Dylan Marlais 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.

by Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that Good Night"


Dylan Marlais Thomas, Welsh poet, short-story writer, and playwright, renowned for the unique brilliance of his verbal imagery and for his celebration of natural beauty, was born in the seaport town of Swansea, West Glamorgan on Oct. 27, 1914 to David John Thomas, who was a writer and English master at Swansea Grammar School, and Florence Williams Thomas, a farmers daughter and housewife. His father possessed a degree in English and brought his son up to speak English rather than Thomas's mother's native Welsh.
Thomas spent his childhood in southwestern Wales. Because Dylan's mother was a farmer's daughter, he had a country home he could go to when on holiday. His poem "Fern Hill" (1946) describes its joys.

He was a neurotic, sickly child who shied away from school and preferred reading on his own; he read all of D. H. Lawrence's poetry, impressed by Lawrence's descriptions of a vivid natural world. At this early age, he revealed unusual power in the use of poetic diction and imagery.
Fascinated by language, he excelled in English and reading, but neglected other subjects and dropped out of school at sixteen and went to work as a reporter on the South Wales Evening Post.
¹ Although he edited the school magazine, contributing poetry and prose to it, Thomas did badly at school since he was always intellectually lazy with regard to any subject that did not directly concern him.

After grammar school he moved to London and established himself with the publication of his first book of poetry, Eighteen Poems in 1934, at the age of twenty, that won him immediate critical acclaim.

He married Caitlin Macnamara (1913 -1994) in 1936, an Irishwoman, with whom he had two sons and a daughter and published Twenty-Five Poems the same year.

¹ He had become famous in literary circles, was sociable, and was very poor, with a wife and growing family to support. His attempts to make money with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and as a film scriptwriter were not sufficiently remunerative. He wrote film scripts during World War II, having been excused from military service owing to a lung condition. Unfortunately, he was totally lacking in any sort of business acumen. He fell badly behind with his income tax returns, and what money he managed to make was snatched from him, at source, by the British Exchequer. He took to drinking more heavily and to borrowing from richer friends. Still, he continued to work, though in his maturity the composition of his poems became an ever-slower and more painstaking business.

¹ His original style was further developed in Twenty-Five Poems (1936) and The Map of Love (1939). Thomas's work, in its overtly emotional impact, its insistence on the importance of sound and rhythm, its primitivism, and the tensions between its biblical echoes and its sexual imagery, owed more to his Welsh background than to the prevailing taste in English literature for grim social commentary. Therein lay its originality. The poetry written up to 1939 is concerned with introspective, obsessive, sexual, and religious currents of feeling; and Thomas seems to be arguing rhetorically with himself on the subjects of sex and death, sin and redemption, the natural processes, creation and decay. The writing shows prodigious energy, but the final effect is sometimes obscure or diffuse.

¹ The poems collected in Deaths and Entrances (1946) show a greater lucidity and confirm Thomas as a religious poet. This book reveals an advance in sympathy and understanding due, in part, to the impact of World War II and to the deepening harmony between the poet and his Welsh environment, for he writes generally in a mood of reconciliation and acceptance. He often adopts a bardic tone and is a true romantic in claiming a high, almost priest like function for the poet. He also makes extensive use of Christian myth and symbolism and often sounds a note of formal ritual and incantation in his poems. The re-creation of childhood experience produces a visionary, mystical poetry in which the landscapes of youth and infancy assume the holiness of the first Eden ("Poem in October," "Fern Hill"); for Thomas, childhood, with its intimations of immortality, is a state of innocence and grace. But the rhapsodic lilt and music of the later verse derives from a complex technical discipline, so that Thomas' absorption in his craft produces verbal harmonies that are unique in English poetry.

¹ Meanwhile the London or London-based atmosphere became increasingly dangerous and uncongenial both to Thomas and to his wife. As early as 1946 he was talking of emigrating to the United States, and in 1947 he had what would seem to be a nervous breakdown but refused psychiatric assistance. He moved to Oxford, where he was given a cottage by the distinguished historian A.J.P. Taylor. His trips to London, however, principally in connection with his BBC work, were grueling, exhausting, and increasingly alcoholic. In 1949 Taylor's wife financed the purchase of a cottage, the Boat House, Laugharne, and Thomas returned to Wales. In the following year his first American tour was arranged, and for a while it seemed as if a happy compromise had been arranged between American money and Welsh tranquillity.

Under Milk Wood, his best-known work, a play for voices, was originally written for radio broadcast (pub. posthumously 1954);
¹ This play, which evokes the lives of the inhabitants of a small Welsh town, shows Thomas's full powers as an artist in comedy; it is richly imaginative in language, dramatic in characterization, and fertile in comic invention.
Thomas read it for its first public performance in Cambridge, Mass., in 1953, in a still unfinished state. Noted for his readings of his own verse, Thomas became legendary in the U.S., where he gave many lecture tours and gained a wide following.
His readings did much to popularize the poetry reading as new medium for the art, are famous and notorious. He was flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling.
¹ His monetary difficulties persisted. He coped with his exhausting American tours by indulging in reckless drinking bouts. There were far too many people who seem to have derived pleasure from making the famous poet drunk. His personal despair mounted, his marriage was in peril, and at last, while in New York City and far from his Welsh home, he took such an overdose of hard liquor that he died.

Thomas work is known for its comic exuberance, rhapsodic lilt, and pathos. His personal life, especially his reckless bouts of drinking was notorious.

Deaths and Entrances (1946) and In Country Sleep (1951), which are generally regarded as containing his finest writing. Thomas’s other works include The Map of Love (1939), containing both poetry and prose. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940) is a group of autobiographical sketches, and Adventures in the Skin Trade (pub. posthumously 1954) contains an unfinished novel. He wrote other prose pieces and several collections of short stories, many of which were written originally for radio. All his work, whether in verse or prose, shows rhythmic drive and verbal flamboyance.

Thomas died in New York City on Nov. 9, 1953, he was on a lecture-tour of the USA. In 2004 the Swansea Dylan Thomas Book Prize was inaugurated in his memory.

Inscription on tombstone:
In Memory
Dylan Thomas


To view Dylan Thomas's poems:
Famous Poets and Poems


Some more of his poems includes:

Child's Christmas In Wales, A Letter To My Aunt, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart, A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London , All All And All The Dry Worlds Lever , All That I Owe The Fellows Of The Grave , Among Those Killed In The Dawn Raid Was A Man Aged A Hundred, And Death Shall Have No Dominion, Author's Prologue, Ballad Of The Long-Legged Bait, Before I Knocked, Clown In The Moon, Deaths And Entrances , Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Ears In The Turrets Hear, Elegy , Especially When The October Wind, Fern Hill, Foster The Light, From Love's First Fever To Her Plague, Hold Hard, These Ancient Minutes In The Cuckoo's Month, How Shall My Animal , I Dreamed My Genesis, I Fellowed Sleep, I Have Longed To Move Away , I See The Boys Of Summer, I, In My Intricate Image, If I Were Tickled By the Rub of Love , In My Craft Or Sullen Art, In The Beginning, Incarnate Devil, January 1939, Lament , Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed, Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines, Love In The Asylum, My Hero Bares His Nerves, My World Is Pyramid , Not From This Anger, On A Wedding Anniversary, On No Work Of Words, Once It Was The Colour Of Saying, Our Eunuch Dreams , Poem In October, Should Lanterns Shine, Sometimes The Sky's Too Bright, The Conversation Of Prayer, The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives The Flower, The Hand That Signed The Paper, The Seed-At-Zero, Then Was My Neophyte, There Was A Saviour, This Side Of The Truth, To-Day, This Insect, Twenty-Four Years, Was There A Time, When All My Five And Country Senses See, When Once The Twilight Locks No Longer, When, Like A Running Grave, Where Once The Waters Of Your Face,


[Poet's Corner Index]


Reference, Research and Source Information

The History Channel

¹This info is From:
Thomas, Dylan. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica.
Retrieved June 13, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service:

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