Thursday, 27 October 2016

Happy Birthday Dylan Thomas (27/10-14 -9/11/45) - Lest we forget this Literary genius

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born today on October 27th, 1914, at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea.The 100 year anniversary celebrations have passed, but that does not mean that we forget this blazing talent, by the age of eight or nine he was writing his own poetry, even before he entered the Grammar School in 1925. A quiet and introspective student, he was a frequent contributor to the school's magazine.Leaving  school at sixteen he worked on the staff of the South Wales Daily Post (later the South Wales Evening Post), sometimes writing scathing reviews and critiques of local plays, concerts and writers which needed be edited to keep from offending the subjects under scrutiny. During this very productive writing period of Dylan's life, he also became known locally for the offbeat jokes, stories and obscene limericks he told in the pubs at night. He would read poems he was working on aloud to friends and relatives, not wanting them to read the work he'd done, but instead to hear it. Along with writing, Thomas was also involved with local theater, both writing and acting. A good half of his 90 collected poems were written or half-written in his bedroom at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea before he was 20.
In a January 1933 essay in the South Wales Evening Post entitled "Genius and Madness Akin in the World of Art" Thomas discussed the idea that one gifted with genius often walked a line where it was "difficult to differentiate, with any sureness, between insanity and eccentricity." He asserted that "the borderline of insanity is more difficult to trace than the majority of people, comparatively safe within the barriers of their own common-sensibility, can realise."
Dylan's first national publication was in a small literary review in the spring of 1933. Later that year his poems were published in the more prestigious Adelphi and the London newspaper The Sunday Referee.After moving to London in 1934 in pursuit of better opportunities, Dylan's writing career began to flourish. His poems, essays, articles and reviews were being published in London and Swansea magazines and newspapers. With dedication and devotion to the craft of writing his hard work paid of when his first book,18 poems was released on the 18th of December 1934 when he was only 20. A second book Twenty-five poems appeared in Autumn of 1936.He would go on to become one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.
It was in this year that Dylan would  meet one Caitlin Macnamara, and it is said that within hours of their first meeting Dylan, drunkenly insisted that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met and that he was going to marry her, to which she offered no objections. The slightly older Caitlin,who was a physically strong, trained dancer with a fiery and unpredictable temper found the impoverished poet vulnerable and sweet, if a bit needy. They spent the next five days and nights together, going from pub to pub and hardly eating at all. Later that summer when he and Caitlin met again in Wales, Dylan had a run-in with Augustus John, a painter and friend of her parents with whom Caitlin had been having an affair. Caitlin and Dylan eventually started living together near the end of 1936.  and was to marry her in 1937. A turbulent marriage, that weathered many a storm.
In 1941 , Thomas and Caitlin moved to Plas Gelli at Talsarn in what was then known as Cardiganshire, now known as Ceredigion, keeping a studio flat in London whilst spending some of the time working on wartime propaganda films. The couple left their son Llewellyn with Caitlin's mother, where he stayed until 1949. Their second child a daughter named Aeronwy (Aeron) Bryn Thomaswas born in March 1942. During his time in London Thomas would take part in more than a hundred radio programmes.Dylan and Caitlin  moved to New Quay in September,eager to escape both the war and London, moving to a little bungalow by the name of ' Majoda' before moving to South Leigh in Oxfordshire. His final home would be the Boathouse where they lived from 1949 to 1953.
He would often like to boast about his drinking and said: “An alcoholic is someone you don’t like, who drinks as much as you do.” Thomas’ health rapidly began to deteriorate as a result of his drinking; he was warned by his doctor to give up alcohol but he carried on regardless.In January 1950 Dylan engaged on a reading tour in America which was a great success. However on a further  tour in 1953, he collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel after a long drinking bout at the White Horse Tavern the result of a binge in which, as he allegedly boasted, he drank "18 straight whiskies; I think it's a record".this has become the stuff  of legends, but since then it has been said that he probably actually died from a blood sugar inbalance having not eaten properly for several days prior to his death, and the Doctor who treated him with both cortisone and morphine, and died in a coma , a few days later on November 9th, at St Vincents Hospital in New York City at the age of 39. A tragic premature end nevertheless to this great Welsh poet and writer. And despite the myths that have emerged about his prodigous appetite for drinking it was certainly not alcoholism that finished him off, as his liver showed no signs of cirrhosis.Ok he had a love of alcohol, but first and foremost he was a poet the likes of which is seldom seen, and to define a man by his vices is to ignore his virtues.We should not let his reputation as a heavy drinker overshadow his great literacy legacy.
He is buried in Laugharne, and has a memorial plaque in Poets corner in Westminster Abbey I have long been a great admirer of his life and work and his unfailing commitment to his craft,and continues to inspire, so today I celebrate his birth, and his mercurial talent, and yes I will raise a glass or two. Cheers Dylan Thomas..A certain  Mr Robert Allen Zimmerman would arrive in New York eight years after Dylan Thomas's death, telling everyone that his name was Bob Dylan (later admitting it was his way of honoring the late poet).This influence extended beyond Dylan’s stage name though, going so far as to shape his lyrical style and even the types of songs he chose to write. That is another story I guess, but illustrates how Dylan Thomas had on many that rode on his waves later, and the poets who have followed in his footsteps who still owe a debt to his migty mercurial talent.

Poem in October

 It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbours wood
     And the mussel pooled and the heron
               Priested shore
          the morning beckon
With 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

 My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
    Above the farms and the white horses
                And I rose
       in rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
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.

 A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
   Blackbirds and the sun of October
       On the hill's shoulder,
Here we found climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
      To the rain wringing
           Wind blow cold
  In the wood faraway under me.

  Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea the wet church the size of a snail
    With its horns through mist and the castle
              Brown as owls
        But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
         There could I marvel
              My birthday
 Away but the weather turned around.

It  turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
     Streamed agaiI a wonder of summer
              With apples
         Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
          Through the parables
              Of sun light
  And the legends of the green chapels

  And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
     These were the woods the river and the sea
               Where a boy
        In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide
       And the mystery
            Sang alive
   Still in the water and singing birds.

   And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
    Joy of the long dead child sang burning
               in the sun
        It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there in the summer moon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
          O may my hear's truth
              Still be sung
  On this high hill in a year's turning.


Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
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
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Poem on his birthday

 In the mustardseed sun,
By full tilt river and switchback sea
Where the cormorants scud,
In his house on stilts high among beaks
And palavers of birds
This sandgrain day in the bent bay's grave
He celebrates and spurns
His driftwood thirty-fifth wind turned age;
Herons spire and spear.

Under and round him go
Flounders, gulls, on their cold, dying trails,
Doing what they are told,
Curlews aloud in the congered waves
Work at their ways to death,
And the rhymer in the long tongued room,
Who tolls his birthday bell,
Toesl towards the ambush of his wounds;
Herons, stepple stemmed, bless.

In the thistledown fall,
He sings towards anguish; finches fly
In the claw tracks of hawks
On a seizing sky; small fishes glide
Through wynds and shells of drowned
Ship towns to pastures of otters. He
In his slant, racking house
And the hewn coils of his trade perceives
Herons walk in their shroud,

The livelong river's robe
Of minnows wreathing around their prayer;
And far at sea he knows,
Who slaves to his crouched, eternal end
Under a serpent cloud,
Dolphins dyive in their turnturtle dust,
The rippled seals streak down
To kill and their own tide daubing blood
Slides good in the sleek mouth.

In a cavernous, swung
Wave's silence, wept white angelus knells.
Thirty-five bells sing struck
On skull and scar where his lovews lie wrecked,
Steered by the falling stars.
And to-morrow weeps in a blind cage
Terror will rage apart
Before chains break to a hammer flame
And love unbolts the dark

And freely he goes lost
In the unknown, famous light of great
And fabulous, dear God.
Dark is a way and light is a place,
Heaven that never was
Nor will be ever is alwas true,
And, in that brambled void,
Plenty as blackberries in the woods
The dead grow for His joy.

There he might wander bare
With the spirits of the horseshoe bay
Or the stars' seashore dead,
Marrow of eagles, the roots of whales
And wishbones of wild geese,
With blessed, unborn God and His Ghost,
And every soul His priest,
Gulled and chanter in youg Heaven's fold
Be at cloud quaking peace,

But dark is a long way.
He, on the earth of the night, alone
With all the living, prays,
Who knows the rocketing wind will blow
The bones out of the hills,
And the scythed boulders bleed, and the last
Rage shattered waters kick
Masts and fishes to the still quick stars,
Faithlessly unto Him

Who is the light of old
And air shaped Heaven where souls grow wild
As horses in the foam:
Oh, let me midlife mourn by the shrined
And druid herons' vows
The voyage to ruin I must run,
Dawn ships clouted aground,
Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
Count my blessings aloud:

Four elements and five
Senses, and man a spirit in love
Thangling through this spun slime
To his nimbus bell cool kingdom come
And the lost, moonshine domes,
And the sea that hides his secret selves
Deep in its black, base bones,
Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
And this last blessing most,

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
That ever was since the world was said,
Spins its morning of praise,

I hear the bouncing hills
Grow larked and greener at berry brown
Fall and the dew larks sing
Taller this thuderclap spring, and how
More spanned with angles ride
The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
Holier then their eyes,
And my shining men no more alone
As I sail out to die

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