Dylan Thomas 1914–1953 (One hundrend years of his birth)

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About the poet/writer:
Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems «Do not go gentle into that good night» and «And death shall have no dominion», the «play for voices», Under Milk Wood, and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became popular in his lifetime and remained so after his premature death in New York. In his later life he acquired a reputation, which he encouraged, as a «roistering, drunken and doomed poet».

Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914. An undistinguished student, he left school at 16, becoming a journalist for a short time. Although many of his works appeared in print while he was still a teenager, it was the publication of «Light breaks where no sun shines», in 1934, that caught the attention of the literary world. While living in London, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara, whom he married in 1937. Their relationship was defined by alcoholism and was mutually destructive. In the early part of his marriage, Thomas and his family lived hand-to-mouth, settling in the Welsh fishing village of Laugharne.

Although Thomas was appreciated as a popular poet in his lifetime, he found earning a living as a writer difficult, which resulted in him augmenting his income with reading tours and broadcasts. His radio recordings for the BBC during the latter half of the 1940s brought him to the public’s attention and he was used by the corporation as a populist voice of the literary scene. In the 1950s, Thomas travelled to America, where his readings brought him a level of fame, though his erratic behaviour and drinking worsened. His time in America cemented Thomas’ legend, where he recorded to vinyl works such as A Child’s Christmas in Wales. During his fourth trip to New York in 1953, Thomas became gravely ill and fell into a coma from which he did not recover. Thomas died on 9 November 1953 and his body was returned to Wales where he was buried at the village churchyard in Laugharne.

Although writing exclusively in the English language, Thomas has been acknowledged as one of the most important Welsh poets of the 20th century. Noted for his original, rhythmic and ingenious use of words and imagery, Thomas’ position as one of the great modern poets has been much discussed, though this has not tarnished his popularity amongst the general public, who find his work accessible.(http://en.wikipedia.org)

About his work:
The work of Dylan Thomas has occasioned much critical commentary, although critics share no consensus on how bright his star shines in the galaxy of modern poetry. In fact, it is a curious phenomenon that so many critics seem obsessed with deciding once and for all whether Thomas’s poems belong side by side with those of T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, or whether they are—in the words of a reputable critic quoted by Henry Treece in Dylan Thomas: «Dog Among the Fairies»—»intellectual fakes of the highest class.» The latter is definitely a minority opinion; yet even Treece, an acquaintance of Thomas’s, had to admit that the poet’s work is «extremely ill-balanced.»

Read more:http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/dylan-tho

And Death Shall Have No Dominion
By Dylan Thomas

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Source: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (1957) via http://www.poetryfoundation.org

«Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night»

When Dylan Thomas was a little boy his father would read Shakespeare to him at bedtime. The boy loved the sound of the words, even if he was too young to understand the meaning. His father, David John Thomas, taught English at a grammar school in southern Wales but wanted to be a poet. He was bitterly disappointed with his station in life.

Many years later when the father lay on his deathbed, Dylan Thomas wrote a poem that captures the profound sense of empathy he felt for the dying old man. The poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” was written in 1951, only two years before the poet’s own untimely death at the age of 39. Despite the impossibility of escaping death, the anguished son implores his father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The poem is a beautiful example of the villanelle form, which features two rhymes and two alternating refrains in verse arranged into five tercets, or three-lined stanzas, and a concluding quatrain in which the two refrains are brought together as a couplet at the very end. (http://www.openculture.com)

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Source: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1957) via http://www.poetryfoundation.org

Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’