 
Title 
Hold hard, these ancient minutes in 
the cuckoo's month 
Holy Spring 
How shall my animal 
How soon the servant sun 
Hunchback in the Park, The 
I dreamed my genesis 
I fellowed sleep 
I have longed to move away 
I, in my intricate image 
I make this in a warring absence 
(Poem to Caitlin) 
I see the boys of summer 
If I were tickled by the rub of love . . 
"If my head hurt a hair's foot" .... 
In country sleep 
In my Craft or Sullen Art 
In the beginning 
In the white giant ' s thigh 
Incarnate devil 
Into her Lying Down Head 
It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell . . 
Lament 
Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed 
Light breaks where no sun shines .... 
Love in the Asylum 
My hero bares his nerves 
My world is pyramid 
Not from this anger 
Now 
make me a mask 
On a Wedding Anniversary 
On no work of words 
On the Marriage of a Virgin 
Once below a time 
Once it was the colour of saying . . . . . 
Our eunuch dreams 
Out of the sighs , 
Over Sir John's hill , 
Poem in October 
Poem on his birthday , 
process in the weather of the heart, A . , 
Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a 
Child in London, A 
saint about to fall, A 
seed-at-zero. The 
I2I£ 
New Directions 
Dent Edition 
Edition 
49 
58 
158 
177 
91 
100 
56 
65 
111 
123 
28 
53 
26 
51 
64 
75 
35 
40 
78 
87 
1 
1 
12 
15 
97 
108 
162 
181 
128 
142 
22 
27 
176 
197 
40 
46 
113 
125 
83 
92 
174 
194 
156 
163 
24 
29 
108 
119 
10 
11 
30 
35 
90 
99 
51 
60 
85 
94 
124 
138 
94 
104 
127 
141 
132 
147 
89 
98 
14 
16 
48 
56 
167 
187 
102 
113 
170 
190 
6 
6 
101 
112 
95 
105 
42 
49 
157 
Title _^ Page 
Shall gods be said to thump the clouds . 
Should lanterns shine 
spire cranes, The 
Then was my neophyte 
There was a Saviour 
This bread I break 
This Side of the Truth (for Llewelyn) . 
To Others than Tou 
To-day, this insect 
tcxnbstone told -vrfien she died, The . . . 
Twenty-four years 
Unluckily for a Death 
Vision and Prayer 
Was there a time 
We lying by seasand 
When all ray five and country senses see 
When I Woke 
When, like a running grave 
When once the twilight locks no longer . 
Where once the waters of your face . . . 
Why east wind chills 
Winter's Tale, A 
New Directions 
Dent Edition 
Edition 
44 
52 
63 
72 
86 
95 
69 
78 
125 
1S9 
39 
46 
105 
116 
107 
118 
41 
47 
93 
102 
99 
110 
109 
120 
137 
154 
50 
59 
82 
91 
81 
90 
154 
150 
18 
21 
4 
4 
U 
12 
53 
62 
119 
131 
APPENDIX IV 
THOMAS'S READING AND RECORDING ITINERARY IN AMERICA 
Most of the following entries are culled from John Malcolm 
Brinnin's Dylan Thomas in America . For one third of them, however, 
I am even more directly Indebted to Professor Brinnin, who was so kind 
as to compile the requested information for me from his personal, scat- 
tered records. Although the listing is probably incomplete, it is the 
first attempt to reconstruct Thomas's reading and recording itinerary 
in America. 
TRIP I; February 21, 1950 (Tuesday)— May 31, 1950 (Wednesday) 
Place 
Kaufmann Auditorium 
New York, N.Y. 
Kaufmann Auditorium 
New York, N.Y. 
New Haven, Conn. 
Cambridge, Mass. 
Cambridge, Mass. 
South Hadley, Mass, 
Amherst, Mass. 
Bryn Mawr, Pa. 
Date 
February 23, 1950 
(Thursday evening) 
February 25, 1960 
(Saturday evening) 
February 28, 1950 
(Tuesday, late afternoon) 
March 1, 1950 
(Wednesday afternoon) 
March 2, 1950 
(Thursday morning) 
March 2, 1950 
(Thursday evening) 
March 3. 1950 
(Friday) 
March 7, 1950 
(Tuesday evening) 
Sponsor 
The YM-YWHA Poetry Center 
The YM-YWHA Poetry Center 
Yale University 
Harvard University 
Recordings of his poems 
for John L. Sweeney's 
collection in Lamont 
Library, Harvard Uni- 
versity 
Mount Holyoke College 
Amherst College 
Bryn Mawr College 
For personal reminiscence e of this reading, see Richard 
Eberhart's "Some Memories of Dylan Thomas," Yale Literary Magazine , 
CXXII (November, 1954), 5-6. This article is reprinted in Tedlock's 
collection of essays, pp. 55-56. 
159 
160 
Place 
Date 
The Institute of March 8, 1950 
Contemporary Arts (Wednesday evening) 
Washington, D.C. 
Washington, D.C. 
New York, N.Y. 
Ithaca, N.Y. 
Gambler, Ohio 
Chicago, 111. 
Notre Dame, Ind, 
Urbana, 111. 
lovra City, Iowa 
Berkeley, Cal. 
Vancouver, B . C . ^ 
Seattle, Wash. 
Los Angeles, Cal. 
Clareraont, Cal. 
March 9, 1950 
(Thursday morning) 
March 13, 1950 
(Monday) 
March 14, 1950 
(Tuesday evening) 
March 15, 1950 
(Wednesday) 
March 16, 1950 
(Thursday) 
March 17, 1950 
(Friday) 
March 20, 1950 
(Monday) 
March 21 1950 
(Tuesday; 
April 4, 1950 
(Tuesday) 
April 6, 1950 
(Thursday evening) 
April 7 1950 
(Friday) 
April 10, 1950 
(Monday) 
April 11. 1950 
(Tuesday) 
Santa Barbara, Cal. April 13, 1950 
(Thvirsday) 
Oakland, Cal. 
April 17, 1950 
(Monday) 
^See Floris McLaren' s "Dylan Thomas 
Verse, No. 31 (Spring, 1950), 26-27. 
Sponsor 
Robert Richman 
Recordings of his poems 
at the Library of 
Congress 
Columbia University 
Cornell University 
Kenyon College 
The University of Chicago 
Notre Dame University 
The University of Illinois 
The State University 
of Iowa 
The University of 
California 
The University of 
British Columbia 
The University of 
Washington 
The University of Cali- 
fornia at Los Angeles 
Pomona College 
Santa Barbara Museum and 
Santa Barbara College 
Mills College 
in Vancouver," Contemporary 
161 
Place 
San Francisco, Cal. 
New York, N.Y. 
New York, N.Y. 
Geneva, N.Y. 
Florida Union 
Audito'^ium 
Gainesville, Fla. 
Welle sley, Mass. 
Date 
April 18. 1950 
(Tuesday) 
April 24, 1950 
(Monday morning) 
April 24, 1950 
(Monday evening) 
April 26, 1950 
(Wednesday) 
April 27, 1950 
(Thursday evening, 
8:00 p.m.) 
May 1, 1950 
(Monday, late afternoon) 
Sponsor 
San Francisco State 
College 
Cooper Union 
Museum of Modem Art 
Hobart College 
The Creative Writing 
Collection of the 
IMiversity of Florida 
Library 
Wellesley College 
^From a letter by Gene Baro and from talks with staff members at 
the University of Florida who attended Thomas's Gainesville reading, the 
following account is derived i Through the initiative of Gene Baro, the 
Creative Writing Collection of the University of Florida Library spon- 
sored a lecture by Dylan Thomas. Although Thomas's engagement was ori- 
ginally projected for April 20, 1950, the poet telegraphed Baro from 
San Francisco to say he was ill and unable to make the scheduled lecture. 
Since Baro had no address for Thomas, apart from Western Union, he con- 
tacted John Malcolm Brinnin and arranged a new date for Thomas's lecture. 
At 8j00 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, 1950, at the Florida Union Auditor- 
ium, Thomas was introduced by Dr. Thomas Pyles and began his readings. 
Among the selections were poems by Hardy, Yeats, Auden, and Betjeman 
(including "The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel"). Of his 
own works Thomas read only a few, among them, "A Refusal to Mourn the 
Death, by Fire, of a Child in London." Although publicity was better 
for Thomas's projected lecture on April 20 than it was for the actual 
lecture on April 27, the program was rather well attended. No record- 
ing was made, because the contract was only for a reading. Thomas 
stayed in Gainesville at Gene Baro's apartment three or four days. 
A day or two after the lecture, Baro and Thomas, alone together, read 
poetry to one another most of the night; the next morning after break- 
fast Baro persuaded Thomas to make a tape, which is now on deposit in 
the University Library's Audio- Visual department. The recording is of 
seven early poemsi "From love's first fever to her plague," "Especially 
when the October wind," "It is the sinners' dust-tongued bell," "'If my 
head hurt a hair's foot'," "The hand that signed the paper," "Once below 
a time," and "When all my five and country senses see."