Dylan Thomas And The Poetry Of Doomed Beginnings


The poetry of Dylan Thomas contains several images of DOOMED BEGINNINGS.  In the poem I In My Intricate Image, he writes, “beginning with the doom in the bulb, the spring unravels.”  In the first-line-titled poem below, he writes,

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/

drives my green age; that blasts the root of trees/

is my destroyer./

And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose/

my youth is bent by the same wintry Fever.//”

“The force that drives the water through the rocks/

drives my red blood;”

From this wonderful start, the poem descends to mediocrity.

Speaking of the bad end already contained in something good in I See The Boys, Thomas writes:

“I see the boys of summer in their ruin.”  He calls them “curdlers in their folly,” spoiling the naturally sweet goodness of their age.  No matter how good or bad, Time always brings a change, and the poet writes that he can “see the pulse of summer in the ice,” reminding him that the seasons keep flowing and that as “punctual as death we ring the stars.” 

After enough passing seasons, winter upon summer upon winter, we reach the point where, “here love’s damp muscle dries and dies” (another example of Thomas’s constant harrowing of sex in a crude manner, here also alliterating Ls and Ds).  The speaker imagines that if “we” could but summon the old lustful vitality of warmer days, then perhaps the old strong life could re-emerge…”we are dark deniers, let us summon / death form a summer woman / a muscling life from lovers in their cramp” [meanwhile expanding the L & D alliteration to include Ss].

In If I Were Tickled By The Rub Of Love (more Thomas sexual abrasion), the doom comes in the form of a visibly moving, probably delusional, infection…  “I sit and watch the worm beneath my nail wearing the quick away.”

 In yet another Thomas first-line-named poem, the sense of doom is alloyed with the notion that one generation’s doom is another’s joy.  I quote below the twelve short lines of the entire poem…

 “This bread I break was once oat,

this wine upon a foreign tree

plunged in its fruit;

man in the day or wind or night

laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.” [a Keats touchback?]


“Once in this wine the summer blood

knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,

once in this bread

the oat was merry in the wind;

man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.


This flesh you break, this blood you let

make a desolation in the vein,

were oat and grape

born of the sensual root and sap

my wine you drink, my bread you snap.”


In other lines, Thomas admonishes us to seize what happiness we can in this doomed-from-the-beginning life.  In On A Wedding Anniversary, he writes how two lovers missed their opportunity for real happiness since “too late in the wrong rain they came together.”  And in Before I Knocked, the speaker acknowledges his life’s good fortune made better by his seizing of the what the day brought… “I who was rich was made the richer/ by sipping at the vine of days.”

And from Lament: 

“I said,/

Oh, time enough when the blood creeps cold,/

and I lie down but to sleep in bed,/

for my sulking, skulking, coal black soul!”


More posts from Hammering Shield on Dylan Thomas…

Anti-Eroticism In The Work Of Dylan Thomas

The Futile Rebellion Of Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas On Dylan Thomas

Sound In Structure In The Poetry Of Dylan Thomas

The Failures Of Dylan Thomas




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