October finally rolls around...
(Poem #225) Poem In October
It was my thirtieth year to heaven Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour 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 Summery On the hill's shoulder, Here were fond 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 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 again 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 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 singingbirds. 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 then in the summer noon Though the town below lay leaved with October blood. O may my heart's truth Still be sung On this high hill in a year's turning.
One of those wonderful poems which make you feel glad just to be alive. I've mentioned Thomas' skill in using the compressed metaphor before . Poem In October has many beautiful examples of his art: phrases like 'the heron-priested shore', 'a springful of larks', 'the parables of sun light' and 'the legends of the green chapels' fairly shimmer with joy and wonder and mystical beauty. Simply glorious. thomas.  In the commentary to Fern Hill, poem #138 As a matter of fact, Fern Hill is very similar to today's poem in theme, especially in the sense of almost religious awe in the face of the beauty and majesty of Nature... read it! [More Analysis] George MacBeth has quite a bit to say about today's poem... "This has great interest as one of the earliest poems written in England in syllabics, a metre later to be exploited by Thom Gunn and other poets. The mathematical principle underlying the syllabic form was not always appreciated by critics of Thomas, to whom the rhythms of this poem seemed flaccid and its metrical pattern purely visual and arbitrary. A syllabic metre depends on the presence of a given number of syllables in each line, but no given number of feet or stresses as in iambic or accentual verse, In this case the number of syllables per line in each stanza is as follows: 9,12,9,3,5,12,12,5,3,9. This number sequence is repeated throughout the poem. The effect is great ease and rapidity of movement combined with a delicate precision of form. Thomas contrives to retain the forcefulness of his earlier poetry by ending each line with a strong word, often a noun. This keeps the metre from becoming too loose. The poem itself is an exquisitely gay and cheerful one. It describes how a man gets up early in the morning on his birthday and goes out for a walk through the country to a place where he can look down on the town where he lives. The man is almost certainly Thomas himself, and the town Swansea, where he was born. The rhyme scheme of the poem is highly original. It seems to depend on normally using the same vowel sound but different consonants, so that the word 'water' can rhyme with the word 'horse'. Thomas is not completely consistent about this, but he is consistent enough for the principle to be observable." -- George MacBeth, Poetry 1900-1975. [Minstrels Links] There's a brief biography of Dylan Thomas accompanying one of the very first poems to be run on the Wondering Minstrels, Thomas' Prologue to his Collected Poems, at poem #14 Prologue is a denser work (both in sound and meaning) than Poem In October. Closer to today's poem in form and spirit is the beautiful Fern Hill, poem #138 The commentary accompanying Fern Hill has more material on compressed metaphors and syllabic verse; it also talks about Thomas' poetic philosophy. You can learn more about the latter by reading everybody's favourite Dylan Thomas poem, the utterly magnificent Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, poem #38