Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) English
A poet is a mythmaker who finds inspiration like the Delphic pythia from vapors surrounding him and he may not be aware of the full import of what he utters. The life of Dylan Thomas combines Orphic myth with cautionary tale. By the time he left school at 16 he knew he was a poet and he would escape ‘the smug darkness of a provincial town’- and he meant his native town Swansea, Wales. In another letter he also revealed his dictum’ There is no necessity for the artist to do anything… he is a law unto himself.’ In that tragic short life-he lived 13 days past his 39th birthday, he set out to live according to his artistic principle. This entailed shameless exploitation from which no intimates, acquaintances or strangers were excluded. But he was disarmingly charming, and was famous that funded his steady foray into alcoholic binges. He had promised his wife before marriage ‘You’ll never, I’ll never let you grow wise, and I’ll never and you shall never let me grow wise, and we will always be young and unwise together.” He got at least half his wish. ‘Sadder and older’ he , like Peter Pan, remained untouched by the demands of the world or unwilling to change. After WWII his fortunes improved but the more he earned the more he seemed to owe. No one possibly could have lived as he did utterly given to a life of indulgence and of irresponsibility but his life ever on a downward spiral had something a line from Shelley, ’I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!’ This impractical dreamer may have lost out in the harsh realities of life and proved wrong in many things but no one is left in doubt of his poems that shall endure as with of Keats or of Shelley. One of his finest poems ‘And death shall have no dominion’ could well be his epitaph.
Thomas’s father, a school teacher gave the poet an early awareness of the native Welsh traditions, as well as the classics of English literature.
Thomas began writing poetry when he was eleven years old his earliest recorded piece is a humorous poem. He was soon very much into it and he would in later years return to them, reworking many of them for inclusion in later publications.
Thomas’s first book of poems was published in 1934 when Thomas was twenty years old. Thomas went on to publish three more books of poetry, as well as a final collection of his poems near the end of his life. He wrote poetry which often used traditional forms of rhythm, rhyme, and meter. He was also one of the modern writers who helped return English poetry to its roots in its own language. (cf.Chaucer) Rather than choosing long words derived from foreign languages, he preferred strong, short words from native English. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” is one poem that has stood the test of time.
Trivia: Thomas’ father gave him the name “Dylan” after the name of a sea god in Celtic mythology, and the name was not as popular as it is today. Bob Dylan is another who has adorned the name with credit.