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 Walesand 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 a level of celebrity. 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. (From Wikipedia. Read more here)
Dylan Thomas has remained an inspiration to so many people. He’s the type of poet who every serious serious poet or reader of good poetry keeps hearing about till you eventually get to meet him. Truth is there are some controversies to him which I shall not bore you with at this moment. I think that sometimes we can judge the works different from the person. In this case, just for this time, I judge Dylan on the strength of his poem, ‘Do not go gentle into the good night’. This poem has pushed me on to do a lot more each day. I have had situations that looked bleak like the passage of loved ones. At other times it was old ones living their best to the last working their every breath. ‘Do not go gentle into the good night’ has left me thinking of these ones and thanking Aondo, the almighty for the gift of them and their every inspiration. Find here, the full version of the poem. ‘Do not go gentle into the good night’ … Live to your fullest.
His And death shall have no dominion is another poem that leaves somewhere in the mood of John Donne’s ‘Death be not proud.’ Noting that death is the only other constant in life except change, it is a poem that would stand till that day when death becomes us or better, when life conquers all and death is found no more.
I’ve found reading these two poems rewarding. For now, I would not go into any other controversy of Dylan. The two poems sit with me. I would go through them again.
The question to ask now is to you: ‘How are you faring in this fleeting life? Are you giving it all your best? Are you waiting to pass gently into the abyss of death’s hold? If you are making each moment count, by fighting the struggles that hold us down, go on…
If you have lost anyone, smile. There’s no conquering when stronger powers there be to overshadow the mere briefness that death brings:
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.
Do not cry. Regina Achie-Nege comes to mind here. My dear sister, life smiles in ways that we wouldn’t notice in the veil that tears cover over us. So, cry but do not empty your life into a full cry. Sheath your sigh. Death has no dominion. Life rules for death bows in its quiet exit that an entrance that leaves amazed. As every moment counts, smile for time would come when it would all make sense. And even if it never does, smile in the knowledge, there’s more than just an empty darkness that our lives and souls depart to.
Aondo’s got our back, every time.
Have a most lovely day and may each moment sing your song.
- Revolutionary Poet of the Week – Dylan Thomas (painttheworldwithwords.wordpress.com)
- US writer claims Dylan Thomas Prize (bbc.co.uk)
- FACULTY AWARD: Watkins receives Dylan Thomas Prize (princeton.edu)
- Dylan Thomas prize: a judge’s notes (theguardian.com)
- No Dominion (A poetic video I created in tribute. I hope you like) (erikslehman.wordpress.com)
- Sixty years after Dylan Thomas’ death, his writing is just as loved now as it was then (mirror.co.uk)