Sunday 27 October 2013

Today is Dylan Thomas's birthday

The view from Laugharne Castle across the Estuary -  a view that Dylan Marlais Thomas knew every ripple, sandbbar, pool and shadow of.  He was born today, 27th October, 1914, at No. 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea, and died, aged just 39, on the 9th November 1953, in New York. 2014 will be the centenary of his birth so I imagine there will be special celebrations in our part of Wales.  His biography is well-covered on Wikipedia . . . LINK

Poem in October

By Dylan Thomas
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
            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.

Such a beautiful poemSometimes he wrote so lyrically and the magic of his words is beyond compare, but other of his poems seem unfathomable to me.  We never studied him at school, nor was his work included in the A-level equivalent I did, or I might have understood him more.  So today I shall just have to think of his brief life and wonder to what heights he might have risen had he joined the Temperance Society . . . . 

The village of Laugharne, where Dylan and Caitlan Thomas lived for some years and where the poet was buried.

 HERE  the great Richard Burton reads the first voice in Under Milk Wood.  It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

“A tiny dingle is Milk Wood
By Golden Grove ‘neath Grongar,
But let me choose and oh! I should
Love all my life and longer

To stroll among our trees and stray
In Goosegog Lane, on Donkey Down,
And hear the Dewi sing all day,
And never, never leave the town.”

You learn something new every day.  Until I was listening to Richard Burton's rendition of Under Milk Wood just now,  I never knew I lived so close to Milk Wood - or indeed, that it was a real place.  Golden Grove 'neath Grongar (hill) is in the Towy Valley close by us here.  Well well.  Now I must seek out Milk Wood . . .

The little tidal stream at the edge of the car park at Laugharne. 


  1. Beautiful poem. We did study Dylan Thomas at school but its that long enough I can remember little :(
    Wonderful news that Milk Wood is so close to you - do hope you'll do a post when you've visited :)

  2. Beautiful BB. Hope the storm didn't bother you too much down there.

  3. Wonderful poem. I have studied it here in Australia. Your photos make a lovely tribute. Jean

  4. Wonderful, been listening to Thomas as I spin, the times on the way to Solva, coming to the roundabout with its signpost to Laugharne I have thought must go down there but never have. Thanks for that post.

  5. Richards Burton reading of Under Milk Wood makes for wonderful listening. I think it was this that turned my liking of Dylan Thomas into a full blown love affair.