Selected Poems, 1934 to 1952by Dylan Thomas
A classic New Directions book revised for the 21st Century.
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) prepared this volume in 1952the author's choice of the ninety poems he felt would best represent his work up to that timeand it was published by New Directions in 1953 as The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, shortly after his death. This book was then and remained,
A classic New Directions book revised for the 21st Century.
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) prepared this volume in 1952the author's choice of the ninety poems he felt would best represent his work up to that timeand it was published by New Directions in 1953 as The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, shortly after his death. This book was then and remained, for all practical purposes, Thomas's "collected" poems and in that sense complete. However, with the 1971 publication of the 192 poems in The Poems of Dylan Thomas (also now available in a revised edition), Thomas's Collected Poems has naturally evolved to become Thomas's Selected Poems.
Thomas wrote his last poem, "Prologue," especially to begin this collection, and addressed it to "my readers, the strangers." Two unfinished poems are included in this edition: "Elegy," prepared by Vernon Watkins, and "In Country Heaven," prepared by Daniel Jonesboth Welsh poets were life-long friends of Dylan Thomas. Textual corrections discovered over the course of forty years have now been incorporated, and a complete index of titles and first lines, as well as a brief chronology of the author's life, have been added.
As it has for half a century, this book includes the best of Dylan Thomas's poetry"Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines," "The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower," "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," "Poem in October," "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," "The Hunchback in the Park," "In My Craft or Sullen Art," "In Country Sleep," and Thomas's poignant reflection on his youth, "Fern Hill."
- New Directions Publishing Corporation
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Revised Edition
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- 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Read an Excerpt
DYLAN THOMAS SELECTED POEMS 1934-1952
By DYLAN THOMAS
A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOKCopyright © 2003 New Directions Publishing Corporation
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI SEE THE BOYS OF SUMMER
I see the boys of summer in their ruin Lay the gold tithings barren, Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils; There in their heat the winter floods Of frozen loves they fetch their girls, And drown the cargoed apples in their tides.
These boys of light are curdlers in their folly, Sour the boiling honey; The jacks of frost they finger in the hives; There in the sun the frigid threads Of doubt and dark they feed their nerves; The signal moon is zero in their voids.
I see the summer children in their mothers Split up the brawned womb's weathers, Divide the night and day with fairy thumbs; There in the deep with quartered shades Of sun and moon they paint their dams As sunlight paints the shelling of their heads.
I see that from these boys shall men of nothing Stature by seedy shifting, Or lame the air with leaping from its heats; There from their hearts the dogdayed pulse Of love and light bursts in their throats. O see the pulse of summer in the ice.
But seasons must be challenged or they totter Into a chiming quarter Where, punctual as death, we ring the stars; There, in his night, the black-tongued bells The sleepy man of winter pulls, Nor blows back moon-and-midnight as sheblows.
We are the dark deniers, let us summon Death from a summer woman, A muscling life from lovers in their cramp, From the fair dead who flush the sea The bright-eyed worm on Davy's lamp, And from the planted womb the man of straw.
We summer boys in this four-winded spinning, Green of the seaweeds' iron, Hold up the noisy sea and drop her birds, Pick the world's ball of wave and froth To choke the deserts with her tides, And comb the county gardens for a wreath.
In spring we cross our foreheads with the holly, Heigh ho the blood and berry, And nail the merry squires to the trees; Here love's damp muscle dries and dies, Here break a kiss in no love's quarry. O see the poles of promise in the boys.
I see you boys of summer in your ruin. Man in his maggot's barren. And boys are full and foreign in the pouch. I am the man your father was. We are the sons of flint and pitch. O see the poles are kissing as they cross.
WHEN ONCE THE TWILIGHT LOCKS NO LONGER
When once the twilight locks no longer Locked in the long worm of my finger Nor dammed the sea that sped about my fist, The mouth of time sucked, like a sponge, The milky acid on each hinge, And swallowed dry the waters of the breast.
When the galactic sea was sucked And all the dry seabed unlocked, I sent my creature scouting on the globe, That globe itself of hair and bone That, sewn to me by nerve and brain, Had stringed my flask of matter to his rib.
My fuses timed to charge his heart, He blew like powder to the light And held a little sabbath with the sun, But when the stars, assuming shape, Drew in his eyes the straws of sleep, He drowned his father's magics in a dream.
All issue armoured, of the grave, The redhaired cancer still alive, The cataracted eyes that filmed their cloth; Some dead undid their bushy jaws, And bags of blood let out their flies; He had by heart the Christ-cross-row of death.
Sleep navigates the tides of time; The dry Sargasso of the tomb Gives up its dead to such a working sea; And sleep rolls mute above the beds Where fishes' food is fed the shades Who periscope through flowers to the sky.
The hanged who lever from the limes Ghostly propellers for their limbs, The cypress lads who wither with the cock, These, and the others in sleep's acres, Of dreaming men make moony suckers, And snipe the fools of vision in the back.
When once the twilight screws were turned, And mother milk was stiff as sand, I sent my own ambassador to light; By trick or chance he fell asleep And conjured up a carcass shape To rob me of my fluids in his heart.
Awake, my sleeper, to the sun, A worker in the morning town, And leave the poppied pickthank where he lies; The fences of the light are down, All but the briskest riders thrown, And worlds hang on the trees.
A PROCESS IN THE WEATHER OF THE HEART
A process in the weather of the heart Turns damp to dry; the golden shot Storms in the freezing tomb. A weather in the quarter of the veins Turns night to day; blood in their suns Lights up the living worm.
A process in the eye forwarns The bones of blindness; and the womb Drives in a death as life leaks out.
A darkness in the weather of the eye Is half its light; the fathomed sea Breaks on unangled land. The seed that makes a forest of the loin Forks half its fruit; and half drops down, Slow in a sleeping wind.
A weather in the flesh and bone Is damp and dry; the quick and dead Move like two ghosts before the eye.
A process in the weather of the world Turns ghost to ghost; each mothered child Sits in their double shade. A process blows the moon into the sun, Pulls down the shabby curtains of the skin; And the heart gives up its dead.
BEFORE I KNOCKED
Before I knocked and flesh let enter, With liquid hands tapped on the womb, I who was shapeless as the water That shaped the Jordan near my home Was brother to Mnetha's daughter And sister to the fathering worm.
I who was deaf to spring and summer, Who knew not sun nor moon by name, Felt thud beneath my flesh's armour, As yet was in a molten form, The leaden stars, the rainy hammer Swung by my father from his dome.
I knew the message of the winter, The darted hail, the childish snow, And the wind was my sister suitor; Wind in me leaped, the hellborn dew; My veins flowed with the Eastern weather; Ungotten I knew night and day.
As yet ungotten, I did suffer; The rack of dreams my lily bones Did twist into a living cipher, And flesh was snipped to cross the lines Of gallow crosses on the liver And brambles in the wringing brains.
My throat knew thirst before the structure Of skin and vein around the well Where words and water make a mixture Unfailing till the blood runs foul; My heart knew love, my belly hunger; I smelt the maggot in my stool.
And time cast forth my mortal creature To drift or drown upon the seas Acquainted with the salt adventure Of tides that never touch the shores. I who was rich was made the richer By sipping at the vine of days.
I, born of flesh and ghost, was neither A ghost nor man, but mortal ghost. And I was struck down by death's feather. I was a mortal to the last Long breath that carried to my father The message of his dying christ.
You who bow down at cross and altar, Remember me and pity Him Who took my flesh and bone for armour And doublecrossed my mother's womb. THE FORCE THAT THROUGH THE GREEN FUSE DRIVES THE FLOWER
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower Drives my green age; that blasts the roots 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; that dries the mouthing streams Turns mine to wax. And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks. The hand that whirls the water in the pool Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind Hauls my shroud sail. And I am dumb to tell the hanging man How of my clay is made the hangman's lime. The lips of time leech to the fountain head; Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood Shall calm her sores. And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind How time has ticked a heaven round the stars. And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm. MY HERO BARES HIS NERVES
My hero bares his nerves along my wrist That rules from wrist to shoulder, Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost, Leans on my mortal ruler, The proud spine spurning turn and twist. And these poor nerves so wired to the skull Ache on the lovelorn paper I hug to love with my unruly scrawl That utters all love hunger And tells the page the empty ill. My hero bares my side and sees his heart Tread, like a naked Venus, The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait; Stripping my loin of promise, He promises a secret heat. He holds the wire from this box of nerves Praising the mortal error Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves, And the hunger's emperor; He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.
WHERE ONCE THE WATERS OF YOUR FACE
Where once the waters of your face Spun to my screws, your dry ghost blows, The dead turns up its eye; Where once the mermen through your ice Pushed up their hair, the dry wind steers Through salt and root and roe.
Where once your green knots sank their splice Into the tided cord, there goes The green unraveller, His scissors oiled, his knife hung loose To cut the channels at their source And lay the wet fruits low.
Invisible, your clocking tides Break on the lovebeds of the weeds; The weed of love's left dry; There round about your stones the shades Of children go who, from their voids, Cry to the dolphined sea.
Dry as a tomb, your coloured lids Shall not be latched while magic glides Sage on the earth and sky; There shall be corals in your beds, There shall be serpents in your tides, Till all our sea-faiths die.
IF I WERE TICKLED BY THE RUB OF LOVE
If I were tickled by the rub of love, A rooking girl who stole me for her side, Broke through her straws, breaking my bandaged string, If the red tickle as the cattle calve Still set to scratch a laughter from my lung, I would not fear the apple nor the flood Nor the bad blood of spring.
Shall it be male or female? say the cells, And drop the plum like fire from the flesh. If I were tickled by the hatching hair, The winging bone that sprouted in the heels, The itch of man upon the baby's thigh, I would not fear the gallows nor the axe Nor the crossed sticks of war.
Shall it be male or female? say the fingers That chalk the walls with green girls and their men. I would not fear the muscling-in of love If I were tickled by the urchin hungers Rehearsing heat upon a raw-edged nerve. I would not fear the devil in the loin Nor the outspoken grave.
If I were tickled by the lovers' rub That wipes away not crow's-foot nor the lock Of sick old manhood on the fallen jaws, Time and the crabs and the sweethearting crib Would leave me cold as butter for the flies, The sea of scums could drown me as it broke Dead on the sweethearts' toes.
This world is half the devil's and my own, Daft with the drug that's smoking in a girl And curling round the bud that forks her eye. An old man's shank one-marrowed with my bone, And all the herrings smelling in the sea, I sit and watch the worm beneath my nail Wearing the quick away.
And that's the rub, the only rub that tickles. The knobbly ape that swings along his sex From damp love-darkness and the nurse's twist Can never raise the midnight of a chuckle, Nor when he finds a beauty in the breast Of lover, mother, lovers, or his six Feet in the rubbing dust.
And what's the rub? Death's feather on the nerve? Your mouth, my love, the thistle in the kiss? My Jack of Christ born thorny on the tree? The words of death are dryer than his stiff, My wordy wounds are printed with your hair. I would be tickled by the rub that is: Man be my metaphor.
OUR EUNUCH DREAMS
Our eunuch dreams, all seedless in the light, Of light and love, the tempers of the heart, Whack their boys' limbs, And, winding-footed in their shawl and sheet, Groom the dark brides, the widows of the night Fold in their arms.
The shades of girls, all flavoured from their shrouds, When sunlight goes are sundered from the worm, The bones of men, the broken in their beds, By midnight pulleys that unhouse the tomb.
In this our age the gunman and his moll, Two one-dimensioned ghosts, love on a reel, Strange to our solid eye, And speak their midnight nothings as they swell; When cameras shut they hurry to their hole Down in the yard of day.
They dance between their arclamps and our skull, Impose their shots, showing the nights away; We watch the show of shadows kiss or kill, Flavoured of celluloid give love the lie.
Excerpted from DYLAN THOMAS SELECTED POEMS 1934-1952 by DYLAN THOMAS 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.
Meet the Author
The reputation of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century has not waned in the fifty years since his death. His work, noted for its lush metaphors, musicality, and playfulness within traditional forms, was largely responsible for modernizing poetic verse. Thomas also wrote captivating short stories, a novella, several screenplays and radio plays, as well as his delightful stage play, Under Milk Woodall infused with his passion for the English language and his enduring love of Wales.
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