Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas.
He was the first “adult” poet* whose work I fell in love with — though the relationship started when I was a kid. We would go to Aunt Sal´s house and flop belly-down on the floor to scribble-illustrate “A Child´s Christmas in Wales” as Uncle Perry read it aloud in his sonorous voice, doing all the characters. Miss Prothero was my favorite. ¨Would you like anything to read?”
Later, in high school, I found my way to his other work. My junior year English lit teacher asked if anyone had read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and I replied that I hadn´t, but had read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. She jumped down off her desk, crowing with delight, and came to plant a big kiss on my cheek. (This was in the Dark Ages, when teachers could do such things.)
*I had discovered e.e. cummings when I was quite young, but only the safe stuff. The really good, raunchy stuff didn´t come over my transom until I was at university.
And this is his poem that I loved most, and will love always.
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953
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.