Read an Excerpt
The Poems of DYLAN THOMAS
By Thomas Dylan
A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOKCopyright © 2003 New Directions Publishing Corporation
All right reserved.
This day winding down now
At God speeded summer's end
In the torrent salmon sun,
In my seashaken house
On a breakneck of rocks
Tangled with chirrup and fruit,
Froth, flute, fin and quill
At a wood's dancing hoof,
By scummed, starfish sands
With their fishwife cross
Gulls, pipers, cockles, and sails,
Out there, crow black, men
Tackled with clouds, who kneel
To the sunset nets,
Geese nearly in heaven, boys
Stabbing, and herons, and shells
That speak seven seas,
Eternal waters away
From the cities of nine
Days' night whose towers will catch
In the religious wind
Like stalks of tall, dry straw,
At poor peace I sing
To you strangers, (though song
Is a burning and crested act,
The fire of birds in
The world's turning wood,
For my sawn, splay sounds),
Out of these seathumbed leaves
That will fly and fall
Like leaves of trees and as soon
Crumble and undie
Into the dogdayed night.
Seaward the salmon, sucked sun slips,
And the dumb swans drub blue
My dabbed bay's dusk, as I hack
This rumpus of shapes
For you to know
How I, a spinning man,
Glory also this star, bird
Roared, sea born, man torn, blood blest.
Hark: I trumpet the place,
From fish to jumping hill! Look:
I build my bellowing ark
To the best of my love
As the flood begins,
Out of the fountainhead
Of fear, rage red, manalive,
Molten and mountainous to stream
Over the wound asleep
Sheep white hollow farms
To Wales in my arms.
Hoo, there, in castle keep,
You king singsong owls, who moonbeam
The flickering runs and dive
The dingle furred deer dead!
Huloo, on plumbed bryns,
O my ruffled ring dove
In the hooting, nearly dark
With Welsh and reverent rook,
Coo rooing the woods' praise,
Who moons her blue notes from her nest
Down to the curlew herd!
Ho, hullaballoing clan
Agape, with woe
In your beaks, on the gabbing capes!
Heigh, on horseback hill, jack
Whisking hare! who
Hears, there, this fox light, my flood ship's
Clangour as I hew and smite
(A clash of anvils for my
Hubbub and fiddle, this tune
On a tongued puffball)
But animals thick as thieves
On God's rough tumbling grounds
(Hail to His beasthood).
Beasts who sleep good and thin,
Hist, in hogsback woods! The haystacked
Hollow farms in a throng
Of waters cluck and cling,
And barnroofs cockcrow war!
O kingdom of neighbours, finned
Felled and quilled, flash to my patch
Work ark and the moonshine
Drinking Noah of the bay,
With pelt, and scale, and fleece:
Only the drowned deep bells
Of sheep and churches noise
Poor peace as the sun sets
And dark shoals every holy field.
We will ride out alone, and then,
Under the stars of Wales,
Cry, Multitudes of arks! Across
The water lidded lands,
Manned with their loves they'll move,
Like wooden islands, hill to hill.
Huloo, my proud dove with a flute!
Ahoy, old, sea-legged fox,
Tom tit and Dai mouse!
My ark sings in the sun
At God speeded summer's end
And ,the flowers now.
I KNOW THIS VICIOUS MINUTE'S HOUR
I know this vicious minute's hour;
It is a sour motion in the blood,
That, like a tree, has roots in you,
And buds in you.
Each silver moment chimes
in steps of sound,
And I, caught in mid-air perhaps,
Hear and am still the little bird.
You have offended, periodic heart;
You I shall drown unreasonably,
Leave you in me to be found
Darker than ever,
Too full with blood to let my love flow in.
Stop is unreal;
I want reality to hold
within my palm,
Not, as a symbol, stone
speaking or no,
But it, reality, whose voice I know
To be the circle not the stair of sound.
Go is my wish;
Then shall I go,
But in the light of going
Minutes are mine
I could devote to other things.
Stop has no minutes,
but I go or die.
COOL, OH NO COOL
Cool, oh no cool,
Sharp, oh no sharp,
The hillock of the thoughts you think
With that half-moulded mind I said was yours,
But cooler when I take it back,
And sharper if I break asunder
The icicle of each deliberate fancy.
For when I bought you for a thought, (you cost no more)
How could I smooth that skin
Knowing a dream could darken it,
And, the string pulled, some mental doll
Ravage and break,
How kiss, when doll could say
Master, her mouth is sawdust
And her tongue, look, ash,
Part from her,
Part from her,
Sweet, automatic me knows best.
But you shall not go from me, creation;
Oh no, my mind is your panopticon;
You shall not go unless I will it
And my thoughts flow so uneasily
There is no measured sea for them,
No place in which, wave perched on wave,
Such energy may gain
The sense it is to have.
You wish to stay my prisoner
Closed in your cell of secret thoughts,
And I, your captor, have my love to keep
From which you may not fly.
THE AIR YOU BREATHE
The air you breathe encroaches
The throat is mine I know the neck
Wind is my enemy your hair shant stir
Under his strong impulsive kiss
The rainbow's foot is not more apt
To have the centaur lover
So steal her not O goat-legged wind
But leave but still adore
For if the gods would love
Theyd see with eyes like mine
But should not touch like I
Your sweet inducive thighs
And raven hair.
I, poor romantic, held her heel
Upon the island of my palm,
And saw towards her tiny face
Going her glistening calves that minute.
There was a purpose in her pointed foot;
Her thighs and underclothes were sweet,
And drew my spiral breath
To circumambulate for decency
Their golden and their other colour.
The band was playing on the balcony.
One lady's hand was lifted,
But she did not cry, `I see;
I see the man is mad with love.'
Her fan burst in a million lights
As that her heel was lifted,
Gone from my palm to leave it marked
With quite a kind of heart.
She is on dancing toes again,
Sparkling a twelve-legged body
And many arms to raise
Over her heel and me.
I, poor romantic, contemplate
The insect on this painted tree.
Which is the metal wing
And which the real?
SOMETIMES THE SKY'S TOO BRIGHT
Sometimes the sky's too bright,
Or has too many clouds or birds,
And far away's too sharp a sun
To nourish thinking of him.
Why is my hand too blunt
To cut in front of me
My horrid images for me,
Of over-fruitful smiles,
The weightless touching of the lip
I wish to know
I cannot lift, but can,
The creature with the angel's face
Who tells me hurt,
And sees my body go
Down into misery?
No stopping. Put the smile
Where tears have come to dry.
The angel's hurt is left;
His telling burns.
Sometimes a woman's heart has salt,
Or too much blood;
I tear her breast,
And see the blood is mine,
Flowing from her but mine,
And then I think
Perhaps the sky's too bright;
And watch my hand,
But do not follow it,
And feel the pain it gives,
But do not ache.
RAIN CUTS THE PLACE WE TREAD
Rain cuts the place we tread,
A sparkling fountain for us
With no fountain boy but me
To balance on my palms
The water from a street of clouds.
We sail a boat upon the path,
Paddle with leaves
Down an ecstatic line of light,
Watching, not too aware
To make our senses take too much,
The unrolled waves
So starred with gravel,
The living vessels of the garden
Drifting in easy time;
And, as we watch, the rainbow's foot
Stamps on the ground,
A legendary horse with hoof and feather,
Impatient to be off.
He goes across the sky,
But, when he's out of sight,
The mark his flying tail has left
Branches a million shades,
A gay parabola
Above a boat of leaves and weeds.
We try to steer;
The stream's fantastically hard,
Too stiff to churn with leaves,
A sedge of broken stalks and shells.
This is a drain of iron plants,
For when we touch a flower with our oar
We strike but do not stir it.
Our boat is made to rise
By waves which grow again
Their own melodious height,
Into the rainbow's shy embrace.
We shiver uncomplainingly,
And taste upon our lips, this minute,
The emerald kiss,
And breath on breath of indigo.
THE MORNING, SPACE FOR LEDA
The morning, space for Leda
To stir the water with a buoyant foot,
And interlude for violins
To catch her sailing down the stream-
The phrases on the wood aren't hers;
A fishing bird has notes of ivory
Alive within his craning throat-
Sees the moon still up,
Bright, well-held head,
And, for a pivot,
The shadows from the glassy sea
To wet the sky with tears,
And daub the unrisen sun with longing.
The swan makes strings of water in her wake;
Between the moon and sun
There's time to pluck a tune upon the harp,
Moisten the mouth of sleep
To kiss awake
My hand with honey that had closed upon a flower.
Between the rising and the falling
Spring may be green-
Under her cloth of trees no sorrow,
Under her grassy dress no limbs-And
winter follow like an echo
The summer voice so warm from fruit
That clustered round her shoulders,
And hid her uncovered breast.
The morning, too, is tune for love,
When Leda, on a toe of down,
Dances a measure with the swan
Who holds her clasped inside his strong, white wings;
And darkness, hand in hand with light,
Is blind with tears too frail to taste.
THE SPIRE CRANES
The spire cranes. Its statue is an aviary.
From the stone nest it does not let the feathery
Carved birds blunt their striking throats on the salt gravel,
Pierce the spilt sky with diving wing in weed and heel
An inch in froth. Chimes cheat the prison spire, pelter
In time like outlaw rains on that priest, water,
Time for the swimmers' hands, music for silver lock
And mouth. Both note and plume plunge from the spire's hook.
Those craning birds are choice for you, songs that jump back
To the built voice, or fly with winter to the bells,
But do not travel down dumb wind like prodigals.
TIME ENOUGH TO ROT
Time enough to rot;
Your golden ball of blood;
Breathe against air,
Puffing the light's flame to and fro,
Not drawing in your suction's kiss.
Your mouth's fine dust
Will find such love against the grain,
And break through dark;
It's acrid in the streets;
A paper witch upon her sulphured broom
Flies from the gutter.
The still go hard,
The moving fructify;
The walker's apple's black as sin;
The waters of his mind draw in.
Then swim your head,
For you've a sea to lie.
IT'S NOT IN MISERY BUT IN OBLIVION
It's not in misery but in oblivion,
Not vertically in a mood of joy
Screaming the spring
Over the ancient winter,
He'll lie down, and our breath
Will chill the roundness of his cheeks,
And make his wide mouth home.
For we must whisper down the funnel
The love we had and glory in his blood
Coursing along the channels
Until the spout dried up
That flowed out of the soil
All seasons with the same meticulous power,
But the veins must fail.
He's not awake to the grave
Though we cry down the funnel,
Splitting a thought into such hideous moments
As drown, over and over, this fever.
He's dead, home, has no lover,
But our speaking does not thrive
In the bosom, or the empty channels.
Our evil, when we breathe it,
Of dissolution and the empty fall,
Won't harm the tent around him,
Uneaten and not to be pierced
By us in sin or us in gaiety.
And who shall tell the amorist
Oblivion is so loverless.
THE NATURAL DAY AND NIGHT
The natural day and night
Are full enough to drown my melancholy
Of sound and sight,
Vigour and harmony in light to none,
One hour spend my time for me
In tuning impulses to calls;
Don't hurt the chic anatomy
Of ladies' needles worn to breaking point
Sewing a lie to a credulity,
With zest culled from their ladylike heat,
Hedgerow, laboratory, and even glasshouse,
But the sun cracks it
But the stones crack it
Out of my hand in stopping up my mouth,
My ears, my nose, my eyes,
And all my thin prerogative of taste.
But while day is there's night to it,
And night to it.
The black shadow comes down,
And the beautiful noise is quelled,
For my merry words,
Who taught me trouble?
I, said the beetle, out of my thin black womb,
Out of my thin black lips,
Trouble enough for the world
Out of my filthy eyes
And my corrupting knowledge-
Excerpted from The Poems of DYLAN THOMAS by Thomas Dylan Copyright © 2003 by New Directions Publishing Corporation
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.