Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Time for a touch of the DTs

I know it's secular and I know the poet was not a Catholic but I love his poetry which, I believe, has echoes of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

There is, I am sure, more than a hint of a Christian faith here.

The poet is Dylan Thomas and the poem, Fernhill:-

Enjoy-oh! As they say in Wales

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
  The night above the dingle starry,
    Time let me hail and climb
  Golden in the heyday of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
    Trail with daisies and barley
  Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
  In the sun that is young once only,
    Time let me play and be
  Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
    And the sabbath rang slowly
  In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
  And playing, lovely and watery
    And fire green as grass.
  And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
  Flying with the ricks, and the horses
    Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it, was all
  Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
    The sky gathered again
  And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
  Out of the whinnying green stable
    On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
  In the sun born over and over,
    I ran my heedless ways,
  My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
  Before the children green and golden
    Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
  In the moon that is always rising,
    Nor that riding to sleep
  I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
    Time held me green and dying
  Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


  1. Impossible not to love Thomas's poetry at its best, and the poetic debt to Hopkins is clear.

    Thanks - I had forgotten this one.

  2. Richard - this post chimes with something that's been bothering me a lot, lately. I also love DT's poetry, but it's undeniable that he was a very nasty little man. I also love the blues (I have nearly as many guitars as fingers for playing it on) but only recently, for some reason, the nastiness of many of its most illustrious practitioners has begun to disturb me. Knowing the tree by its fruits and all that. Quite recently I annoyed some good Catholics by suggesting that filling churches with artwork by conspicuously and unrepentantly immoral people (e.g. Caravaggio) might not have been such a great idea. One would never entrust the composition of a liturgical text to such a person, so why liturgical art?

    Perhaps we're all trying to live with a 'divided heart' - or perhaps I'm just getting puritannical in middle age. It bothers me nevertheless. I remember Evelyn Waugh noting somewhere that DG Rosetti's failure to realise his early promise was essentially moral.

  3. (clipped my last sentence) - It was also observed of Thomas that he wrote so wonderfully of his childhood and adolescence because he'd noticed nothing since. These criticisms are hard to swallow, but they leave a disturbing taste in the mouth. Wales need not repine, though - you can boast another great modern poet I never hesitate to trust - Thomas's namesake "RS" - a better man by far.


  4. Anagnostis - you may well be right about Dylan. I also think that his wife, Caitlin, was the cause of much of his grief (and drinking). But, Roy Campbell was a drinking companion so there must have been some good in the man. And, yes, RS is a great poet also.