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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 62

 62 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 44 
time's joker," and "Jack Christ." Even in the early poetry
he describes Christ
as "Jack of Christ born thorny." "Ceremony After a Fire Raid"
and "Vision
and Prayer" with its emblematic form might be defended as basically
Christian
in form and content, but even here I feel that Thomas doesn't transcend a
religion of fear. 
 In the later poetry of In Country Sleep the poet clings to life, recollecting
mortality rather than immortality. The pastoral nature of this poetry represents
a change in scenery but not in theme; internal stresses are now objectified.
"Fern Hill" paints a picture of childhood in green and gold and
blue which
glorify a country scene. "In Country Sleep" utilizes fairy tale
and mother
goose material to create a rustic scene of elemental innocence—air,
water, earth and sun, where still the "Thief" of time stalks. "Over
Sir John's
Hill" suggests symbols and themes of other modern poets: Hopkins' falcon
Christ with "The hawk on fire hangs still," Hart Crane's frisky
children
so unaware of danger in "Voyage I" with "the shrill child's
play," Stephan
Spender's "I Hear the Cries of Evening" where gulls, rooks, and
the world
are singing a kind of swan song too—where both poets hear with
consternation
the cries before the "lunge of night." 
 The "Poem on His Birthday" embodies some of the new calm Thomas
gained in
an elemental world affirmed by God as the poet sails "out to die."
"Lament"
traces the development of man, the poet who is Thomas' metaphor, through
the elemental life of the passions, the life of the medieval humors—the
windy boy, green leaved, in the swelter of summer, when the blood creeps
cold; but like Yeats the poet wars against the "deadly virtues"
that age
would impose upon him. In these later poems the nightmarish dream imagery
of earlier poetry has developed into wideeyes childhood dreams. Physiological
imagery of parts of the body has been replaced by familiar animal imagery—turtles,
fish, dogs, mules, and birds—or by natural objects. "In the
White Giant's
Thigh" praises the body and physical life in terms of the "conceiving
moon,"
"seed to flow," "green countries," and "breasts
full of honey." Ultimately
to the elemental man who goes "to the elemental town," death is
the greatest
fear, love of life the greatest joy. 
 Thomas doesn't seem to distinguish himself and the world which becomes a
projection of the poet's self. Although this poetic anthropomorphism juxtaposes
macrocosm and microcosm with startling fluency, the technique itself allies
Thomas with poetic tradition rather than with any violent break with it.
Only 


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