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Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)

Wilde, Martha Haller
Dylan Thomas: the elemental poet,   pp. 57-64 PDF (2.7 MB)


Page 61

1955] Wilcie—Dylan Thomas 61 
symbol. "I sent my creature scouting on the globe,! That globe itself
of
hair and bone" explains the correspondence in "When Once the Twilight
Locks
No Longer." "Now in the cloud's big breast lie quiet countries/
Delivered
seas my love from her proud place" in "I Make This in a Warring
Absence"
and "Love's countries" of "When All My Five and Country Senses
See" suggest
correspondence again. In "Ears in the Turrets Hear" Thomas approaches
the
subject of the isolated individual in the ivory tower of "this island
bound!
By a thin sea of flesh/ And a bone coast" by another comparison which
forces
us to recognize simultaneously the little world of the individual and the
big world of nature. The difficult "Unluckily for Death" carries
us to a
more profane kind of comparison; as in Donne's "Canonization,"
sensual love
is described in terms of holy love. "Marriage of the Virgin" also
operates
on these two levels. 
 This use of imagery from Christian belief is basic to the total Thomas scripture,
but, unlike the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century and Gerard
Manley Hopkins, the Welsh poet never got far beyond the Jack Donne stage.
Thomas' highest exultation is never far beyond the elemental man of flesh
and fear. 
 Even early poetry not directly concerned with man's awareness of God contains
many Biblical allusions, terms in which to case less spiritual matter. We
are reminded of the Bible and sermonizing of non-conformist Christianity
by phrases such as "a little sabbath with the sun," "Before
I knocked," "The
message of his dying christ," "In the beginning," "my
genesis," "this bread
I break," "incarnate devil," "manna up through the dew
of heaven," "fell
from grace," "Vision and Prayer," and "Suffer the heaven's
children through
my heartbeat." 
 Biblical characters, especially from the Old Testament, are presented sometimes
as straightforward allusion and sometimes with a special verbal twist reminiscent
of Hopkins. Henry Treece has collected a list of Biblical references that
covers all of the poetry through 1946. Adam, Eve, Eden, and Christ are among
the most prevalent words listed. In the middle period of "Altarwise
by Owl-Light"
Thomas lets fly a volley of Biblical allusions that includes the juxtaposition
of Jacob's ladder and Adam's ribs: "Rung bone and blade, the verticals
of
Adam/ And, manned by midnight, Jacob to the stars." Other startling
juxtapositions
include "My camel's eye will needle through the shroud," "Twogunned
Gabriel,"
"Jonah's Moby (with Melville and Jonah appropriately mixed) ,"
"typsy from
salvation's bottle," "Adam, 


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