The narrator is a God-like figure sending a man of his flesh to the dry world; the Father/Son construct, as with Jesus Christ. Although the exact dates for most of these poems are uncertain or unknown, we do know Ferris has stated the poet used religious mythology without thought or conviction. However, in the final verse, Thomas calls for "flower, flower, the people's fusion"(v. 6, l.1). And that "all and all the dry world's couple" -- a strong peace theme (v. 5, l. 1). This serves to reinforce the Father/Son theme earlier in the poem. It is interesting to note, as well, that the people in the dry worlds are characterized by the Father/God as mechanical, toolbox, like figures (ribs of metal, synthetic blood (v. 4, 5-6) and love associated with violence (the bridal blade, the lover's mauling (v. 3, v. 5-6)). Is it possible they have lost their souls?
Deaths and Entrances (1946)
This volume reflects Thomas' writing at a later age. According to Ferris, this volume which truly established the poet as a major force in English literature, was not a wellspring of religion:
. . .it seems likely that Thomas was declaring that death was final; he was affirming the present, not in the future. or. . .perhaps he didn't know what to think . .Nothing suggested he was achieving any harmony with his surroundings, physical or otherwise (Ferris, 201).
"Vision and Prayer" is a one-verse poem on the sounds of a birthing, one which is apparently going on between paper-thin walls in a room next to the poet's. This poem is in stark contrast to the first three analyzed. It is in simple language but does not manage to avoid Thomas' alienation theme, as with "In the birth bloody room unknown/to the burn and turn of time" (v. 1 l. 10-11) and "And the heart print of man/Bows no baptism/but dark alone" (v. 1, l. 12-14). The ending, "Blessing on/the wild/Child" (v. 1, l. 15-17) is likely a nod to the innocence of children -- another Thomas theme. "All of his life he hankered after the warm beds and mother-love of his childhood, Ferris wrote (p.22).
The poem impacts one with the proximity of the birth to the poet; he is given a spiritual event to be privy to. It seems as though a good many of Thomas' poems are written essentially about spiritual things: nature; death; love; life. It seems entirely up to the ability and mindset of the reader/critic to mine the poet for spiritual gold.
"This Side of the Truth" was written for the poet's first son, Llewellyn, as an anticipation of loss of innocence. In the first verse, he warns his son that everything is undone; however, he is unaware of it because he is so young. Thomas divides the world into innocence or guilt, good death or bad death, all of which appears to be predestinated:
And the wicked wish,
Down the beginning of plants
And animals and birds
Water and Light, the earth and sky,
Is cast before you move,
And all your deeds and words
Each truth, each lie,
Die in unjudging love (v. 3, l. 5-12).
It doesn't seem possible that Thomas is merely fatalistic. The phrase "unjudging" strongly brings to mind the antithesis of the wrathful, angry God, but otherwise, everything else seems to be irrevocably under control. In these later poems, he is making definitive religious/spiritual statements; in his 18 Poems, he was approaching spirituality by relying on the dark side, but allowing a few glimmers of light.
In "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London," Thomas concludes the poem with a line, taken at sheer face value, that is a spiritual journey waiting to happen: "After the first death, there is no other." (v. 4, l. 6). The poet refuses to eulogize this death because it is not the first. Whether he means it is not the first death he has experienced, which was much more poignant and memorable, or whether the first death is a metaphor for all children who have died tragically, one is not entirely sure.
He feels, nonetheless, that to unleash a standard-issue eulogy on the paying public would be to "blaspheme" the child down the "stations of the breath" -- stations of the cross, perhaps? (v. 3, l. 4). He also directs what appears to be a nod to publishers and commerce in the second verse, with Jewish allusions:
And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
The synagogue of the ear of corn
Should I let pray the shadow of a sound
or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn (v. 2, l. 1-6).
This verse is filled with religious imagery; Zion, pray, sackcloth, synagogue -- but in relation to writing a piece of, well, tripe, for the publishers and, no doubt, money-grubbers, who would be the least to mourn this child. Here, spirituality vs. Mammon comes strongly into play.
Perhaps one reason Thomas was usually so dependent on the monetary kindness of friends was that, like many artists, he wouldn't sell out.
The Poet as Spiritual Being
It is likely that Dylan Thomas was an extremely spiritual being, in fact, so much so that his resistance to letting go of his fears could have powered his hedonistic lifestyle. His poetry depicts spiritual concerns: Nature, birth, death, living in the world, time cycles, the Father/Son construct, grief and loss of innocence are all strong themes. He employs metaphor that is religious/spiritual in nature, including Christian, Jewish and Catholic images. His poetry reveals a lifetime engagement in a spiritual battle with himself, where he is incapable of shaking the inscrutable Dark and walking openly in Light.
Thomas, Dylan, Maufrais. 18 Poems. (1934). Selections include "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower," "Light breaks where no sun shines" and "All, all and all."
Retrieved February 12, 2002 from http://www.poets.org/poems.
Thomas, Dylan, Maufrais, Deaths and Entrances (1946). Selections include "Vision and Prayer,
"This Side of the Truth" and "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London. Retrieved February 11, 2002 from http://www.poets.org/poems.
Christie, W. (1999, June) the Craft and Sullen Art of Dylan Thomas. Retrieved February 12,
2002 from http://www.users.bigpond.com/dylanthomas/DylanThomas/dtpoet1.html
Ferris, P. (2000). Dylan Thomas: The Biography. Washington…