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Prologue -- Dylan Thomas

(Poem #14) Prologue
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 snails,
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 swan, 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 spining 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 read, 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 rooning 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 toungued puffball)
But animals thick as theives
On God's rough tumbling grounds
(Hail to His beasthood!).
Beasts who sleep good and thin,
Hist, in hogback woods! The haystacked
Hollow farms in a throng
Of waters cluck and cling,
And barnroofs cockcrow war!
O kingdom of neighbors 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 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.
Hulloo, my prowed 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 flood flowers now.
-- Dylan Thomas
This was Thomas' own prologue to his 'Collected Poems' (1952).

Dylan Thomas was in love with words. He loved their sound and their
texture, and his poems, though often dense and impenetrable in content,
were never anything less than beautiful in their intricate soundscapes.
He has often been accused of deliberate obscurity, due to his technique
of using words more for their connotations and rhythmic/melodic
properties than for their 'meanings'; nevertheless, he remains one of
the most popular poets of this century.

I don't think I've ever read a better poetic description of the
countryside than that in 'Prologue'. Thomas had a keen awareness of his
role as a modern-day bard; indeed, many of his poems resound with the
quality of 'hwyl', a style of high-flown rhetoric much used in
traditional Celtic ballads and epics. 'Prologue' displays this quality
in buckets, and underlying it all is Thomas' deep and abiding love for
his Wales.

"One: I am a Welshman;
Two: I am a drunkard;
Three: I am a lover of the human race, especially of women."
    - Dylan Thomas

Biographical Note:

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born in the Welsh seaport of Swansea on October
27, 1914. One of the best-known British poets of the mid-20th century,
he is remembered for his highly original, obscure poems, his amusing
prose tales and plays, and his turbulent, well-publicized personal life.

His most popular works include the radio play "Under Milk Wood"
(posthumously published, 1954) and the sketch "A Child's Christmas in
Wales" (1955), but his more ambitious work consists of the complex poems
in which he expressed a deeply romantic vision.

Beginning in 1949, Thomas visited the United States several times,
touring college campuses to read his poetry. Widely known for his
powerful poetry readings over BBC radio, he became a popular, if
controversial, figure. He died at the age of 39 on November 9, 1953 in
New York City after a period of depression and heavy drinking.


36 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Manan said...

Firstly, thanks a lot for the mailing list.
I'd just like to post something about Dylan Thomas' Prologue.
I'm surprised that nobody's written anything about the rhyme scheme of the poem.
As a poet, well a hack I guess, I cannot help but marvel at this particular rhyme
scheme: The first and the last lines, the second and the second from the last and so
on and so forth all rhyme culminating in a perfect meeting point right at the centre of
the poem. To say the least, it's staggering, and added to that, the poem's overall
wonderfully evocative structure.... Whew!!!

JonJ66 said...

Of the free verse, 'Prologue',
Added to the full rhyme scheme in couplets from the center of the poem, 51
lines through, I have noticed a symettry in the syllabis count from this
point. The second half almost always [depending sometimes on how you read
certain words] mirrors the first.


Hi! I'm Sion I'm 9 years old.My teacher read me an extract of the Highwayman it was BRILLIANT! I longed to hear the rest of the poem,so I looked on the internet and I read the rest of the poem,it was amazing! The Highwayman is a sad but lovely poem I wish I could hear another of Alfred Noyes poems


Hi I'm Sion and I'm 9 years old. my teacher read an extract
of the Highwayman to me I loved it! I longed to hear the rest of the poem,so I Iooked on the internet and read the rest of the poem it was BRILLIANT! the Highwayman is a sad but amazing poem. I wish I could hear more of Alfred Noyes poems.

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