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."